A Mom-to-Mom Chat with the Author of The Parent Trip
Jenna McCarthy dishes on parenthood
Sometimes becoming a parent is like taking a trip no one’s prepared for. Well, author Jenna McCarthy (and let’s clear this up right away, it’s not Jenny McCarthy, it’s JENNA McCarthy, a totally different and talented blond author!) has written a book about this strange trip parents take, and vacation it ain’t!
With chapters titled, You Want to Have What? on the concept of sex after baby to I’ve Been to Hell and it Looks Suspiciously Like My Kitchen and Why My Pediatrician Has a Summer Home and I Don’t, McCarthy’s wit will have all moms – seasoned and newbies – nodding their heads in agreement and laughing all the way through this fun trip of a book!
I had a chance to chat with Jenna, and we talked about her book, The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties. We also dished on the usual Mom stuff – she’s got two beauties of her own – Sophie, 6, and Sasha, 4, so she knows a thing or two about this trip that’s not quite a vacation, but is certainly one big adventure not to be missed!
What inspired you to write The Parent Trip (besides poopy diapers and pumping breastmilk)?
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I bought every book I could find on the subject. None of them rang really true for me. I already knew that I might develop morning sickness but no one told me that I might take sudden and violent offense to the aroma of my living room couch while I was pregnant, or that I would hate my husband on a regular basis for no obvious reason.
No one ever talked about not really liking being pregnant, and while I certainly knew what to expect when I was expecting thanks to my personal library of books, I was TOTALLY unprepared for how I felt after the baby was born.
I figured I couldn’t be the only woman who was stupefied by the mysterious but clearly established rules of motherhood. So I learned as I went – and then I wrote a book.
What advice do you have for expecting and new parents?
• You don’t have to love being pregnant or being a parent every second of every day. Honestly. It’s the hardest job in the world – and the pay sucks. I think too many people have this picture of parenthood that’s all tickling tiny toes and happy splashing in rain puddles. Those are the moments that make it all worthwhile, but not realizing there’s a flip side before you’re in it can make the day-to-day realities really hard to swallow.
• Just about everyone you know will have an opinion on the “best” way to parent. When they offer their unsolicited advice, smile, nod politely and then ignore them.
• Find a great babysitter you really trust. And then – and this is the really critical part – use her. It’s vital that you spend some time with your partner and without your baby (as appallingly selfish as that sounds).
What do you think of finding out the sex of a baby before it’s born?
Absolutely non-negotiable. I firmly believe that everyone has a secret preference, even if you already have four of both and would swear on stacks of bibles that you couldn’t care less what the next one is. Yes, we all want a healthy baby, but more than likely, a healthy baby that either does or doesn’t have a penis. No one admits this, but I think it’s true. Ooh, wait! Finding out your baby’s sex is one of the greatest surprises in life! Indeed. It’s still a surprise when you find out at 20 weeks, and then you can paint the nursery the appropriate color and stockpile gender-appropriate clothes and actually get used to the idea of possibly not getting the one you “wanted.” Of course you will love your baby unconditionally regardless of sex, but seriously, this is important information to have.
One thing your mom (or parents/grandmother/adult mentor) told you that you didn’t believe that you now say, “God, she was so right and I wish she wasn’t right!”:
I was a strong-willed, rebellious, opinionated, defiant child, and whenever I’d do or say something particularly heinous, my mom would warn ominously, “Someday you’ll have a daughter just like you.” She was absolutely, unequivocally right, two times over. And do you know what? I love these qualities in my daughters, even if they try my every last frazzled nerve.
Your three MUST parenting rules:
1. A kid’s job is to test boundaries; a parent’s job is to set them. If you give in just once to the whining, begging, pleading, crying, kicking, hissing hissy-fits, you’ve taught them that sometimes it works. This is very, very bad.
2. You have to demand immediate, first-time compliance. I don’t and won’t “count to 10,” and I won’t repeat myself 11 times. When I ask my kids to do something, I make them repeat it back to me – so that they can’t say “I didn’t hear you!” or “that’s not what you said.” If they don’t do it promptly, there’s a consequence. Yes, it’s exhausting, but I think it pays off in the long run. It damned well better.
3. Be present as often as you can. Your kids don’t need more stuff, they need more of you. It’s the hardest thing in the world to give – when the phone is ringing and your inbox is overflowing and your ass is suddenly the size of Texas but who has time to get to the gym? – but it’s the only thing that matters.
1. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Pat Benatar.
2. What type of kids did you hang out with in high school?
The cool-but-clean crowd.
3. What women from the past do you most identify with?
Virginia Woolf, who said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write …”
4. What’s your workout?
Tennis or yoga. I only run when I am being chased by a bear, and indoor cardio machines = death to me.
5. Cat or dog?
6. What do you do when you want to completely tune out?
7. What book is sitting on your shelf, waiting to be read?
Too many to name! I hoard books.
8. If you could have dinner with any two people, who would you choose?
My dad and his dad. (Only if they could be alive again. Otherwise that would be weird and gross.)
9. What is the one thing you want or do not want the next generation of girls to encounter?
If I could wish away violence and war and hatred and poverty and jealousy and cattiness and harassment, I would. Barring that, I want all girls, including my own, to be strong and confident and resilient enough to thrive despite all of those evils.
10. If there were one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?
I’d have more patience, a car with the optional third-row and a better stove.