Mother’s Day: No Laughing Matter

 

I realized something for the first time when my kids were of an age for sleepovers and birthday parties: dads are funnier than moms.

I might have noticed it in my own house if it wasn’t right under my nose. My husband was the one to get on the floor and wrestle, start sock fights, and make jokes when it was time to get serious. That’s not to say I could never be found on the floor with kids crawling all over me, but there’s something different about mommy wrestling as opposed daddy wrestling–a certain lack of abandon and goofiness. My daughter would come home from a party or church event with stories about how Cheri’s dad had made them laugh while driving them to the skating rink, or how Leslie’s dad had played a stupid trick that backfired. It was never the moms. Mothers could certainly be fun (I’d like to think I was. Maybe. Sometimes.), but seldom funny.

Several years ago Jerry Lewis made a controversial statement when asked who his favorite female comedians were.  His answer: None, because women aren’t funny. That raised a stink among women, many of whom seriously protested that they were funny—which kind of proved his point, in a way.  I would say that women aren’t funny in the same way.  They can be witty (as my mother was), clever, sharp, catty, artless, or charming, but there’s a reason male standup comics far outnumber females, and it doesn’t have much if anything to do with discrimination.  Of those few successful female comics, most of them are known for the mordant kind of humor: the biting, even bitter kind.  It’s because women, more than men, have a tragic view of life.  And that’s because of one thing: women have babies.

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. (Gen. 3:16)

The Pain

The obvious interpretation of Genesis 3:16 limits the pain to labor and delivery.  But the pain of bearing a child lasts a lifetime, and it’s a particular pain that fathers, for the most part, do not share.  That’s because of the essential differences between the two:

Fatherhood is by choice; motherhood by necessity.

Fatherhood is dogmatic; motherhood is organic.

Fatherhood is straightforward; motherhood is serpentine and multi-faceted.

Fatherhood is tangential; motherhood is central.

Fathers are distinct; mothers are intimate.

At the back of a mother’s mind lurks a gigantic fear that something could happen to her baby, even if her baby is 45 years old.  The world yawns wide for our children: busy streets and nefarious strangers, fast cars and bad company, drunk drivers, sexual predators, drug dealers, gang leaders.  A good father will experience these same fears, but probably not until there’s some pretext for them (fewer what-if speculations for Dad).

Also, from the day our babies are born, we have to start letting go of them, and sometimes it’s hard to know when. And how.  It isn’t just a matter of teaching them to crawl, walk, run, and drive; it’s teaching ourselves to stop identifying with them.  They were us; how can they stop being us?  When does their behavior stop being our responsibility?  When do their choices no longer reflect on our child-raising skills?

The Gain

And yet, a great irony: The more a mother clings to her child, the smaller motherhood becomes.  The true joy of mothering increases with every step your child takes away from you.  Conceiving, carrying, bearing, and delivering a baby into this world is the beginning of the pain, but also of the gain: a mature human being with his or her own personality, gifts, and vision.  That’s the goal, and I challenge anyone to name me a better one.  No six-figure income or tabloid-worthy career even comes close.  Motherhood is a double investment in life: the opportunity to grow up again by experiencing its primary discoveries through the eyes of a child and the understanding of a grownup, and the chance to pay it forward with a human being who will make the world a slightly better place.

If a grown child causes more grief than joy (and a lot of them do), moms should check their expectations to make sure they are not looking for Mini-me: someone who thinks and acts like mom and agrees with 95% of her political and theological positions.  (If you actually ended up with a kid like that, you’re either very exceptional or your son or daughter got swapped for a Stepford child somewhere down the line.)

But say your expectations were reasonable and your child-raising skills were at least adequate.  What went wrong?  Maybe nothing; maybe it’s time to let disappointing children become themselves, and answer for themselves. Trust God with them.  They are still human beings with immortal souls.  Yours will always be the first warm touch they felt, the first loving voice they heard. You pushed them out and raised them up—this is the great human enterprise, and mothers are right in the middle of it.

That’s not funny.  But it’s phenomenal.

Published in Culture
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 14 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I look around me and notice that most of the people I meet or know are pretty OK.  I realize that they were raised under a multitude of different conditions, but, for the most part, turned out alright.  That was a great solace to me when we were raising our own kids.  And you know what?  They turned out alright.

    • #1
  2. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Thank you,@janieb, for that very thoughtful and warm post.

    • #2
  3. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Many years ago Christopher Hitchens wrote a piece I believe for Vanity Fair. The title was Why Women Aren’t Funny. One of his arguments was that a man works at funny, out of necessity, while a women has no need to be funny. A man, he argued, who can’t make a woman laugh pretty much eliminates himself from the gene pool. A woman can have sex all day every day and never make a funny. The article brought on a firestorm of feminist outrage.  Hitchens did a follow up. He said he was tempted to title it Why Women Can’t Read.

    • #3
  4. jeannebodine, Verbose Bon Viva… Member
    jeannebodine, Verbose Bon Viva…
    @jeannebodine

     

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I have no children, but this is one of the two comic strips I read every day.

     

    Baby Blues

     

    • #5
  6. jeannebodine, Verbose Bon Viva… Member
    jeannebodine, Verbose Bon Viva…
    @jeannebodine

    I don’t have children either but what an absolutely beautiful post!

    • #6
  7. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    Thank you very much for the post – really brought to mind some discussions I had with my mother near the end of her life. I mentioned your remarks today to a friend dealing with “more grief than joy.” Typically I would have made a Jordan Peterson reference, but your words were far more suitable.

    • #7
  8. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Well done.

    100% spot-on about who’s funny. Women, as you say, can be witty or sarcastic (I tend in this direction), but dudes are hilarious.

    • #8
  9. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Ever notice there’s no funny muslims?

    So sad….

    • #9
  10. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Jimmy C :”Ever notice there’s no funny muslims?”

    I believe it was Ayatollah Khomeini was said ” There are no jokes  in Islam, there is no humor in Islam, and  there is no fun in Islam!”

    So every time you crack a joke or even  laugh at a joke or even let yourself have a little fun, heaven forbid,   remember when you do these things you are desecrating Allah!

    • #10
  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Beautiful post and touching right where it hurts today. Someone complimented me as a “Super Mom” yesterday and I’ve been full of self-recrimination and regrets ever since. Not her fault. Just life.

    And, yes, women aren’t funny with very few exceptions. Joan Rivers. Erma Bombeck. Maybe a few others.

    • #11
  12. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Beautiful post and touching right where it hurts today. Someone complimented me as a “Super Mom” yesterday and I’ve been full of self-recrimination and regrets ever since. Not her fault. Just life.

    And, yes, women aren’t funny with very few exceptions. Joan Rivers. Erma Bombeck. Maybe a few others.

    My only exception would be Ellen.

    • #12
  13. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Beautiful post and touching right where it hurts today. Someone complimented me as a “Super Mom” yesterday and I’ve been full of self-recrimination and regrets ever since. Not her fault. Just life.

    And, yes, women aren’t funny with very few exceptions. Joan Rivers. Erma Bombeck. Maybe a few others.

    Rita Rudner.

     

    • #13
  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Beautiful post and touching right where it hurts today. Someone complimented me as a “Super Mom” yesterday and I’ve been full of self-recrimination and regrets ever since. Not her fault. Just life.

    And, yes, women aren’t funny with very few exceptions. Joan Rivers. Erma Bombeck. Maybe a few others.

    My only exception would be Ellen.

    She was funny until she became all about the gay. Her segment with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars was terribly unfunny. It was almost unwatchable. 

    • #14
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.