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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Humor Therapy—Just for Parents

Family Life’s Melissa Chianta talks to Sonoma dad Jay Rooke about his online community, Gonzo Parenting.

Family Life: You started Gonzo Parenting as the result of the pandemic. Tell us more about that process. 

Jay Rooke: I was intending to launch a new business venture on March 20, 2020, and I was feeling bad about myself because that didn’t happen. Throw in other emotional turmoil and constantly being around five-year-old twins—I noticed that the more isolated I felt, the crazier I went. Finally, out of an attempt to preserve mental sanity, I started to use Facebook to talk about what I was going through with the kids. All of a sudden I got this unintended traction. Others said, “Hey, you are saying how I was feeling but couldn’t say myself.” 

FL: During the pandemic, so many parents felt badly about themselves because they couldn’t meet the incredible task handed to them. And it sounds like you put things into perspective: “Actually the task is crazy. Not you.” You created a service to help parents realize they weren’t going nuts.

JR: One hundred percent. I know every generation has its challenges. But I think our challenges are unique because everything is so different from our childhood. I think all of us are constantly in the “not good enough” space. Also we feel societal values clash with what we intuitively feel is right. We think: Why are we doing this? Why are we scheduling all 24 hours of our kid’s day? 

FL: What are some other ways you think parents can get stuck trying to meet cultural expectations?

JR: One of the sacred cows is that we aren’t allowed to say we don’t enjoy being a parent. I think that the reality is that it’s impossible for us to enjoy all aspects of parenting all of the time. And that it should be much more socially acceptable to say, “I don’t like this part,” or “I’m just overwhelmed today. I’m tired and the kids are being a pain.” 

FL: You have a Gonzo Parenting Facebook page/group.

JR: Yes, it’s a very active and engaged community. We went from zero to 1,500 members in the first three weeks. Parents are sharing their own Gonzo parenting stories, and making snarky but supportive comments they wouldn’t make on their own FB pages. One of my favorite stories is from a mom who was excited that she finally had a weekend without her kid. It had been two years since she had had a night off. Her mom was in town to watch the kid. On Sunday, when the kid was dropped off, he had on his head a patch of missing hair that was the size of a baseball. She freaked out and, after googling it, assumed the worst. Then her son ran into the bathroom, and said, “Mom here is the hair gel I put on.” It was a tube of Nair. 

FL: That’s hilarious. So it sounds like people can laugh along with each other.

JR: Yes! I feel like a pharmaceutical company could market an anti-
anxiety drug with a video of the moment that a parent realizes that it’s 3:15 p.m. and that they are 10 minutes late to pick up their kid from school. Every parent can relate to that abject panic. But a parent would never post on their public Facebook page: “Hey, I got wrapped up in an email and forgot to pick my kid up today.” In this community, though, you’d get a response like, “OMG, I’ve been there.” One person talked about sending her kid to school with only one shoe on because she was so busy with other stuff. 

FL: So humor becomes a wonderful way to connect to other people—without shame. 

JR: Yes!

FL: Where would you like your work to go next?

JR: One of my beliefs is that corporate life is completely set up in the worst possible way for parents. It is my belief that entrepreneurship is the best way for parents to take their agency back. One of my hopes is to start to teach entrepreneurship to parents—and kids. We’re actually launching an offering called the Lemonade Stand, where I’m going to teach parents how to launch a business with their kids.

FL: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JR: We have a Gonzo Parenting podcast as well as a comic book, Gonzo Parenting: The Comic Book. Our next offering is going to be a weekend retreat in late September called Stare at the Lake. 

Find out more about Gonzo Parenting at