When Jill Smokler — more widely known as Scary Mommy — starts talking about motherhood, you'll hear a lot about sleepless nights, green snot and having kids walk into the master bedroom at the most inopportune times.
Does she think her children are amazing and love them to death? Definitely. But mothering them didn't come naturally. As she says in her new book, "Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies)," what does come naturally is "Food. Sleep. Comfort. Privacy. Basically, all of the things that pregnancy and children have cruelly robbed from me."
The 35-year-old Mount Washington mother of three has become a national phenomenon. Her website, scarymommy.com, gets more than 3 million page views a month. She has upward of 300,000 Twitter followers and a 2012 best-selling book titled "Confessions of a Scary Mommy." She's also appeared on the "Today" show, "Good Morning America" and CNN.
We met with Smokler recently to talk about her new book, the "joys" of parenting and the best way to celebrate Mother's Day. (Spoiler: Brunch is not part of the equation.)
Your first book was a confessional, and your new book is about shattering parenting myths. What are some of the biggest "vicious lies" about motherhood?
My biggest one, and the one that really set the tone for the book, was, "It gets easier." The desire we have to sort of rush to a new mom's aid when she looks so frazzled and is carrying that awful infant carrier and the baby's crying and she's got dark circles under her eyes and you go up and say, "Oh, honey, don't worry, it gets easier!" And it's so untrue. It gets so much worse.
"Parenting strengthens a marriage" is another one that I heard a lot before I got married. My husband sleeps through every noise that my kids make in the middle of the night, we can't find a sitter who's willing to watch our three kids and puppy, and so we barely ever go out. And we don't have a lock on our bedroom door and the kids are always coming in and out like it's an extension of their rooms. We've had a couple of instances of them walking in at very inopportune times and then them proceeding to tell my father about it over dinner. That was fun!
You said that when you went on your first book tour, you pre-made your kids' lunches and laid out all their clothes and generally tried to make things as easy on your husband as possible — and that things went so smoothly he said he wasn't sure why you're always so "cranky" when he gets home from work. What did you do for this book tour?
This time, I was like, "F-- that, I'm not doing anything for you. You see what it's like when you have to get Ben dressed — it will take him 45 minutes to tie a shoe." And I just wanted him to see it all, so I did nothing. And it was still fine.
Why do you think that is? Do you think your kids know what buttons to push with you?
I do. I think they can get away with dillydallying and not listening to me much more successfully than him. I think he's mastered the tone. My tone — I don't have a tone, which I really resent. My parents had not only a tone, but a look. I don't have either. Like, there is nothing I can do when my kids are running around naked, needing to get them in the shower, on a work call — everything.What has horrified you the most about being a mom?
I'd say one of my top most horrifying things is sharing drinks with my kids. Especially clear water bottles where you can see the crystal-clear water when you hand it to them and then they give it back and it's, like, milky and floaty with stuff in it. That just never ceases to gross me out, and I do not share drinks with my children.
On a much more serious, not-funny-at-all scale is just the recognition that I can't protect them. Most recently with [the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary], it was just a reminder that I send my kids to a school, I drop them off on the curb with a smile on their faces and I leave them there for seven hours assuming that they will be fine, and that's not necessarily the case. I don't know any parent who wasn't so rocked by that. So that obviously trumps everything and is not amusing in any way shape or form.
And I'd say the months from October through April when they are just never 100 percent healthy and they're just constantly trading germs and there is no way with multiple kids to get everybody better. My little one especially is just constantly spewing green snot and is always asked, "Is he OK? Should he be in school?" If I kept him out of school every time he had the green stuffy nose, he would be home-schooled and we would both be institutionalized.
I know you said that because you've been traveling a lot for the book tour that you uncharacteristically want to be with your kids on Mother's Day. What is your typical way to celebrate the day?
My perfect Mother's Day was just to be left alone and have the day off from motherhood. I remember when [her oldest child], Lily, was 2 or 3 years old, and a couple of weeks before Mother's Day, [husband] Jeff, said, "Let's figure out what we're doing, let's figure out where you want to go for brunch and we'll make reservations." I was like, that sounds awful. I don't want to have to take Lily out to brunch — who's not going to eat anything, who's going to be whiny. You take her and do something; I just want to be by myself. I don't want to do baths, I don't want to get kids dressed, deal with anything.
Some people — and I am not one of these people — might say that's a horrible attitude and that you're looking at motherhood all wrong and you should treasure every single second.
First of all, I can't imagine wanting to spend 24/7 with my kids in any way, shape or form. And I can't relate to anybody who would not only think something like that but vocalize it. I just think this is a really hard job, and with any other job, you have days off, you have vacation, you have set work hours. This is a 24-hour, zero-break job, and if you need one day a year to yourself, I say we have earned it.
You mentioned that dads should at least give moms a few hours alone on Mother's Day, even if it's just to go to the store by herself. Isn't it funny how once you're a parent, a mundane thing like alone time at the grocery store or Target is such a treat?
I went to the grocery store last Saturday night; it was the most beautiful thing. And it was funny: Someone in front of me had a bunch of coupons and there was a price check on something and I was probably in line for like 20 minutes, and I was looking through an Us Weekly and the cashier turned to me when it was my turn and said, "I'm so sorry that that took so long." And I said, "Are you kidding? I'm away from my kids and I'm reading a magazine — this was so nice." And she said, "Tell me about it, I don't want to go home!"
Kristine Henry is an editor in The Baltimore Sun's feature department. She edits Maryland Family magazine and runs the Maryland Family Now blog at marylandfamilymagazine.com.
If you go
Jill Smokler will be the guest speaker at a wine-and-cheese reception at Temple Oheb Shalom at 7 p.m. Thursday. For ticket prices and details, call 410-358-0105 or visit http://www.templeohebshalom.org.
Smokler will also be signing books and having "girl time" at the Wee Chic children's boutique in Green Spring Station at 6:30 p.m. May 29. Copies of her new book, "Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies," will be for sale at the event. Contact: 410-878-7400 or weechic.com