‘Let’s Panic About Babies!’ A Q&A With the Anti-Parenting Guide Authors

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As I learned at South by Southwest, one way that blogueros like me can turn their little passion project into something resembling an income stream is to write a book that builds on their blog.

For a masterclass in the alchemy of turning successful blogs into a book, however, look no further than Let’s Panic About Babies, a new book co-authored by bigtime bloggers Alice Bradley (Finslippy.com) and Eden M. Kennedy (Fussy.org). I could write more about the book’s eviscerating sense of satire — and its occasional notes of redemption — but the subtitle says it all: How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being.

Alice and Eden were kind enough to join DadWagon for an online chat about blogging, bookmaking, and Descartes’ gerbils in the brain.

Q: Why write a book? You’ve both got great blogs. Isn’t that enough?
Alice: You can’t bring a blog into the bathroom.
Eden: Yes, you can.

Q: Have you seen the bacteria counts on iPhone screens?
Eden: GAAAH.

Q: Is this the first book for you both?
Alice: This is the first book for us both, yes. And in honesty, you can play around in a book in a way you can’t on a site. You can have fun with the persona of the authority/author. I don’t know. I’m pulling this right out of my ass.
Eden: Nice.

Q: That’s also bad hygiene
Eden: I get what you’re saying, though, Alice. The Internet is incredibly flexible, but if people just stumble onto your site and think you’re serious, when in fact long-time readers get that you’re not being “you,” you get a lot of confused hate mail. (More on DadWagon.com: Toilet-Training, the Freaky German Way)

Q: This is a funny book.
Eden: I agree.
Alice: IT IS?!

Q: But it seems like babymaking is serious business: big industry, big science, big freakouts.
Eden: Life and death, basically.

Q: Is there something about the way we get pregnant, have babies and, well, panic, that needed some satire?
Alice: Yes. NEXT QUESTION… Eden is writing something smart. I’m making fart noises with my armpit.
Eden: I think getting pregnant or trying to get pregnant or finally getting pregnant after trying (or not trying!) just automatically produces anxiety, and that internal pressure needs to be released somehow.

Q: Men can relate to that phrasing

Q: Did your partners or husbands get a first read?
Alice: I don’t have to get my husband’s permission to make fun of him.
Eden: My husband didn’t read it until it was in galleys.

Q: Any particular feedback, Eden?
Eden: He said, “You’re some funny broads.” That’s the way he talks. Ironically sexist! (More on DadWagon.com: Men’s Rights: Not as Ridiculous as it Sounds)

Q: How did you two split up work on the book?
Alice: First we wrote a detailed table of contents, really more of an outline. And then we each took a chapter — I did the odd chapters, Eden the even ones. We also got together a few times, and then it was a little more fluid — we’d pass sections off to each other, talk stuff out, etc.
Eden: At the end, we read the whole thing out loud at one point.

Q: Alice, you live in New York; Eden lives in California. So which coast has the crazier parents?
Alice: I’m not interested in categorizing parents as crazy or not crazy. We’re making fun of the people who’ve typecast parents — not the parents.
Eden: Anxiety seems to flow from coast to coast, you know?
Alice: We all go a little crazy. Parenthood is terrifying.
Eden: There are all different levels of control-freakedness wherever you go. The idea is to find a way to step back, breathe, and realize that you can let go and the world won’t fall apart.
Eden: Laughing at yourself helps.

Q: That’s the pitch for this book, right? Something like, “you can’t make the baby shut up, but you can have a laugh while it’s in the other room?”
Alice: That’s the pitch? “You can’t make the baby shut up?” That’s the worst pitch ever! But seriously: Our point is that it’s the constant flow of information and news directed at parents that feeds all the anxiety.
Eden: Exactly.
Alice: It doesn’t create it, not all the time, but it doesn’t help. (More on DadWagon.com: Admissions Anxiety, or Tilting at Kindergarten)

Q: One of the things I love about your book is that it has the veneer of offering helpful information…
Alice: A very thin veneer!
Eden: Thin but highly polished.

Q: …but then it comes up with something like “Descartes believed in gerbils in the brain.”
Eden: He did!
Alice: Eden channeled him.
Eden: I was a philosophy major!
Alice: Fact-checking is the worst. So boring.
Eden: That’s a good point, though. Why do parents believe what they hear on the fear segment of their 6 o’clock news? WHAT EXPERT WROTE THAT? “Apple slices cause autism! Film at 11!”
Alice: And no matter how savvy you are, part of you falls for it.
Eden: YES. Just in case they’re right.
Alice: Because the stakes are too high.

Q: Alice, what books did you read before the baby was born?
Alice: What books didn’t I read? What to Expect While You’re Expecting… Oh, my God, every book Dr. Sears wrote. I was going to be an attachment parent. HAHAHHAAAAAA. Also every breast-feeding book I could get my hands on. I figured if I studied hard, it would all work out.

Q: Because breast-feeding is really about book-learning.
Alice: I would study the pictures of breast-feeding infants as hard as I studied movie scenes of people making out when I was 10 to make sure I knew how to do it. Did I just admit that? Yes, I did. (“What are their tongues DOING?”)

Q: Your baby was no doubt impressed by your reading.
Alice: Oh, he could tell I had really studied up on the subject. So when he tried to nurse in my armpit and WOULDN’T GO TO THE RIGHT PLACE, I just calmly read him the chapter on nursing, and voila! (More on DadWagon.com: Scorcese Didn’t Need a Book!)

Q: So where does this book fit alongside Sears and other classics?
Alice: It’s just humor. We just want people to laugh, a lot. Whether it’s a new parent, or someone remembering that part of their lives, or someone worried about it all happening someday. Everyone, basically. We think everyone should have our book.
Eden: Kids like it, too — if you black out certain words with a Sharpie.

Q: I assume there are plenty of fans of the blog who come out to your readings. What’s it like running into them in the, um, meatworld?
Eden: Meatworld!
Alice: It’s really fantastic, actually.
Eden: It’s wonderful, because you can meet people you’ve only known online.
Alice: Everyone is gracious and enthusiastic, and they’re all really interesting in their own rights.

Q: Where next with your blogs?
Alice: I don’t have a direction or a business plan, which is probably why I don’t make a lot of money with it.
Eden: I don’t know, I guess I’ll just keep chugging along, I like doing it.
Alice: I just write whatever makes me happy.

Q: So it’ll survive your kids growing up?
Alice: For me, it’s becoming less about Henry. I barely write about him.
Eden: I probably write more about my dog at this point than my son.

Q: Last question: is there another book on the way?
Eden: If this one does well, yes!

Q: That’s sorta blackmail. Buy this book or we shoot the next book project.
Alice: I never thought about it that way. You’re really dark.
Eden: We get lots of suggestions. “Let’s panic about menopause.”
Alice: “Let’s panic about death!”
Eden: Someone suggested “Let’s panic about marriage,” but then we’d have to get divorced to write the obvious sequel.
Alice: Whatever it takes, Eden.
Eden: I agree.

Nathan Thornburgh is a contributing writer at TIME. He co-founded the parenting blog DadWagon.com in 2009 to help explore the many ways he may be damaging his kids — Dalia, 4, and Nico, 2.