The self-deprecating mom advice book is a genre I can get behind, but it’s not always done well. I’m still recommending the edgy Sh*tty Mom series and the offbeat Let’s Panic About Babies, but a lot of the other titles start to run together in my mind, especially after you’ve read as many as I have. However I can honestly say that the new The Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting absolutely jumps out from the pack.
From Iana Wiles, author of the popular blog Mommy Shorts (and Cool Mom Picks buddy), the book feels like it’s spun off from both her blog and her popular Instagram feeds, @mommyshorts, @AverageParentProblems and @Insta2YearOld. By this, I mean that the book feels like a fresh take on a parenting book for the social media generation.
It’s like a humorous old school mom blog (complete with transcribed conversations, hilarious anecdotes, thoughtful advice and “comments” from readers) woven together into a big social media scrapbook of fun, advice, photos and commiseration.
In fact, it reminds me of what I miss about old skool mom blogging, before anyone cared about “shares” or “likes” or product reviews; when so many brave, honest, funny writers were willing to open up their lives and homes for our own enjoyment and catharsis, to demonstrate that day to day life as a parent is fun, it’s infuriating, it’s exhausting, but it’s all worth it. And that’s just the feeling that Average Parent Problems delivers.
The sections, all gorgeously designed, take you from pregnancy through the scribble-on-the-living-room-wall years with pages like like Ilana’s chart as to where breastfeeding lives on the pain scale (spoiler: exceeded only by shark bite), the truth about what we actually do besides sleeping when the baby sleeps (and STFU with that advice already), a visual guide to a grandparents’ complete lack of understanding of the meaning of the word childproofing, and a pie chart of toys her toddler wants to play with including her mom’s iPad and…
Nope. That’s all, really.
Both seasoned and new parents will really get a kick out of every chapter though, in part because the author skillfully assumes the role as both humorous advice-giver and parenting community moderator, welcoming us all with a laugh into the new mom group that makes you think, yay! I finally found my people.
Real photos — lots of her own kids, but also many submitted by other parents via Instagram — bring the humor to life effectively, especially in sections like the words hide-and-go-seek hiding spots of all time, first-world toddler problems, or totally butchered toddler words. (We’ve all heard how plenty of little kids say dump truck at first, right?)
But what really works about the book is that even through the laughter, there’s a lot of truth to be found that’s both reassuring and normalizing; like the section reminding us that somehow we survived our own parents, which features 70’s-era photos of kids playing bartender at home, or a baby in a car seat perched on the stovetop.
I am not surprised, knowing Ilana, that the book would make me laugh; what I didn’t expect was how much it would make me miss those early blogging years during which hundreds or thousands of readers nodded along or joined in to share their own stories, creating a community around our biggest fails and greatest triumphs.
Even if that triumph was simply realizing that your toddler’s giant pile of poop on the ground turned out, after much panic, to be no more than the fuzzy hair fallen off of a vintage Monchichi doll.
(That’s page 124, by the way.)
Now I do have to note that Ilana is an NYC art director by background, so it’s no surprise that her home photos and her daughters’ wardrobes look pretty darn above-average to me, even with lots of toys on the floor. In one section, she confesses to having created a comprehensive Adobe InDesign mood board for nursery planning. Whoa! We definitely have different views on imperfect parenting there.
(My own “mood board” was a bunch of bookmarks from Babies R Us.)
I also wish there were more than a smattering of babies and children of color in the book; my understanding is that is mainly a factor of which parents submitted photos and would sign release forms for use. Still, I’m hoping any follow-up books will be even more diverse, because I really believe Ilana’s accessible, relatable humor has broad appeal.
But my biggest disagreement — in the best possible way — is with Ilana’s introductory confession: I’m not a good mother. I’m not a bad mother either, I’m an average mother. This is a book that reveals that indeed, she is a good mother — and more importantly so are you. And good mothers and fathers everywhere are entitled to their own perfectly average parenting moments. And the ability to laugh about them afterward.
That’s a truth I know we all need to hear, no matter how long we’ve been doing this. Which is just what makes this book so stellar.
Find The Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting by Ilana Wiles at our affiliate Amazon or your local independent bookseller. It’s a fantastic new mom book or baby shower gift! And visit the Mommy Shorts blog to find out where you can catch Ilana at a book signing near you.