Tracy Beckerman began writing, after she moved with two young children from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey, as a way to find herself and share a few laughs about the endless sea of "mom bob" haircuts, minivans, and coordinated tennis outfits. What started out as a single column for a local NJ paper a few years ago turned into a hit and is now nationally syndicated to hundreds of newspapers and millions of readers all over the country.
Reclaim Your Inner Cool With Lost in Suburbia
Other than the obvious factor that humor can totally distress stressful situations, what were your other reasons for writing the book?
I had always assumed I was the only woman on the planet who had ever felt like she'd lost her identity when she became a full-time mom. But after I started to meet other women who'd left the workforce to stay home with their kids, I found out there were lots of other moms who were also "Lost in Suburbia." There were many of us who defined ourselves by what we did for a living… so when we didn't do it anymore, we were really lost. I thought if I shared my story, other moms who felt this way would realize they weren't alone and have the confidence to take steps to reinvent themselves!
Of course, the other reason I did it was to show all the cool girls from high school that I was a big deal. Not that I have a chip on my shoulder, or anything.
There is a formula for comedy. It goes Time + Tragedy = Humor. Not everything is funny when it first happens. And some things are never funny, no matter how much distance you give them. But I think most people can find the humor in the small stuff, especially kid things and dog things and house things that seem like a nightmare when they happen, but are pretty hilarious once the dust settles. Of course other people's parenting situations are funny immediately. Just not to them.
Of course moms have to laugh at themselves. What makes us feel so guilty (about ourselves and our "mom performance") and so judgy (about other moms)?
I think on some level, most of us feel pretty insecure about our parenting skills, at least in the beginning. You could have zero parenting experience, but when your kid is born, you just have to jump in and wing it. You have no idea if you are doing it right and then you read one of the "experts" out there who say "this is the right way to parent" and it's usually not the way you are doing it.
When people feel insecure, sadly, they often put down others and judge them to make themselves feel better. I'd love to see more women supporting other women… building them up instead of trying to tear them down.
I remember the first time I had my son in a stroller. I forgot to buckle him in and when I tilted the stroller to get it over a step, he rolled out the back. I was horrified. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I didn't tell anyone for a week, and then when I confided in a friend, she told me she accidentally dropped her son three times when he was an infant. Fortunately babies bounce.
Clearly when the baby is born you have to put the baby first. There's no other way. They need to be fed when they're hungry, changed when they are wet, and put down for a nap when they are tired. (The same is true for husbands, by the way.) There's none of this, "I'll feed you in a sec, honey, Mommy's checking her Facebook now."
But I think that after a while, it's OK to start taking back some time for yourself. My husband's old Russian barber used to say, "Happy Wife, Happy Life." Once you have kids, it should be "Happy Mommy, Happy Family." (Yeah. I know it doesn't rhyme, but you try rhyming something with "Mommy.")
The point is, you're a much better mom if you treat yourself well and you're happy.
What are a few things we can do as moms to be taken seriously by others not take ourselves too seriously, and still come out sane, or mostly sane?
I think moms actually have to stop trying so hard to convince everyone that what we do is important. I use to tell my husband every single thing I did during the day to prove to him how busy I'd been. He would say, "Honey, I really don't think you're sitting around eating bon bons. I know you're working hard."
But I felt I had to justify my hard work since I wasn't out there earning a paycheck. My kids are doing great, my house is moderately clean, and everyone is happy — there's the proof that I'm doing a good job. Of course I can't keep a goldfish alive for more than a week, but you can't have everything.
As for not taking yourself too seriously, that's pretty easy to do when you have kids around to remind you that you're really not as cool as you think you are.
Tracy has appeared on The Today Show, CBS Early Show and Better TV. Her latest blog posts and column articles on marriage, funny family anecdotes, and being a "cool mom" in the suburbs can be found on her LOST IN SUBURBIA® blog (which won her the title of "America's Top Blogger" by Lifetime Television's hit TV show, The Balancing Act in 2010). You can purchase her new "momoir" from the Lost in Suburbia book website.