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Parents Find It’s OK to Laugh About COVID

Parents Find It’s OK to Laugh About COVID

November 13, 2020

Social Sciences & Humanities

No Camels — “Anybody who thinks that the quarantine will lead to a baby boom has never had even a quarter of a child.” That was one of the popular jokes to circulate on Israeli social networks during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

The list of zingers and one-liners, memes, jokes, and overlaid text on pop culture references all skewering life in the time of the novel coronavirus is long (and still growing).

Israeli media researchers Prof. Nelly Elias, of BGU’s Department of Communication Studies, and Dafna Lemish, of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, recently published a thematic analysis of humor circulating on Israeli social networks that focuses on the challenges parents face.

Prof. Nelly Elias

“Humor in Israel is a very important resource for coping with various kinds of crises and conflicts. There was a significant wave of humor after the Yom Kippur War, later on – after the Gulf War, and now we are witnessing the same pattern regarding the coronavirus pandemic,” says Prof. Elias, co-author of the new study.

The research findings indicate this “hardship humor” of how to cope with the novel coronavirus crisis as it continues to change our normal serves as an important outlet for parents’ anxieties and distress.

Parenthood is all about a rollercoaster of emotions. The COVID-19 pandemic “seemed to mainly exacerbate negative emotions,” according to the study.

“Parental humor had a subversive dimension that openly challenged the dominant norms and the romanticized, yet highly demanding, ‘mommy myth,’ with the expectation for endless patience, love, and devotion,” the authors write.

A popular Rambo meme circulating on Israeli social media reads: “How’s it going with the kids so far?”

Parental resilience and ingenuity in navigating new restrictions to daily life with a heavy dose of humor did not surprise the authors.

“But what surprised me is the fact that many jokes broke several taboos regarding how Israelis talk about child care and children in general,” says Prof. Elias.

“Having big families is a norm in Israel and children are perceived as a ‘blessing,’ but in the COVID-related humoristic items we found some alternative voices calling, for example, not to make any more children or emphasizing the tremendous burden the children place on their parents, driving them crazy and making their life almost unbearable,” says Prof. Elias.

The authors found that many parents resented being stuck at home and caring for their children 24/7, with schools and workplaces shuttered.

For the authors, it was important to highlight in their study that “the humor flourishing in Israeli social networks does not necessarily accurately represent parents’ public opinion and attitudes,” it does, however, give “a glimpse into views that lurk behind the façade of ‘children are a blessing’ —a common Hebrew expression.”

And while many of the jokes have an Israeli element to them or are in Hebrew, the authors say they “received very positive feedback from colleagues in different countries who told us that the article (and the examples we used there) made them laugh and that they easily identified themselves with difficulties the Israeli parents were facing in those jokes.”

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