Parenting posts go viral all the time, it doesn’t take much: a photo of a kid who ate her aunt’s make-up palette because it smelled like chocolate (why do they smell like food, anyway?); someone rants in just the right way, at just the right time; or, someone makes a cute parody video and – BAM – viral.
But viral doesn’t necessarily mean it's as truly funny as we think it is on the surface. This post from the Facebook page, Love What Matters, has been shared almost forty thousand times. It’s a letter from a mommy, about to leave for a girls’ weekend, detailing humorous care instructions for her brood.
But, is it really funny? Let's take a closer look:
When we laugh at a joke where mommy pretends that daddy doesn’t know what color cup is his daughter’s favorite, or what time his son goes to bed, we're insulting both mom and dad, we're condescending to both parents and reducing them to a parody.
Recent studies from the Pew Research Center suggests that dads consider their role at home to be central to their identity, just like mom. But over the last several decades, parental roles have converged in the home, and most households have two full-time working parents. It’s time to stop with jokes that imply that dad has never met his kids, or put them to bed, or made them breakfast, or poured them juice.
Yet, we continue to perpetuate this myth. We laud Instagram posts from celebrity dads like Chris Hemsworth for making a birthday cake for his kid. We swoon over this effort, acting as though it shouldn’t be the norm for a father to participate (let alone, want to participate) in a milestone for his child.
Yeah, yeah, we get it: mom needs a break. We all do. But the subliminal message in this post is that mom needs a break from being a mom as reward for managing not to kill her little inmates.
She’s put up with torture, abuse, and nonsense! Let her out!
Maybe she wants to reconnect with people whose favorite activity isn't watching Caillou. Ok, fine. But she needs to escape because her kids are impossible hellions?
It’s not funny when we raise our kids to be people that we can’t stand to be around.
Who is this mom, and who are these demons?
If you’ve got kids who can’t get dressed, get up, go to sleep, bathe, eat, or drink without dozens of problems, then you don't have tyrant kids, you have parenting issues.
We all know that every kid comes with his or her own set of oddities. Trust me, as a parent with a kid on the spectrum, I know. Once, my son carried a foam sword around with him for eighteen months. Stuffed. In. His. Pants.
But, while we're busy laughing at something like this, we forget that there are parents out there – lots of them – making three dinners because no one will eat anything, arguing about bedtime night after night, jumping up every couple of minutes to retrieve a cup of water for kids who refuse to help themselves.
The problem is that these kinds of kids grow up to be adults – really sucky ones. If you can’t stand your kids, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. You created those monsters.
The image with this post is a woman with a couple of bottles of wine, raised in a celebratory exit wave. In the last several years, the ongoing joke on blogs, in Facebook groups, and basically within any parenting community is: mommy likes to drink, especially wine.
No one wants to be the stick-in-the-mud, but the mom who counts down to wine o’clock every day has become so commonplace that it’s not even cliché anymore. In the viral post, the mother instructs the father, before it's even lunchtime, to “start drinking now."
When we perpetuate the ideas in posts like these – even as jokes – we take several steps backward in our evolution as parents. Sure, everyone likes a joke. But, why can’t we just laugh at the truly funny parts, without all the snark and cynicism?
What parent hasn't brought a kid cup after cup of water because the kid does indeed believe that her esophagus is “on fire?" Who hasn’t put a child to bed, only to wake up and find him sweatier than “a whore in church who just ate 12 beef sandwiches?”
Those kinds of jokes are worth telling. They're relatable in their absurdity, and in their truth.
But cramming parenthood back into a mold that it’s outgrown, and forcing uncomfortable laughter at, and acceptance of, problems that no one wants to admit?
Well, that’s not funny.