Dan Hanna/Macmillan

The Book That Got Me Through My Mom Funk

Ad failed to load

Reading a book 200 times is a surefire way to find out whether you love it or want to throw its rhyming llama couplets into the diaper pail. Children's books especially do a tricky dance for an audience of squinty-eyed parents and wide-eyed tots: the best ones, like a syringe of infant-suspension Tylenol, have a little something for the parent at the end. These are the ones we are celebrating in This Book Belongs To — the books that send us back to the days of our own footed pajamas, and make us feel only half-exhausted when our tiny overlords ask to read them one more time.

When I was pregnant, I read on some mom blog that I ought to be reading books to my unborn baby so he could get used to my voice, and the one I reached for, entirely randomly, was The Pout Pout Fish. I remember thinking, boy, what a bummer this fish is. I hope I am not unintentionally transmitting the "dreary-wearies" to my son in utero.

Several months later, when my 1-year-old boy began showing interest in hearing his parents read books to him, it was the first one he grabbed. He loved turning the pages, and he hummed some adorable baby sounds whenever I did the, “blub, bluuuub, bluuuuub."

Ad failed to load
Dan Hanna/Macmillan

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, $5, Amazon

For the next couple of months, he loved to hear the blub, bluuuub, bluuuuub over and over and over again. It was so very cute. We thought he must really be getting into reading, so we got him a couple more books to expand his library… but he didn’t have an interest in any of them. He only wanted the Pout Pout Fish.

Ad failed to load

Soon, I had the words committed to memory — whenever my son would start to get upset, I could just start reciting the story and he’d either calm down or go to his bookshelf, grab the book, and climb into my lap for me to read it.

Around the thousandth time reading it, I began to see similarities between the Pout Pout Fish and myself.

The ~protagonist~ of the board book thinks it is his life’s destiny to be mopey. He constantly bumps into sea creatures offering him advice on how to be cheerful, but isn't open to any of it because he believes it is just in his nature to be sad. He is, let's say, really comfortable in his funk.

Ad failed to load
Dan Hanna/Macmillan

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, $5, Amazon

I am usually a happy and positive person, but a series of events the past year have caused me great emotional strain. My family and I recently moved from the U.S. to Singapore, and although I felt excitement over the prospect of becoming ex-pats in a new place, I also felt worried. Worried that I wouldn’t be able to adjust to our new lifestyle, worried that my son wouldn’t have the same level of health care, worried that I wouldn’t enjoy our new normal. With my husband going back to the office and no longer working remotely from home, I was afraid of feeling isolated, and for a while, I was. I felt helpless not knowing anyone in my new neighborhood and not having a stable job or hobby to keep me occupied. I felt guilty for feeling lonely even though I pretty much had everything I could ever want and need.

Ad failed to load

I also went through my lowest low during the height of the #MeToo movement. It took me a long time to sort through my feelings about my own experience. And like the Pout Pout Fish's friends, a lot of my loved ones tried their hardest to snap me out of it. They told me that what happened is now in the past and that I should move on. They reminded me that I had a family that had nothing but love for me. They encouraged me to get back to my usual, cheerful self. But all I felt was misunderstood. They didn’t get it. They didn’t get me, the same way the sea creatures didn't quite get their sullen friend. How do you reach someone like me? Someone bottoming out in their own quiet little trench of blue?


In the book, the Pout Pout Fish finds his melancholy punctured one day by a shimmery shiny fish that dives down to where he is and plants a big kiss on his face. It shocks him to his core. Rocks the whole sensitive sad-guy affect he has attached himself to.

Ad failed to load
Dan Hanna/Macmillan

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, $5, Amazon

In my own life, my baby placing his tiny hand in mine as I read him his favorite book for the umpteenth time reminded me of a couple of things — that it’s OK to feel sad sometimes, because it is a part of life. And that when you’re feeling blue, it’s normal for people who care for you to want to help, even when you don’t ask them to. Sometimes, the very same people will unintentionally say or do things that will cause you to be even more forlorn. However, at the end of the day, when you least expect it, something or someone will give you purpose and ultimately make you feel all right again.

Ad failed to load

The way this silvery purple friend transformed the Pout Pout Fish's dreary-wearies into cheery-cheeries with just a simple kiss made me realize that through a simple change in perspective, a difficult situation can become slightly more tolerable. I know I won’t be able to get there right away all the time, but knowing it’s possible provides me with great comfort.

It's hard being a mom, but I realized that whatever the currents are doing, I have my baby here always, just one snuggly kiss away.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherlode, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills