Teresa Strasser, the smart and witty author behind the new book Exploiting My Baby, sat down with ModernMom to talk love, comedy and babies. Teresa is an Emmy and Los Angeles Press Club Award winning writer who lives in Los Angeles where she co-hosts the Peter Tilden show on KABC radio.
ModernMom: What is the one message you want the readers of "Exploiting my Baby" to go home with?
Teresa Strasser: If you are concerned about your abject terror about every facet of pregnancy, don’t bother fighting it. "Letting things go" is just not in my emotional repertoire, so I like to give hope to my sisters in paralyzing anxiety by telling them that fear is your friend. At least according to my therapist, fear about the fetus is a sign that you have already bonded to the baby. Thus, if one of your fears was not bonding to your baby, you can at least cross that one off the list. I found it comforting to know that being terrified is like the first act of decent mothering.
MM: How has motherhood changed your life?
TS: Paradoxically, the best and the worst thing about motherhood are the same: I have no time to think about myself. When I had time to think about myself, all I did was worry about things that were meaningless and outside of control, you know, should I have said that? Do people like me? Do I need a nose job? Who am I? Should I be doing more with my career? You get the idea, like a dull soundtrack of second guessing and self doubt. I’ll tell you what: that is OVER. When I have a quiet moment, I think about daycare and diaper rash. Sure, those things sound dull, but in a sense, it’s a relief to have real problems with real solutions, to be released from the bondage of thinking about myself all the time. I wasn’t self-obsessed out of self-love or vanity, but just out of habit and insecurity. No time to worry about myself means that a truer version of myself is kind of blossoming. It’s nothing I’m trying to do, but motherhood makes you cut out a lot of crap in your life.
MM: What do you do for “me” time?
TS: Me time. Hmmm. Well, the other day I took what you might call a "hooker shower" — that’s right, a couple baby wipes in strategic areas over the sink and some mouthwash. It was luxurious, let me tell you.
MM: How do you keep the sparks with your husband alive?
TS: Well, speaking of things hookers do, I’m sorry to be crass, but the other day we got a sitter and we were so tired, we just wanted to be alone together. Our house is very tiny, so we rented a cheap motel for the afternoon and had the best time together. When you have kids, an afternoon alone together is such a luxury, you don’t care if you are renting a motel by the hour and watching the old VHS tapes they keep in the "lobby." You just want to be together.
MM: How has your comedic background helped you with all of the stress that is motherhood?
TS: They say if you can’t laugh, you’ll cry, but I like to combine them.
MM: Does your baby think you’re funny?
TS: He’s only 16 months, but I must say I give him the giggles with my highly sophisticated version of peek-a-boo.
MM: Are you and your husband looking to have any more babies to exploit in the future?
TS: Hell. No. But ask me again when this ear infection clears up, and maybe.
MM: Your book just came out January 4th (Congratulations!) How was it seeing your book for sale? Did you buy a copy at the store?
TS: It was a dream come true, and I know that sounds cheesy, but I’ve been a newspaper writer since I was 19 and a lover of books since I was a child. To have written a book, and to actually see it in stores, and to know that I said exactly what I wanted to say, warts and all, is the best feeling. And on a shallow note, when I got a glowing review in the LA Weekly, my local alternative paper, I was pretty much beaming for at least three hours. That felt amazing.
MM: What was the last parenting decision you regretted?
TS: Giving the kid antibiotics for the ear infection which made him sick. It’s tough as a new mom – I feel like every other day I need a doctorate in nutrition or medicine or baby sleep or something. I should have trusted my instincts that his fever was taking care of the infection and that it would pass; instead, the treatment just made him sick to his stomach. I don’t know about Western medicine sometimes, but doctors always scare us moms into stuff because they want to avoid worst case scenarios coming back to haunt them. My doctor covers her ass, but in doing so, she gives my baby’s ass a rash. Those drugs give him the worst rash ever, and he can’t even sit down. Poor guy has to squat down just to play with his blocks.
MM: Describe your parenting style in one word.