Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood – The Good, The Bad, and the Scary by Jill Smokler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
To start with, I’m not a mother. I’m not even a parent…yet. But my wife and I listened to this book in the hopes of gleaning some advance knowledge or get a humorous look at what’s to come. In this, we were kinda disappointed.
The author, Jill Smokler, starts off by saying she’s not a writer (which is such a wonderful cop-out for any type of literary responsibility…but I digress) and explains she started this whole thing as a blog to tell friends and family what was going on with her brood of three kids. Lo and behold, she struck a nerve and people started responding. Then she added an anonymous confessions section and things really took off and now here we are, 4 years later, and she’s assembled a couple of baker’s dozen blog posts into a book, with each one led off by a selection of “confessions” from the site.
Thing is, these are supposed to be irreverent and funny looks at parenting, the “honest” of the subtitle being revelations that she sometimes ::gasp:: lets her kids go upstairs and play by themselves so she can have some alone time. She also tries to be funny, but where a number of people have made a living doing syndicated, humorous columns about family life for years before the Internet came around, Smokler just isn’t that funny and her observations aren’t really all that clever or witty. In fact, she actually comes off as a spoiled princess who has made a series of bad life choices and whoops, three kids (whom I really, actually adore) later, here we are. She explains her life before children involved drinking and shopping and she was pretty pissed off this changed when she had an unplanned pregnancy. Honestly, listening to her talk about the horrible impact she assumed this was going to have on her life, ne wonders why abortion wasn’t considered.
She’s also incredibly judgmental of pretty much anyone who isn’t her and didn’t experience things the way she did or do things the way she does them. To be fair, this might have been easier to take reading the essays one at a time, every couple of weeks, rather than having them all jammed down your throat all at once, where her lack of actual writing experience certainly comes to the forefront.
Another thing which we found particularly interesting is that, naturally, this is quite American. This makes sense as Smokler herself is American, but the amount of privilege is wonderful (constant references to nannies, her ability to set her own work from schedule, a husband who is non-existent except when he’s the punchline for a “humorous” story). At various points while listening (we listened to the audio version while on a road trip) Rasa would stop the narration (by Smokler) and ask me if whatever she was talking about was an American thing because it didn’t happen like that in Lithuania.
We did end up listening to the whole thing, although by about half way through we both found her annoying and myopic. The best writers of this type are able to take the personal and make it universal, the mundane and make it funny. Smokler just felt like she was talking to an audience of insiders, which is fine for a blog, but not for a book.
3 thoughts on “Review: Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood – The Good, The Bad, and the Scary”
I’d say, stick to the greats, like Erma Bombeck and Shirley Jackson *. That book you reviewed sounds utterly dreadful.
* NOT ‘The Lottery’ obviously 🙂 but ‘Life Among the Savages’ and ‘Raising Demons’.
I’ve never read anything by Jackson which isn’t creepy as shit. Are those two about family life?
I have Life Among the Savages, and it’s lovely and gentle. I added Raising Demons after looking her up, but it’s another family life memoir so I’m confident it isn’t ‘creepy as shit’. 🙂
It seems the older writers are the ones to read – the cultural references may be 50s/60s/70s, but both Bombeck and Jackson make the exasperation of parenthood funny, and most importantly, make you realise that every parent cocks up ALL THE TIME, and the kids generally turn out OK.
I think that’s what you and Rasa need as you embark on this scarily exhilarating time: a reminder that mistakes WILL be made, but you won’t create a monster.