Laura Benanti's new book M is for MAMA (and also Merlot): A Modern Mom's ABCs hits shelves April 1
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Laura Benanti
Credit: Jenny Anderson

Laura Benanti is redefining the ABCs with a bit of adult humor.

In the upcoming M is for MAMA (and also Merlot): A Modern Mom's ABCs, the Tony Award-winning actress and her friend and fellow performer Kate Mangiameli provide comic relief for moms in the form of a board book that runs through the alphabet.

Benanti, 40, tells PEOPLE that she and Mangiameli, a singer at the Metropolitan Opera, set out to create something that resists the “mom judgment” so many mothers face. One spread in the book reads, “E is for Everyone and all of their advice, F is for F ’em. Even better … F ’em twice!”

“We really wanted something that is for moms, something that’s comedic, that’s easily digestible that you can read on the toilet, which is usually the only time you have to yourself, if you’re lucky,” jokes Benanti. “We thought it would be really funny to do a board book because board books are what moms read to their children.”

“We began the process thinking we would write as a baby’s voice, but soon after realized we wanted it to be the voice of one mom to another,” Mangiameli adds. “Our friendship was so nourishing as we were raising these little people, and we wanted to pass that feeling along to every other mom out there.”

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Laura Benanti
M is for MAMA (and also Merlot): A Modern Mom’s ABCs
| Credit: Jenny Anderson

Benanti is mom to 3-year-old Ella Rose and says she has had to deal with her fair share of “mommy shamers,” whether it’s about breastfeeding, her decision to go back to work or what school she should send her child to.

“There are so many different ways to raise your child, and those ways should be up to you as an individual. And the fact that people feel like it is appropriate, at any point, to shame you or say their way is better, it’s really astonishing,” the My Fair Lady actress adds.

At the end of the day, Benanti chooses to handle these situations with humor, much in the same way her book discusses the realities of motherhood from a comedic approach.

“[Kate and I] both had postpartum depression after our children were born,” Benanti tells PEOPLE of herself and her co-writer, who also has a daughter, around the same age as Ella. “I was not able to see the humor in things in a way that I usually am, and so it was important to me that we be able to bring some levity to a situation that can often feel like life or death.”

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“You’re keeping a human alive and that can be a lot of pressure, so I think any opportunity that we have to laugh is a positive one,” she continues.

Ella has begun to take after her mother and show her own sense of humor, as well.

“Watching her develop her sense of humor has been pretty awesome,” Benanti says. “Now she’s learned that if she does silly voices, it’s funny, and she comes up with jokes.”

M is for MAMA (and also Merlot): A Modern Mom’s ABCs hits shelves April 1, and is available for pre-order now on