You might know her as Blossom’s best friend, but Jenna von Oy has become each expectant and new mom’s best friend with her debut book Situation Momedy: A First-Time Mom’s Guide to Laughing Your Way through Pregnancy and Year One. “The current crop of books for new moms leans toward heavy humor, with little guidance, but von Oy really does a remarkable job of offering sound parenting suggestions in between the jokes” (Rebecca Vnuk, Booklist). Throughout the book, Jenna’s honesty and humor are endearing, and her gentle guidance is reassuring. Please join us for a conversation with Jenna.
What inspired you to write Situation Momedy?
After a few 3 a.m. Google-search binges about colic, and attempting to pack my first daughter’s diaper bag with enough stuff to survive Antarctica, I decided I needed to inject my motherhood experience with a little more comedy and a little less neurosis. I figured if I needed a reminder to laugh my way through the challenges of being a new parent, perhaps my mommy peers would appreciate a more lighthearted approach to the learning curve too.
What’s one thing about motherhood that’s taken you by surprise?
I’m more willing to roll with the punches than I expected to be. For example, I just had to rearrange a business trip to Los Angeles when my youngest daughter got sick the morning of our flight. Obviously, her health and well-being came first, and I gladly altered the trip schedule to give her ample time to get better. I’m not saying I wasn’t frantically scrambling to rearrange meetings and babysitters and accommodations, but it was no big deal relative to getting my baby healthy! My pre-mommy self would have been flipping out over the unexpected change of plans. The younger me would probably still be hyperventilating into a paper bag, God bless her.
That said, I definitely still have my moments. The i-dotter, t-crosser, OCD micromanager in me still has to be reminded, for example, to take a deep breath and stop twitching every time my three-year-old asserts her independence by refusing the clothing I’ve laid out for her to wear to school.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your best friend who’s expecting?
Only one piece? That’s a tall order!
I would encourage her to trust her own instincts and feel empowered by them. I would also let her know that not everything pertaining to parenting has to be learned before a baby is born; nor can it be. Motherhood will forever be a work in progress. The education continues and changes as it goes, and memorizing every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting doesn’t necessarily equate to practical application! Leading with love, rather than the notion of “perfection,” is what it’s all about; everything else eventually falls into place.
I might also mention the importance of letting herself off the hook. As moms, sometimes it’s easy to convince ourselves we should be able to handle everything life throws at us, and that’s not always feasible or fair. There are parenting moments that make you feel like your head will explode, moments that make you wonder if you know what you’re getting yourself into, and moments that make you question everything you thought you knew about motherhood to begin with. But there are also instances when you’ll surprise yourself by possessing more inner strength than you’ve given yourself credit for. We need to trust our instincts, be gentler on ourselves, and let the love shine through!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give that friend’s significant other?
Ask not what your wife can do for you but what you can do for your wife. (John F. Kennedy was close with his version, but I promise your pregnant wife will prefer mine!) As I say in my book, “There’s only so much you can do to assist during these nine (technically ten) months of maternity mayhem. Try to be as composed as possible and get used to asking the all-important question, ‘What can I do to help?’ This is really an expectant mom’s favorite thing to hear. And if your wife is anything like me, she loves giving you her input! If you consistently ask that question of us, we don’t feel like we have to ask more of you than you want to give, and that’s a beautiful thing.” I have a whole chapter for new dads in my book; fathers deserve a little laughter too!
How do you recharge?
I lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine and pray my kids don’t find me. Sorry…was that out loud?
As with most authors, I’m a true lover of books; reading is my escape. It should be noted, however, that I’m also a lover of sleep. Any morning my kids let me sleep past 8:00 is better than a day at the spa. Though I have to admit the spa sounds pretty good right now too.
Kitchen dance parties with my daughters—sometimes they even let me listen to someone other than Taylor Swift.
What makes you laugh?
My three-year-old using grown-up, multisyllabic words like she invented them.
Favorite place to write?
At my desk (which is organized chaos), accompanied by a glass of wine.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee, coffee, and more coffee.
Junk food: sweet or salty?
Salty. Unless I’m pregnant—then no baked good within a five-mile radius is safe.