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Being a Mom Is Making Me Too Serious

Sleepy little child with mom - shallow DOF, focus on woman's eyes
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

"Dad is funny. Mom is serious," my 5-year-old says.

And he's not wrong. Apparently I must have thrown my sense of humor out with my breastfeeding bras and all those books on “Getting Your Baby to Sleep” that I was too sleepy to read.

I do remember having a sense of humor. In days long ago, when clean hair was my thing and uninterrupted sleep was a reality, not a goal, I was funny. I could crack jokes with the best of them. My puns were astounding — because a person that tells bad puns shouldn't simply be banished, they should be drawn and quoted. The best part about all this humor was that I found the funny in life. I could laugh at the crazy and find the lightness in everything around me.

Then I had a baby, and my joke organ must've gone out with my placenta.

I quickly discovered that a baby was serious work. When we learned our son had colic, my husband remained the jokester, saying, “Oh honey, I’ll stay up with him.”

I had no time for his tomfoolery. There were serious nights of sleep to be missed.

When my son became a toddler, I found less of my humor and more of my anxiety with each step he took. Funny was not needed nearly as much as eyes in the back of my head, and years of serious mothering have worn away all sense of laughing at life. These days, I’m not even sure what my laugh sounds like.

Perhaps it’s a trade-off because I need my focused side to keep my kid from perishing. It’s this vigilance that catches my son before he decides to deep-fry his Legos or joust with the fireplace. It’s also my thoughtful brain that finds a way to give my kid the terrible, horrible news that tonight is indeed Bath Night.

I cry over spilled milk. I lose it when cookies crumble.

Motherhood is a high-stakes gambit, and I feel like I’m forever stuck at a high-roller table in Vegas doubling down without a snack break. Consequently, my sense of humor got pushed down to the bottom of my emotional barrel.

The problem I’m finding with being humorless, is that where once levity came to my rescue, I’m now bogged down. I cry over spilled milk. I lose it when cookies crumble. With no playfulness for balance, my seriousness has given over to a heaviness and an inflexibility, both of which can lead to a short fuse. This doesn’t serve me well — especially with my son.

My serious side may save my child’s life, but I need my sense of humor to save mine.

I’m not exactly sure how to find that brilliant wisecracking woman I once was. My husband reminds me that she could laugh at anything — including his jokes. And I’d like that.

I’m not totally giving up my serious side, but I can strive for a balance. One day, maybe I’ll hear my son say, “Mom, is seriously funny!” This is why I’m going to do my best to find the lighter side of life — for both of us.

Perhaps laughter truly is the best medicine.

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