I Unintentionally Wrote A Perfect Pandemic Read For Moms Who Are Over It

‘Adult Conversation: A Novel’ book cover. Image via the Adult Conversation Parenting Facebook Page

By Brandy Ferner

Of all the 419 months I’ve been alive, the worst month for a book launch would be this one. And yet here I am with one hand clutching my shiny debut book – ‘Adult Conversation: A Novel’, a darkly comedic story about the relentlessness of modern motherhood – while my other fist shakes toward the sky. But somewhere between binging ‘Tiger King’ and doing three hundred loads of dishes in this heartbreaking and bonkers time, I realized that I inadvertently wrote a story that is exactly what moms need at this precise moment. Having unknowingly filled this need is one of the few things giving me comfort right now as I grieve the loss of book signings, summer events, a reason to wear eyeliner, and being birthed into authorship the normal way. 

I’m not one to jump straight into positive thinking or silver linings. That would be my husband, aka “Disneyland Dad.” He loves all things fun, optimism, and sugar, whereas I am the dark and twisty one, preferring ample personal space, a healthy amount of skepticism, and pickles. But like the psychic Sylvia Browne who predicted this pandemic (check Internet memes for citation), maybe my mother’s intuition all those years ago as I sat down to write also knew that this was coming, and that there would be no time in human mother history where moms would be over it quite to this degree. Side note: we moms didn’t need a pandemic to highlight the challenges of being with and caretaking children 24-7, but hot damn we’re feeling the fire like never before. 

About four years ago, while in the thick of motherhood with young kids, an idea for a story landed inside my brain like lice on a kindergartner’s scalp. The idea was this: what would happen if two fed up moms fled to Vegas together – would they do drugs, cheat on their spouse, just lay in bed with no one touching them and order room service, or all of the above? And, what if the one of them was the other’s therapist who had her own issues? Also, what if Snoop Dogg was one of their neighbors? These questions made me laugh, and desperately want to hop into this fantasy world and figure out where these characters would take themselves (and me). Despite my trying to say no, “I have a two-year-old, when would I even write this?” and, “I can’t write a book! How does anyone even begin to write a book?” the idea wouldn’t relinquish its grasp on me. I found myself waking at night as if I had a newborn, jotting down dialogue, character quirks, hard but relatable moments from my own life, and scenes that made me laugh and also cry. The ideas poured out of me, and after a week of creativity-fueled insomnia, I finally surrendered. The only way out of this was through it, dammit, just like giving birth (and coincidentally, just like weathering a pandemic). I was going to write a book, somehow.

My then two-year-old had never been with a babysitter, and quite honestly, we didn’t really have the money to give me this uninterrupted time to write on a lice-like whim. But both my husband and I looked at it as an investment in my sanity, which was questionable after constantly caretaking our kids for nearly a decade. Also, did you know that some college students will babysit for only $10 an hour? So while my daughter giggled downstairs with a Disney-obsessed twenty-year-old, I sat in the fuzzy glider across from her crib and wrote like the wind. I unleashed every real and complicated feeling I’d has as a mother and wife, as well as what I watched others have. Through my main character, April, a thoughtful but sarcastic mom who tries her best to be a caring, connected mother, I got to pour my heart out and explore this idea that idealized motherhood and the lived experience of it can often be in conflict. I allowed April to ask, “Am I broken, or is motherhood?” and followed her as she sought out an answer. I also got to spear every bullshit piece of parenting I’d ever wanted to. Shout out to Marie Kondo and baby sleep books. 

But back then, while I was writing this story with a gun to my head (that’s how it feels when you’ve paid a babysitter for three hours and must get your money’s worth, by the way), I didn’t even know that it would eventually get published, and that when it did, we would be in a pandemic! I had no idea it would show up just at the right/wrong time, like Joe Exotic with an EMT coat on to tend to Saff’s severed arm. I had no conscious premonition that the themes I sprinkled within my book, such as gender inequality in parenting, “Dad privilege,” the toll of putting yourself last, finding our value, and the tangled emotions of marriage after kids would be experienced in excess by every mother in the spring of 2020. But somehow here we all are, non-consensually busting our asses as nurturers, teachers, chefs, counselors, social directors, personal trainers – oh and wives too – on top of all the other unseen work we were doing before this. 

I also didn’t realize that the second half of my book – the part where the main characters jet off to Vegas for a wild girls’ trip – would be the very thing that mothers right now are fantasizing about. We all need and deserve a Momcation after the impossible expectations that have been put on us, and my story takes readers there (if only in their mind) – away from the daily coronavirus stats, twenty school emails regarding one simple worksheet, and the crushing decibel level of their spouse on a phone call.  

So, at a time when moms don’t have the bandwidth to do much more than fall into their default gender roles and shoulder most of the inconvenience of a global pandemic, my idea that wouldn’t quit, Adult Conversation: A Novel, illuminates and understands their motherly sacrifice, and gives them a much-needed escape. Nearly every aid we moms utilize – babysitters, schools, day care, family, friends, take-out food – has been pulled out from under us, and we are having to find support and sanity in new ways. It’s not completely different than when we first became mothers and our entire worlds turned upside down, causing us to grasp at straws to find a new normalcy. I didn’t intend this, but perhaps my book can be one of those straws – one of these new places of solace, validation, entertainment, and connectedness. Also, remember babysitters? They were great.  

I also think the true medicine in my book right now might be its humor. This shit made me laugh when I wrote it, so hopefully it will make you laugh when you read it. No guarantees, but we all need an emotional release and escape to keep us going through these unknown times, in addition to the one we were so graciously given featuring big cats, dental misfortunes, murder-for hire, cub-petting, and shirtless interviews. 

Image via the Adult Conversation Parenting Facebook Page

Brandy Ferner is a mother, wife, and the creator of the Adult Conversation podcast, social media pages, and blog. Her writing has been featured in ‘Good Morning America’, HuffPost, Romper, CafeMom, TODAY Parents, and more. In addition to writing and fulfilling her kids’ endless snack requests, she spent the past decade working as a doula, childbirth educator, and birth trauma mentor, ushering clients through the intense transition into motherhood. The insight gained from watching moms crack wide open—literally and figuratively—and her own experience as an independent woman who suddenly traded autonomy for snuggles, led her to say out loud the things that modern mothers are thinking. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s comedic, but it’s always honest. She currently lives in Southern California, and her love language is sleep. Her book ‘Adult Conversation: A Novel‘ is out now. Learn more about Brandy by visiting her website.

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