Friday, October 1, 2010

The Ten Minus Five Secrets of One Completely Flappable Working Mother

During my morning perusal of the myriad Internet news sites and blogs, I found myself clicking on a link to an article on

I click on Shine articles like other people lock their keys in their cars. I see it happening in slow motion, but by the time what I've done sinks in, it's too late. I'm right in the middle of an article on why I should love my giant butt (which I do, with or without Shine's blessing), or The Top Ten Ugliest Men's Fashion Trends, or how to stop your child from taking a dump on the kitchen floor.

Today's assault on my intelligence was an article entitled "The Ten Secrets of One Unflappable Working Mother". Ah, yes. The elusive "unflappable" working mother. Like the Yeti, she seems to exist only in tales told 'round the fire, or blurry images burned into shaky, black and white 8mm film. "I seen her, once," says the old, one-eyed woman as she stirs her cauldron of gruel. "She wore a spotless white blazer and wrinkle-free power slacks, all while changing her baby's diarrhea diaper. Such courage I ain't never witnessed 'afore or since."

Okay, I can begrudgingly admit that some of the ten secrets really weren't THAT bad. Number 5 is reasonable, if slightly retarded:

5. Getting out the door in the morning (without anyone in tears) is the only thing you have to achieve before 8:30 a.m.

Agreed. If I can't manage to avert an 8am weekday meltdown (and that's just me, never mind Madeline!), then perhaps I need to rethink the way I'm doing things...but only if it means I don't have to get up before 6:45am. If it does, forget it. I'll deal with the ensuing drama in exchange for a few more minutes of sleep.

But here's one that made me BWAHAHA! out loud (BWOL? Can I get that one into the digital communication lexicon?):

3. Make your home office a command center. Those pesky experts say that to get any work done at home, you have to be cordoned off in a room far away from anyone who can nag you. This makes me wonder how many experts have children. Instead, figure out which location in the center of your house provides some privacy, while reminding everyone you are a presence to be reckoned with. From this spot, you should be able to stir a pot of simmering soup or assist with a history project that involves the use of glitter (by nixing the glitter).

In other words, DO EVERYTHING ALWAYS AT ALL TIMES AND NEVER STOP. Multitask until your head explodes. Better yet, make your home office/command center the can! That way, you can pee and wash your face and work on that report for your boss and finish your kid's homework for her and stir that pot of soup simmering away on the hot plate precariously balanced on the bathroom counter ALL AT THE SAME TIME. And it's also private! Another directive from the Unflappable Working Mom! It's private, but don't you dare close the door in case your eight year can't stand to be separated from you by a thin vale of rotting, landlord-neglected wood for even 30 seconds. Those pesky experts! I bet they don't even have children.

I think it's safe to say that I'm never going to be an unflappable working mother. I'll be the first person to admit that I flap. All the time. I'm completely, 100% flappable. I'm flapping so hard, the flag in the courtyard of my office building is jealous of my mad skillz.

There is clearly way too much emphasis on being able to de-flap your busy life and be perfect all of the time, in every capacity. To that end, I offer my Five Secrets of One Completely Flappable Working Mother (I'm only offering five because who has time to do TEN things during the day, amirite?):

1. Stay up too late at night. You've worked all day, and mothered all evening. The 9pm bedtime finally rolls around, and after tucking them in, reading to them, fetching their glass of water and blowing the 1000th kiss, you can finally put your butt on the couch and stare, drooling, into cable's comforting glow. Those pesky experts will tell you to go right to bed yourself, so you can get up at 5am and manhandle the morning in order to avoid all that crying and mental anguish that will almost assuredly come before getting everyone out the door by 8:30am. Don't listen to them. Stay up way too late. Karaoke in your living room. Eat spicy food at 11pm. Get into a fight with your partner right before bed. Whatever. Do what you have to in order to fit in all the extraneous stuff that you missed by having a job and being a parent. Get no more than 4 hours at night. You can sleep when you're dead.

2. Remember that breakfast is for sissies. Those pesky experts tell you that you should eat a healthy breakfast, because it's the most important meal of the day. Again with those pesky experts! You don't have time for breakfast. Remember what we said about how getting out the door in the morning is the only thing you have to do before 8:30am? Well, guess what, sweetheart. That does not include eating. Chug your coffee and pop your four Advil like a good little girl. Your boss doesn't eat, and neither should you.

3. Overdo it at the gym. Let's face it: It's tough to work out when you're so busy bringing home the meat products and applying heat to a cooking implement in order to render them palatable. You can only do what you can do. And since you recognize that a quick 20 minute walk around the neighborhood everyday is a huge waste of time because who really breaks a sweat doing THAT, just exercise when you can. Really, really hard. Like, waaaaaaay beyond your capabilities. For hours on end. If you're not injured or vomiting by the end of it, you've done it wrong. You're only working out once every three weeks, Mama, so you better make it count. Oh, and make sure you eat an entire pizza right afterward in order to celebrate calories burned and muscle tissue lacerated.

4. Cry at work. Preferably, in front of your boss. If you work for a man, his innate instinct will be to comfort you and offer his assistance, due to your natural emotional state and your distinct lack of upper body strength. If you're employed by a woman, she will feel compelled to put her arm around you, say, "I feel you, sister!" and take you out for shoe shopping and appletinis. People feel sorry for you when you cry at your job. Talk about how hard your life is and how you're just spread way too thin. Make sure to mention that you're on the rag and your emotions are going CAH-RAZY right now. Bail on meetings and conference calls due to same. Everyone will respect that and totally get it because we've all been there and you're only one person and it's good to just take some time out for YOU, you know?

5. Due dates are a suggestion; timely bill paying is unnecessary. Everyone knows that there's an unwritten grace period before your service is cut off, your car gets repossessed or the bank forecloses on your home. Due to an endless, Byzantine network of bureaucracy, utility companies and lenders won't know for weeks if you haven't paid by the invoice date, so make sure you milk it for all its worth. Turn on every light and electrical appliance in the house and put an extra 10,000 miles on your vehicle. It's like going to the dentist; if you have to do it, anyway, might as well eat some chocolate cake, a whole raw onion and smoke 7 or 8 cigars before you do. Even if they do turn off your electricity, make it into a game. Take that big stack of unopened bills and make a burn pile in the bathtub. Have the neighbors over for S'mores and tell scary ghost stories to the kids in front of the flames. And don't worry about smoke damage. Them Revenuers won't want your home if it's all messed up inside.

It's tough being a working mom. Why would you even bother? But since you're not going to listen to those pesky experts and avoid the whole messy experience all together, you might as well get your hands dirty and screw things up a whole bunch. Because you're going to, regardless of how much your suit costs, where your "command center" is located and whether you remembered to put your emergency high heals in car in the morning because you never know when an executive meeting is going to come from nowhere, as you stand there aimlessly flapping, like the mainsail of the HMS Bounty on a blustery autumn day.