Bunmi Laditan talks parenting, writing and an exclusive on what she is working on next

he Big Bed, by Montreal‘s Bunmi Laditan, makes me laugh.

In The Big Bed ($22.50, Raincoast Books, Farrar Straus Giroux), a little girl tells her dad while she appreciates all he does for her during the day, at night they have a problem: Mommy is her’s and there isn’t enough room in the big bed for three. The only solution, of course, is Daddy has to go.

I love the little girl’s suggestions for her daddy and how she has all potential problems solved.

I feel many parents, particularly those struggling with the problem of sleep, will find this book pretty hilarious.

Raincoast Books hooked me up with Bunmi Laditan to talk The Big Bed, The Honest Toddler and postpartum depression.

Bunmi Laditan, the blogger behind The Honest Toddler, releases her first picture book, The Big Bed. The Big Bed is written by a toddler and offers her take on who should get the bed.
Bunmi Laditan, the blogger behind The Honest Toddler, releases her first picture book, The Big Bed.

Q. Congratulations on your latest book, and first picture book, The Big Bed about a toddler who lays down the law and suggests Daddy sleeps where he belongs – in a cot next to the Big Bed. It’s been said it’s important to see yourself in stories and you may have shown almost every parent out there that is completely normal to have an inch of space while your small child takes up the rest of the bed and still manages to poke you in the face with his elbow.

A. The book is meant to poke fun at a scenario my families find themselves in. Personally, I feel like a sleeping arrangement has to work for the whole family so everyone has to make up their own mind as to what that entails. I don’t actually sleep with my kids, but there have been periods of time when they’ve wanted to claim the big bed as their own. I do make exceptions for nightmares.

Q. This is your first picture book, although you have written books about children (and by children) before. What made you choose this story for your first picture book? What was the goal of writing? Why did you decide to go for a picture book rather than another media?

A. My goal in writing is always to express an idea that I have. Joy Peskin, my editor at MacMillan’s children’s division, actually approached me about the concept for this book after reading my satirical blog post on the topic. The Big Bed really only made sense as a children’s book from the beginning as the subjects at hand are so young.

Q. Your book The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting is the other book you have written from a child’s point of view. How did this story come about? How did you decide what to include, or not include? How do you make it ring so true?

A. The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting was so fun to write because I really enjoy the character – Honest Toddler – and the snarky voice. It came out of the Twitter account and blog in the voice of Honest Toddler I created in 2012, which was inspired by life with my own then two-year-old (she’s eight now).

Q. You have a large following on your website as well as on social media (a million combined followers. Congratulations). What is it about your writing, and your stories, that resonates with people and moms in particular?

A. I think parents, like any other audience, enjoy seeing their reality satirized and reflected. Parenting is a tough gig and being able to laugh at the difficult bits helps keep us going and know that we’re not alone. Every now and again I receive an email from someone who told me that they felt like they were the only person experiencing “x y, or z” and how relieved they were to discover they weren’t. We don’t live in villages anymore and social media has allowed for people to not only share their experiences, but create art and humour out of them.

Q. In October, you opened up about the postpartum depression you had with your third child. Why did you decide to talk about your battle with this mental health illness and why at that time? In several interviews, you mentioned it took you three years to feel connected with your son, but offered this advice to new moms going through something similar:

Keep showing up. Keep rocking them to sleep searching their little faces for what you need. Keep wiping down that high chair and kissing their pillow soft cheeks. Every time you do you, the angels throw a handful of sand into the canyon between you. One day it will be full and you’ll walk across it to find you were always there somehow.” 

A. Postpartum depression (PPD) is complex topic, but I love writing about it because it’s so important. The more women that share their experiences, the more awareness spreads and lives can be saved and made better. I felt connected to my son right away, but it was a very different connection because I had PPD. It’s difficult to explain, but mental illness has a way of making you live in two realities at once. Simple tasks, the sweetest parts of life, become complicated and feel like a battle. I really hope that one day PPD screening is offered to postpartum mothers as the norm, that’s my ultimate dream.

Q. What advice would you give to moms-to-be’s, new moms and those who know someone who has just had a baby?

A. My advice to new moms and mom-to-be’s is to be easy on themselves. To remember that billions of other moms have come before them and will come after them and we make it through. If they can, creating a network of people they trust – family or friends- around to help or talk to is important. Even message boards can be a lifesaver.

Q. Your book Confessions of a Domestic Failure: A Humorous Book About a not so Perfect Mom was released in May about a career girl turned stay-at-home mom who’s trying to navigate the world of perfection, according to social media, but failing. What inspired you to write this book? Does social media, and mom posts, make you nervous? Do you doubt your parenting skills or style? What do you do when you have a parenting fail?

A. Confessions of a Domestic Failure was inspired by my experiences in motherhood – the struggle to find your identity as a new mom. These days, there’s tremendous pressure to define yourself (stay-at-home mom, alpha mom, craft mom, crunchy eco-mom, etc). Social media just adds another dimension to this struggle because as everyone is sharing their highlight reel, one compares their best moments, their curated moments, to their messy reality. I wanted to write a book that explored all of these issues from the perspective of a first-time mom who’s just trying to get by. I don’t believe in “parenting fails” per se…just parenting. No one’s expected to be perfect, we’re just human beings with children doing our best.

Q. Your blog, Honest Toddler, is written by a toddler who understands that the world, particularly the two adults in her life, are there to serve her and to make her happy. Will your toddler continue to write – both on your website and more books? 

A. I’m definitely exploring writing more children’s books both from an adult and child perspective. I love writing from the child perspective because it’s always good to remind myself that the world looks very different from the eyes of a wee one. It inspires more empathy. These days I’m writing more books than blog posts. I’m talking to my editor at MacMillan about the next Honest Toddler-inspired children’s book and am looking forward to making families laugh together.

Q. In November, you took to Twitter as yourself rather than your Honest Toddler. Why did you decide to tweet as the real you? What did you hope to achieve? Do you hope to eventually be Bunmi Laditan rather than the Honest Toddler?

A. It was a spur-of-the moment decision, but in light of all of the tumultuous current events going on, it just felt like time to use my platform for more than just jokes. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like we live in a time where taking a stand and using one’s voice to inspire people is so important. I get jokey from time to time, but Twitter as a platform is a great place for sharing where I stand on issues that will shape the world my kids will grow up in. I love being Honest Toddler and Bunmi Laditan! They’re both parts of my personality, as is Ashley Keller of Confessions. Every character I create reflects a part of my weird psyche.

Q. I was sorry to read about your trademark battle with The Honest Company. I hope you are doing OK.

A. I was able to retain my trademark! Thanks so much for the kind words.

Q. Could tell me where you were raised and where you live now and, if you would like, how you ended up in Canada and Quebec specifically.

A. I was raised in California and moved to Quebec with my husband in 2012 (he has French-Canadian family). I love Montreal – it’s a perfect blend of Canadian and French culture.

Q. Did you always want to be a writer? How did the blog help you become an author? What is your favourite type of writing? Favourite medium? What is your next writing project? Any other projects on the go.

A. I first wanted to be a writer when I was around nine years old and won a small writing competition at my school. Before then I loved writing and would create my own “books” out of cardboard and paper, but it was the first time I considered that people might actually want to read my stories. I love all kinds of writing, but at the moment poetry is my absolute favourite to write. I’m working on a collection of poems for mothers right now. 🙂 You’re the first person I’ve told that to other than my agent and editor!

I’m hoping that it will be the kind of book that moms keep close by and pop open when they’re going through a hard moment and can find a poem that makes them feel OK and less alone.

A copy of this book was provided by Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.