Parenting is the strangest thing I have ever done. There is not one single day where I say, "Yep, that was all according to plan and I had everything covered." When you say things like "Don't throw the jet at your sister's face!", there is no normal.
I've got a 2-year-old boy and twin 2-year-old girls. Life is chaotic and wonderful and weird. It's also when I value the power of shared experiences so I have other people who know what I'm going through. It's hard to explain a lack of sleep to someone without kids, because they say stuff like, "Oh yeah, I've been staying up watching House of Cards lately and it's killing me," and then I run into traffic to avoid a mass murder.
Enter Doug Moe, a dad and a comedian. Doug's recent book, "Man vs. Child: One Dad's Guide to the Weirdness of Parenting," touches on what I've experienced and more.
Samples of of Doug Moe's parenting wisdom:
"The Un-Childed don't understand naps. it's great to see friends, but is it great enough to justify the clusterf*ck your day will become without a nap?"
He also speaks a lot of truth that, to be frank, you need to hear. Truth like this:
"Do you have an ugly baby? 'No?' Okay, yes. Yes, you do. That is a hard truth. Everyone hopes to have a cute baby, and most succeed. No one expected to have an ugly baby. But it's not all bad news. We need ugly babies! Think about it: If YOU didn't have an ugly baby, how could we tell which babies were cute?"
It's a book that speaks to any dad, or, more specifically, is the exact kind of thing you should give a dad-to-be for Father's Day so you can later say, "Hey, he TOLD you this would happen!" Because male friendships are weird and we mostly make fun of each other.
Keep reading for a Q&A with Doug, as he explains why a non-condescending book about fatherhood is needed (I couldn't agree more!), and the quirks of parenting.
A Q&A with Author Doug Moe
Instafather: What inspired you to write Man v. Child?
DM: When I first became a dad, I looked around for a parenting book that I could relate to and really didn’t find anything. At the time, I was a part-time stay-at-home dad and thought the whole thing was pretty crazy. But the books out there were all for moms or were very informative. You need informative books, but you also need to be able to laugh at your circumstances. I started my blog Man Vs. Child to be a little less precious about being a dad and the book grew out of that.
As you call it, you're writing about "the weirdness of parenting." What's the strangest thing about it to you?
DM: The strangest thing is that your circumstances change so thoroughly - having a baby screaming at you, trying to focus on finger-painting, handling meltdowns - and yet you haven’t changed that much. So you’re just thrust into this new experience and have to adapt. When I was a kid, I assumed grownups knew what they were doing, but now I know better. Everyone’s faking it.
Part of this whole "dad blogger" movement - dads like us who say "Um hey! Let's talk about fatherhood instead of just grunting and scratching ourselves" - is making progress toward dads being viewed as equal partners in parenting. What's your stance on that balance and where you see it headed?
DM: We’re definitely making progress, and I consider it “progress” - moms and dads are equally capable of parenting. When my daughter was a baby, I remember getting unsolicited advice from people who didn’t think I knew what I was doing. Moms get that too, but a lot of people still think dads are big dummies. As a white dude, I get preferential treatment in basically everything (the Patriarchy!), except for parenting. So, without going overboard into whining (I’m no victim), it’s important to challenge those assumptions.
But also, I’m a comedian with a comedy book for dads here. Part of my agenda is to say: “Hey, dads can parent and LAUGH about it.” There’s a great comedy book for moms, “Shitty Mom,” that’s really funny. But I don’t think a dad would typically buy that or any number of other humor books for moms. So if dads are capable parents, we can also acknowledge our failings and have a sense of humor about it. I hope?
What did you never expect to do as a dad?
DM: I don’t think I ever thought that I’d play dress-up, but that’s pretty dumb of me considering I’m an actor too. Doing funny voices and wearing a silly hat is my bread and butter.
What do you wish you could have told yourself right before you became a dad?
DM: Right before? I think that if I appeared to myself just before the birth of my child, in a kick-ass Obi-Wan style hologram message, let’s say, I’d want to be told that I’d have the time to get better at being a dad. That it’s not a zero-sum game, that you are allowed time to figure it out. You don’t have to be a “natural.”
In the "Man v. Pregnancy" chapter, you hit the nail on the head with "It's shocking how little you need to walk out of a hospital with a baby. Apparently, after all this preparation and waiting, all you need is a car seat to take a baby home. WTF." I remember having similar thoughts. Do you think we as Americans do a poor job getting dads ready?
DM: Yep! In fairness, we probably do a poor job prepping moms too. I’m guessing some Scandinavian country has some parenting-prep program we should steal.
You give a pretty honest take about parenting - there are highs but, as you wrote, "parenting is like a thousand tiny cuts." Guys just don't think about all the little things that will change, especially when the baby turns into a toddler and life really gets effed up. So, with that in mind, why do you think we keep signing up to be parents?
DM: What’s the alternative? Which is sadder: A) me, a middle-aged parent trying to keep it together or B) me, a middle-aged single dude not trying to keep it together? At least parenting makes you try, for the sake of your kids.
We both have an improv comedy background (Ed. note: Doug's a teacher/performer at Upright Citizen's Brigade and his book jacket is filled with glowing reviews from Amy Poehler and Bobby Moynihan and other super famous comics; I have an improv troupe in central PA. Doug and I are basically equals). Improv is all about accepting ideas of others and living in the moment of a scene. It seems to me toddlers are the exact opposite, as they negate everything you say and change their minds every two seconds. Is this why toddlers make for terrible improv comedians? And on a related note, does having a sense of humor about parenting insanity help get you through tough days?
DM: Toddlers make terrible improvisers because they are bad at teamwork and won’t flyer to get people to come to their shows. Having a sense of humor is the most important thing to get you through tough days, and I say this as someone who is also incredibly handsome.
Last one: If you had to summarize life as a dad in one anecdote, what would you say?
DM: An anecdote: this morning my daughter asked me to make her an English muffin. I asked her if she wanted butter and honey on it. She said, “I want to say ‘yes’ but mom makes it better.” So I said, “I will try to make it the way mom makes it.” As far as I know, she does it no differently than I. “And get me some milk too,” she said. And I just did it - I didn’t wait around for thanks, I didn’t try to argue that I was as good an English muffin preparer as her mother, I didn’t get bent out of shape. I just got her the food, because if she doesn’t eat breakfast, she’ll be cranky later. And because I’m her dad.
Thanks to Doug for taking the take to talk about fatherhood. You can get his book Man vs. Child on Amazon* and I know you do Amazon Prime so you can have it at your house in like 2 freaking days. Follow him on Twitter, too: @DougMoe or check out his website, dougmoe.net
* Affiliate links, just a heads up.