Photo: Ken Woroner
Since becoming a mom, I’ve learned that laughter is an essential coping mechanism. From babies pooping in the bathtub to breast milk leaks during business meetings, finding humour in the challenges of mom life makes the journey that much easier—and comedian/actress/writer/fellow mom Ali Wong is here to help you LOL.
Wong’s debut comedy special Baby Cobra, which hit Netflix in 2016, was filmed while she was pregnant with her now 2-year-old daughter Mari—an experience that provided the context for her latest special Hard Knock Wife. In her latest show, Wong is now pregnant with baby number two and struts up and down the stage getting super personal about her hilarious experience with breastfeeding, post-baby identity and maternity leave. And I could totally relate.
I have two daughters—one is three, one is nine months—so my life has been a blur of hormonal shifts (mine), diaper leaks (them), and getting The Wiggles’ theme song stuck in your head (all of us). So when I found time to sit down and watch Wong’s Hard Knock Wife, it was more than just a fun standup special to Netflix and chill with; it was like hearing about a day in my life, with the added bonus of a punchline.
6:05 a.m.: Zombie walk out of bed to breastfeed the baby Breastfeeding the first time around was a challenge, to say the least. My milk production was low, my nipples were so sore that even the gentlest touch was torture, and L (daughter #1) sucked so much calcium from my body that my teeth would ache when she was feeding.
With that experience still fresh in my mind, I hollered out loud when Wong described breastfeeding as “a ritual that reminds you your body is a cafeteria now,” and when she compared the act of getting the perfect latch to parallel parking. I remember being so frustrated with myself, from feeling like my body didn’t belong to me anymore. But watching Wong stray from the traditional narrative that describes breastfeeding as this gentle, natural process made me realize that I wasn’t the only one who struggled.
11:16 a.m.: Time to check my stitches, because yikes—my body’s been through a lot Luckily, here in Canada we have government-provided maternity and parental year, allowing parents to stay home for up to 18 months. And believe me, when you’ve literally given a new human life, you deserve every minute of that time off. My body went through incredible changes after delivering my two babies. From healing from tears with L, to dealing with postpartum anxiety after having Z (daughter #2), there was a lot that I had to navigate—and not having to worry about going to work on top of it all was a blessing.
While Wong acknowledges her privilege as a newly-minted celeb who can afford a nanny (and likely more control over her work schedule than other moms), there was still so much I could relate to as she spoke about post-baby recovery. Totally revising your birthing plan when contractions hit—or baby is in crisis? Learning that your body expels a lot more than just the baby? Realizing—like Wong did—that it’s crucial to snag as many of the giant free maternity pads from the hospital as you can? She covered it all.
5:42 p.m.: Daddy’s home, and the praise parade is on My husband and I are a bit of an anomaly because we split our year of parental leave equally—he spent six months off with L, and is currently off with Z. While I’m grateful for good dads like the one my girls have, it’s bonkers to see how bananas people get when they see an active father taking care of his kids. Whether he gives the girls a bath, warms up a bottle or helps to style hair, it seems like the bar is so low that dads get all the praise for things that moms are just expected to do. And when it comes to discussing balancing career and family, that’s a conversation largely held only between (and about) moms. Everyone wonders how Beyoncé slays in her career with three kids, but no one ever asks Jay-Z. As Wong deadpanned to the camera, no one ever asks fathers the “balancing” question because it’s socially acceptable that they simply don’t have to.
I was rolling with laughter when the comedian talked about how mind-blown people are when her husband changes a diaper—confetti everywhere! “What a doting, modern father! Lucky you!” they said to her. Wong’s reply is one question that I ask almost every day: “Where’s my confetti at?”
10:36 p.m.: Baby’s asleep! Bow chika wow wow…or nah Physical changes, hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation—all of these things impact romantic relationships and intimacy post-baby. The six-week checkup was when I got the go-ahead from my doctor to get back in the sex saddle, but it still took a bit more time before I was in the mood for some fun. It’s easy to fall into a rut where you start talking to your partner without really talking to them (“Can Daddy clean the kitchen tonight so Mommy can wash her hair?” “Does Mommy want to order takeout for dinner tonight?”), and losing the ability to be spontaneous can really impact your relationship. We’ve had our own struggles to adjust to parenting while still working to keep our connection strong, and communication has been one of the most important tools.
Wong was straight up when she said that “when you have a newborn baby, your marriage gets weak and vulnerable” and explained that it’s easy for “marriage grenades” to infiltrate your relationship. One of the tactics Wong uses to protect her partnership from exploding? Hiring a 62-year-old nanny instead of a “hot, young nanny.” But she also shared that she’s not immune to temptation either—she shared that she’d melt for a man who would say “Yes” to every chore she asked of him, —and I howled! Being a new mom really reveals how sexy it is when your significant other washes and folds three loads of laundry on a Saturday night.
It’s bits like these that makes Hard Knock Wife more than a comedy special, it is an opportunity to laugh at parts of motherhood that have made me cry. With Wong’s physical comedy (have you ever seen a pregnant comic simulate getting oral sex?), her determination to not “tone down” her personality after having a child and her sharp tell-it-like-it-is delivery, this comic presents a unique perspective on motherhood—one that is raw, refreshing, and utterly relatable to a mom like me.
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife will be available on Netflix on May 13.
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