As Meredith Masony tries to promote her new book, Ask Me What’s for Dinner One More Time from her home office, her family of five, plus-dogs, continually barges into the room. One might wonder why she doesn’t lock the door, but her house has no doorknobs. Her family moved during the pandemic, which Masony describes as both “hard and dumb,” and their new house is not quiiiiite finished. She hopes that they will add some doorknobs in the next five years. For now she resorts to shouting (nicely) for everyone to leave her alone. Besides, moms with complete doors know that kids will just stick their fingers under the door and caterwaul until you respond.
Masony did not plan to promote a new book during a global pandemic. Her first book, Scoop the Poop, was self published, so she had no fancy launch team. With her second book, she hoped for a swanky book tour that took her across the country meeting the community of fans she has built, while relaxing in hotel rooms. Away from her kids. With wine.
Nobody is supposed to be with their family this much.
Instead, she has been stuck with her family for 181 days straight. “Nobody is supposed to be with their family this much,” she says. ”Even if you home school, your kids still do sports and camps and things. Instead, they are always there.” She recalls a pre-pandemic winter school break that was 24 days long and nearly broke her. At the time, it seemed an eternity. Of course, she had no idea what was coming. “Parents should have the ability to say ‘I am done,’ and we don’t right now.” Masony has filled some of the endless hours at home with a new video series for Studio 71 entitled Homeschooled, but mostly she’s been trying to keep her three kids from murdering each other and ending up on a Netflix crime documentary.
She refuses to use the term “the new normal,” because nothing about this season of life is normal. Yet Masony also knows her book was written for a season such as this. Despite the fact that she’s been working on it for over two years, before even our worst parenting nightmares featured a pandemic, it’s most useful right now, when we’re all desperate for some humor to break up the monotony. It’s a page-turner, too: you can read a whole chapter while the homeschool Zoom is buffering, and probably the whole thing while you’re waiting for it to be 12:01am, when you snag your grocery delivery spot.
I just want everyone to know that it’s a disaster here as well.
Masony wrote the book for the same reason she started her online community, That’s Inappropriate: to show other parents that they are not alone, and that the hard parts are both common and hilarious. As a new mom (her kids are now 9, 11 and 14), Massony says, she read stacks of parenting books that gloss over the hardest parts of parenting and offer few strategies you would ever use in real life. She was crying in her closet as she struggled with breastfeeding, and no one was being upfront about just how normal that was. “When you’re in the trenches, you witness things you never thought you would experience.” She has built her community around delivering frank advice that acknowledges the inherent absurdity of parenthood. “Parenting books should be as honest as labor books: we all know it’s coming through the vagina, so just say it.”
Ask Me What’s for Dinner One More Time covers why Masony’s not saving for her kids for college, the piles of laundry we can never escape, and how to fight with your in-laws. A section entitled, “Please tell me when my kid is acting like a dickhead. Parenting is hard and I need help,” urges us all to realize our kids can and will do wrong, and acknowledging that fact does not make you a bad mom. Stepping on floor urine in the middle of the night is normalized, and a handy diagram demonstrates the correct way to fold a towel as compared to the half-assed way her husband does it.
Masony gets serious about her battle with an esophageal tumor that taught her that we really, truly do not have any control. Thankfully she has a positive prognosis, but the tension of living in the unknown deeply impacted Masony. That lesson in letting go is what is helping her family manage 2020, where we are all learning that any semblance of control we had was just an illusion. “Nobody wants to be alone, so let’s be alone together,” she says. “I just want everyone to know that it’s a disaster here as well.”