Cartoonist and doctor Farris puts a witty spin on standard parenting fare in her debut, Mom Milestones (Workman, Apr.).
Your drawings bring some lightheartedness to discussions of the intense experiences of first-time motherhood. Can you tell me about striking that balance?
When I started drawing these, it was mostly for my own reflective purposes. That drawing style was the one I’ve always used, and then I realized, oh, kids’ shapes are so fun to play with, to make one of my kids a string bean and one of them with crazy hair. And there’s probably the fact that I’m reading nonstop children’s books—that influences some of the illustrations. And with humor, well, there’s a lot of stuff that you experience in isolation when you’re going through early motherhood, and you think that you’re experiencing something that’s very unique. But really, a lot of it is universal. The cheerful drawings and humor are a way to find a bright side in some of the stuff that can be really demoralizing about becoming a new mom.
Your book is structured almost as a parody of the “what to expect” genre. Why that approach?
When I was expecting, I spent a lot of time poring over all of those books. They’re all about the pregnancy period, and they ended when the baby is born. And I would think, “Oh, here’s this book about the baby’s development, but what am I supposed to be doing?” Then once the baby’s six weeks, you think that you’re a pro and you start handing out advice to other new moms. You realize that you’ve just gone through this boot camp and that you’ve kind of evolved into a different type of mom. It’s that transformation that was interesting to me.
Which drawing would you nominate as most likely to end up on a new mom’s refrigerator?
The one that’s probably most memorable is “sleep when your baby sleeps,” because everybody loves when you get that piece of advice. Because your baby’s sleeping while you’re, you know, at Target.
Was there anything that you discovered while putting the book together that changed your perception of motherhood?
I found it kind of moving at the end. It was nice to have this record of how I felt, being able to go back in time. Everything is so transient, even though when you’re going through it it feels like it’s never going to end. I have this memory of the pacifier, there was so much drama with the pacifier—would they ever get rid of it—and already, that’s such a long time ago. Everything is just a phase, and usually it’s actually pretty short.