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Parenting Your Way Through a Zombie Apocalypse With Twitter Star XplodingUnicorn

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Those of you who keep up with the online parenting community have probably come across the work of James Breakwell (aka @XplodingUnicorn). James is a comedy writer and father of four girls. His social media accounts, where he recounts funny conversations with his kids and shares other entertaining insights from his home life, have been featured in numerous publications including Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, USA Today, and US Weekly.


A profile on Buzzfeed deemed him the funniest dad on Twitter, and, you know, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’m not jealous at all. But seriously, his Twitter and Facebook are both hilarious and infinitely relatable.

James’s first book, “Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse,” is out this fall and available for pre-order now. As the title indicates, it is about a topic that all of us parents have lost a lot of sleep over: zombies. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with James to discuss his book and the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Obviously what really happened is we emailed each other from our couches after our kids were in bed.

Me: To my knowledge (and I Googled for several minutes to prepare for this interview so I am confident that I am right) you are the leading expert on zombie apocalypse parenting. So, let me start with the question that I’m sure is on every parent’s mind: How close are we to a zombie apocalypse and, really, when it arrives, will parents notice much of a difference?

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James: For all we know, it’s already started. It doesn’t begin everywhere at once. There are no zombies at my house right now. Are they at your house? I don’t know. If you stop replying to my emails, I’ll have my answer.

Me: That is very chilling. Your book is called “Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.” Can you pinpoint the precise moment after you had kids that you realized you were dead inside or was it more of a gradual realization? I remember my “dead inside” moment well. It was when my first kid was about 18 months and he discovered he could reach the kitchen counter tops. One day he just started pulled every item off the counter, one by one, until I eventually just gave up and left it all on the floor until we moved about a year later.

James: I cheated a little by being dead on the inside before I ever had kids. The presence of children in my life simply confirmed what I already knew. Probably the moment I was the deadest inside, though, was while potty training my second child when I had to scrub poop out of her hair. I thought my instructions had been very clear. Apparently, they were not.

Me: Wow. Dead on the inside before kids. That is a brilliant life hack. You are known on the internet as Exploding Unicorn. How did that name come about? And what I mean by that is what made you so broken that you fantasized about blowing up cute little unicorns to the point that you decided to make it your alter ego?

James: In high school, I had a few minutes of free time at the end of my computer literacy class every day. Like most healthy, well-adjusted boys my age, I started writing a fake book of the Bible. One of the earliest passages in it centered on unicorns that were tragically filled with hydrogen. And that’s where we get the saying, “It exploded like a unicorn.”

Me: I tuned out a little when you started talking about high school, but that’s fascinating. I read that you are the father of four children ages six and under. What were you thinking?

James: Well, they’re seven and under now. They keep getting older. Kids are tricky like that. As for what I was thinking, I like kids and I like having sex with my wife. Seemed like a win-win at the time.

Me: Ah, a tale as old as time. And yes, I have watched the new “Beauty and the Beast” movie too many times with my kids this summer. They can certainly be annoying, can’t they? Especially with their sneaky aging. Follow-up question: I have three kids under age six and I consistently amaze people in my community by taking them grocery shopping by myself or going to the playground. When you take all four of your kids out, do people just start throwing confetti and assembling marching bands?

James: People never congratulate me when I take all four kids out by myself because between one and four of them will be throwing a temper tantrum at all times. People usually cross the street to avoid us. That’s fine with me.

Me: You are my hero. Your Facebook tag line is “Ruining my children’s lives for your amusement one day at a time.” If you take such a cavalier attitude toward parenting in relatively peaceful times such as these, why should readers trust you as possibly their only source of life-saving advice as they prepare for the zombie invasion?

James: Not a single person who has read my book has died in a zombie attack. Granted, that’s a relatively small sample size, but 100 percent is 100 percent. I’m willing to extend that as a guarantee. If you read my book, I promise you won’t die in a zombie attack or your money back. Although if you do die, I’m not sure how you’ll collect on that promise. Hopefully it won’t come to that. I don’t want to spend the entire zombie apocalypse tied up in court.

Me: That’s outstanding. I love a man who is willing to stand behind his work. And a follow-up about your parenting style. As a father of four, are you concerned that the several minutes you spend on social media every day (I’m guessing on the amount) will result in your kids turning into zombies? There are lots of studies. Also, that would be ironic, but I guess you’d be better prepared than most to deal with it?

James: The zombies will knock out electricity and with it the internet and social media. I will be forced to be a better dad by default. I might let the zombies eat me just to cope.

Me: Too real. You clearly spend a lot of time with your kids. Did you decide to write about zombies because it was a grass-is-always-greener type of situation? In other words, did you view it as a bit of an escape from your real-life hellscape?

James: I wrote about zombies because publishers and agents wanted me to write something autobiographical, but I didn’t want the pressure of telling the truth. Comedy leads to exaggerations, and exaggerations lead to lies, and that’s how wars get started. I decided to go the safe route and stick with all lies right from the start.

Although I should note this book is classified as non-fiction. My publisher and agent both agreed on that unequivocally, and no one in the book industry has ever questioned its status. Apparently, zombies are more real than I originally thought. Ignore this book at your own peril.

Me: Inspirational and terrifying. You’ve been counting down a list of 99 parenting tips for the zombie apocalypse on your social media accounts. This is a very important public service and I thank you on behalf of the entire parenting community. However, as you know well, parents are very busy people. So, could you give us like one tip that is the most important one? Sure, we want to survive, but we also have Instagram accounts to update.

James: The beautiful thing about my list is it’s not in any sort of order. I’m a parent. I can’t plan anything 99 days in advance. The advice of the day depends entirely on what I can convince my kids to pose for in the pictures. Some days it’s them armed and ready for battle. Other days it’s them ignoring me or crying on the floor. It’s entirely possible parenting tip number one will be the worst tip of them all. But it could also be the best. I guess I’ll find out when that day comes.

But if I were to give one zombie survival tip outside of that, it would be to drive a minivan. Read my book to find out why.

Me: Teaser alert! And just to clarify. Does your book recommend that we do a lot of fitness and/or diet stuff to prepare for the zombies? Because, if so, I’ll probably just take my chances.

James: My book recommends no fitness level whatsoever. In fact, it assumes that as a parent, you’re out of shape. Every other survival book is written to young, fit survivalists who have ample skills and no obligations. My book is for people with none of the skills and all of the obligations. You have a family to keep alive in a world full of undead monsters trying to kill them. Good luck.

Me: Perfect. Sounds like just what I’m looking for. On the other hand, do you offer up any shortcuts? If so, can you talk about a couple of those because all parents love shortcuts.

James: I have a pretty detailed chapter on who in your family to trust if you need someone to amputate one of your limbs following a zombie bite. If that bite is on your legs, you’ll definitely be cut shorter.

Me: I see what you did there. And finally, instead of asking the cliché concluding question about why people should buy your book – I mean, the answer is obvious: survival – let me flip it around and ask it another way. What do you think of people who don’t buy your book and what do you hope happens to them?

James: People who don’t read my book will lead happy, productive lives. Until the zombies kill them. Then they’ll become zombies themselves, and those of us who read the book will have to fight them off. You’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the undead horde. There’s no in-between.

And there you have it. “Only Dead on the Inside” is out October 10 and is available for pre-order now. I guess we all better buy it … or else.

This article was originally published at explorationsofambiguity.com.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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