Five years of infertility.
24 hours of back labor.
Endless months of post-post-post-partum depression — twice!
I had no choice. I had to create my own brand of comedy to maintain what little was left of my pre-baby sanity! I called it “Mom-Com,” and it started with a cartoon called “The Art of Motherhood,” which led to a stand-up “Momedy” act, which led to stress relief seminars called “Moms Comedy Workshop.”
But it all started with MetroKids.
It was 1990, long ago and far away, before the Internet, before the rise of mommy blogs and before the spread of mommy culture. Few people talked openly about post-partum depression, so those of us whose case of “baby blues” dragged on way past its expiration date tended to keep it to ourselves. I started a journal, and because I was an illustrator, my journal included doodles and thought bubbles that expressed my anxieties, frustrations and feelings of being overwhelmed at being a new mom.
This outlet gave me some relief, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to share my feelings with the other moms in play group to see if they felt the same way, to know I wasn’t alone or really crazy. But talking about it out loud was different than journaling. What if my friends thought I really was a bad mom for feeling the way that I did? What if they didn’t feel the same?
I started to play around with my doodled ideas until I took the frustrations they portrayed and flipped them on their head by creating funny solutions to those not-so-funny problems. I took control of my feelings of incompetence and mastered them by creating humor out of frustration. I felt empowered.
Then and only then was I ready to share my feelings with my friends without fearing their judgment. I shared. They laughed. It opened the floodgates, and soon we were all talking about how overwhelmed we felt, how some days we felt like terrible moms, how occasionally we even resented our children or wished for just five minutes to ourselves!
Heartened by the experience, I took my doodles and polished them up. I sent them off to greeting-card companies with the thought that if moms could just share these humorous versions of our crazy lives with each other, then, well, we wouldn’t feel so guilty, so fearful, so alone. What happened? I got the nicest rejection letters! They all said that my drawings did not make good greeting cards since they didn’t say “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations on Your Retirement,” but many of the writers said how funny the doodles were and that they related to them because they were moms themselves. I decided to focus on the silver lining — art directors thought my drawings were funny! Buoyed by that thought, I found the courage to call the publisher of a new parenting paper I had discovered called MetroKids.
When I spoke to the magazine’s owner, Nancy Lisagor, I told her that I noticed MetroKids had no “funny pages,” and it just so happened that I could solve that problem for her. When she asked me if I had any samples to show her, I looked down at the pile of 10 rejected greeting-card designs and said, “Of course!” The rest is MetroKids history.
For 14 years my cartoon “The Art of Motherhood” appeared monthly in MetroKids. It featured the wackier side of motherhood and at the same time chronicled my life as a mom. When my kids were in middle and high school, I realized that I was running out of personal material for MetroKids’ readers. I retired my pen and moved on to other things.
For a short time, I took my cartoons live with a stand-up “Momedy” act. Although I loved the immediate feedback, the process involved too much throwing up — on my part as well as the audience’s! So I took the same material and transformed it into a stress-relief workshop called “Moms Comedy Workshop”. It showed moms how to turn their own frustrations into funnies to relieve the natural stress of parenting.
Then, in my 40s, I got braces and went back to school, some say in a vain attempt to recapture my youth, but I say it was to straighten my teeth and get a degree in psychology to become a career counselor.
My cartoons had been included in four humor anthologies, so I knew that they would live on between the pages of books. I didn’t expect to see them see them published again, but I watched as the view of motherhood changed with the cultural shifts of the passing decades. Suddenly, moms were cool. They had a voice and a vibe, they were a tribe and advertisers wanted their dollars. There was a market for moms that had sprung up after I had laid my pen down. The culture was different, but the young mothers I knew had the same fears and anxieties I had experienced and written about in “The Art of Motherhood.” The experiences of motherhood, it seems, are evergreen.
Cue the adult coloring book craze. As I noticed the excitement about using coloring for stress relief, it occurred to me that my cartoons, which functioned as stress relief for myself when I created them and for my readers who laughed at them, would actually be perfect for a coloring book.
I dug up my original artwork, found a publisher who was as excited about the idea as I was and “Mom’s Comedy Coloring Book” was born! I wanted to make my coloring book different than what was already out there, so it combines the relaxation of coloring with the dopamine rush from laughter, along with delivering a shot of adrenaline as you create your own cartoons, too. It’s like sipping Chardonnay while doing shots of espresso! And how did it all start? With MetroKids!
Margie Cherry is a career counselor who lives in the Philadelphia area. Find out more and order her coloring book at MargieCherry.com.