Has motherhood stolen my sense of humour?

Humourless photo credit: Melissa Segal via photopin cc
photo credit: Melissa Segal via photopin cc

Have you seen the film The Campaign with Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis? It’s a cynically timed US Republican local election comedy that was released earlier this year.

(Mini-review: a poor imitation of the far superior Talladega Nights that tries too hard and misses. Unless you’re a huge fan who thinks the two boyos can do no wrong, I’d give it a miss.)

Anyway, to my point, there’s a big slapstick scene in it where the two candidates get into a fist fight at an election rally and Will Ferrell’s character ends up punching a baby in the face.

He punched a baby in the face.

What’s funny there? Is that funny? Am I missing something?

I could picture this getting huge laughs in the cinema with me sitting in the middle of it with my arms folded and scowling.

It is not the first time of late I have found myself greeting a punchline or anecdote with a stony face when other people are laughing. Sometimes I even get annoyed with the laughing and have often barked “that’s not funny” to nip this inappropriate merriment in the bud. And I really do think it’s not funny rather than me thinking it is funny but I shouldn’t think it now that I’m a terribly responsible mother.

The funny thing is I think I’ve a great sense of humour. (Am I deluded?) Smutty jokes in particular go down a storm with me and I have been known to tell quite the cheek-burning joke at the best of times.

I squarely put this new-found humourlessness at the feet of motherhood.  My reasoning is it seems to coincide with a ridiculously over the top empathy that I have developed at the same time.  I don’t mean a generous dose of emotional intelligence which is always a great thing. I’m talking about silly things like getting really emotional watching the news when the human interest stories are on or trying to throw my arms around people (metaphorically of course, I’m not a total nut job) when I hear sad stories about them or even, get this, at my office Christmas party last week, I started to feel super sorry to the point of upset for a colleague – a married, middle aged father of three teenagers who no more needs my sympathy – who was sitting by himself with no one talking to him.

There is a scene in an episode of the animated TV series Family Guy where Brian the dog has just discovered that he is a father and he’s in a bar with Peter and his friends watching some tragedy unfold on the news. Brian starts freaking out and saying he doesn’t know what he’d do if that was his son and how he just can’t bear to think about it and you just don’t understand until you become a parent etc ad nauseum to the point where one of the other characters turns around and says “Peter, your dog is giving me diabetes”.

It turns out that I am that dog. I give people diabetes.

I annoy myself.

6 thoughts on “Has motherhood stolen my sense of humour?”

  1. I am also that dog I think! Oh the empathy!!! Somehow, though, I don’t think you’re as humourless as you make out. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

  2. I was watching The Hangover shortly after the birth of my son and for most of the film my fists were clenched in utter terror over the baby being dragged into car chases. It didn’t *matter* to me that it was a screwball comedy, it was an *infant* being put into *life-threatening situations*. I really hope my sense of humor returns as my kid gets older. I have a feeling I’m gonna need it, big time…

  3. Nobody warns you about the empathy when you become a mother. It’s not that I didn’t care about other people before. It’s that my ability to put myself in another’s shoes and care deeply about their feelings has become super-sized since I became a mama. I’m reading Naomi Stadlen’s “What Mothers Do…” at the moment, and it all makes so much sense. How would you ever be convinced to drag yourself selflessly out of bed in the middle of the night for the tenth time in a row to care for the needs of a small helpless human if you didn’t first develop an enormous sense of empathy? How would you drop everything you’re doing to tend to the needs of another if you couldn’t deeply feel how much the other needs you? So your newfound empathy and your inability to laugh at a baby in a precarious situation is not something lost – it’s a valuable trait gained. 🙂

What do you think?