As a comedy writer, I have worked on a variety of projects, from nationally renowned sketch shows like Saturday Night Live to ill-fated television pilots that never saw the light of day. Needless to say, most of those writers’ rooms were led by men. So imagine my delight when I got hired to be the head writer of a television show for mothers on a new programming block entitled “NickMom.” It was a combination of comedic sketches, taped field pieces and funny panel discussions. I couldn’t believe it when my first directive was to only hire writers who were moms. That was the beginning of the best job I ever had.
The first day at work was incredible. Indeed, every member of the writing staff was a mom, including our funny and supportive host Stefanie Wilder Taylor. All five of us were giddy with excitement. Television jobs are hard to come by, so we were elated to be working and even more thrilled to finally be excused from carpooling duties.
We immediately discovered that it’s way, way, way, way, way more fun to write about parenting than to actually parent. “You mean you’re gonna pay me to write jokes about trying to change diapers on a crowded Southwest flight? Hell yeah, I’m coming back tomorrow.”
Lunchtime was a grown-up playdate, and we didn’t even have to cut anyone else’s food. No more leftover mac and cheese and Capri Suns. We had everything from Thai food to Mexican to delicious Italian subs and no one ever interrupted us to go potty. One of our best finds was the CVS drugstore across the street that sold fresh sushi. We could grab lunch, nail polish and maxi pads at the same time.
Sometimes, we even put the nail polish on as we pitched jokes. Oh, the fun we had working on a mom’s show. No topic was off-limits — sex after pregnancy, tummy tucks, whether or not to circumcise. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to do crunches or leg lifts as we talked. This was our clubhouse. We even brought a small stepping machine into the writers’ room to work off all the drugstore California rolls. Life was good.
But it didn’t take long for all these kick-ass, fun-loving moms to get sucked back into the real mommy world. One day when we were writing a sketch about helicopter moms, one of the writers asked to leave because she realized she forgot to pack her kid a stupid jacket in case it rained. I let her go, even though she was harshing my working-girl buzz.
Not long after, we were pitching ideas about different discipline techniques when my cellphone rang. It was my child’s teacher calling to say my 8-year-old daughter had just learned the word “fuck” and she was giving it a test-drive around the school yard. I had no idea where she learned it, and I was so fucking angry. Needless to say, that workday ended early.
We tried to carry on, but slowly, our children wormed their way into our work lives. One afternoon, when I couldn’t find a babysitter I brought my kids to the office for a few hours and they managed to start a fire in the microwave while trying to make popcorn. Yet another day when being a mom was getting in the way of writing about being a mom.
Before we knew it, the final taping was completed and our work on the show was done. After laughing our heads off every day for months and writing funny bits about motherhood, it was difficult adjusting to being at home again. My kids didn’t have any good parenting stories and they gave sloppy manicures.
Being on a NickMom show was one of the best jobs I ever had. It made me wish that every mom had a place to go where she could share her war stories and commiserate over the lack of sleep and everyday challenges that come with the job. So very seldom and in very few places are mothers asked to recall their biggest parenting fears and triumphs. The writers’ room at Parental Discretion was a precious and safe place where we were encouraged to do nothing but that and then share it with the world. The truth is all of us were passionate about and devoted to our little ones and we couldn’t wait to see them at the end of every day. For a while though, we had our own clubhouse where, as mothers and eventual friends, we felt connected, seen and heard. Oh, and I must add, our nails looked really pretty.