Working moms (and dads) manage the greatest balancing act you could ever imagine. Whether these parents work from home or leave the house – and the kids – every day, there are so many things running through their mind on a regular basis that it’s overwhelming the amount of things they can accomplish on any given day.
Mother of three and Managing Editor of Real Simple, Kristin van Ogtrop, somehow managed to find the time to put together a great encyclopedia of “Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom” in her new book, “Just Let Me Lie Down.”
In alphabetical order, van Ogtrop lists the phrases that many working parents will recognize. I found myself nodding in agreement and laughing out loud at the many experiences Kristin shares from her own experience as a multi-tasking, very sleepy, mother and full-time employee of the corporate world.
Here is a sample of what you’ll find inside:
Accounting error: The irrevocable mistake you make when you decide to have one more child than you can actually handle.
Best of luck: The happy realization that you have accidentally stumbled upon a career that you really love.
Confidence man: The guy in your life who believes in you above all others, thinks you are smart and beautiful, and loves you despite your manifold flaws.
Delusions of SAHM grandeur: The phenomenon by which a working mom will actually believe that just because she is at home for a few days with the kids, it means she will be as talented/capable/patient/sane as her full-time stay-at-home-mom friends.
Emotional intelligence: A fundamental part of the grand human machine that, mysteriously, many people seem to lack.
Friends with benefits: Will pick your child up from school when your babysitter is sick; Will go out of her way to fill you in on school gossip that you may have missed; Will not be offended when you are too busy to socialize.
Guilt curve: The process by which your feelings of shame and inadequacy about being a working mom grow and then diminish.
Heartbreak by babysitter: The unique, surprising loss you experience when the person who has been watching over your children exits your little world, even if you have forced that exit.
It takes a village: The nifty if unrealistic notion that we can all just band together to attain the unattainable when it comes to the care of our children.
Juggler’s lament: The daily complaint you inflict upon anyone who will listen that enumerates, in tedious detail, all the balls you are dropping because no one can possibly manage to have so many in the air at once.
Kingdom of No: A magical land that exists only in your fantasies, where “no” is always the answer and you never feel guilty for saying it.
List paradox: The Catch-22 of managing your life. You make a to-do list because it enables you to feel as if you are in control of your life and helps you see what you can accomplish. Therefore, it boosts your self-esteem. However, there will always be more items on your list than you can actually cross off, which makes you feel worse. And so you start to cheat: writing things on your list that you have already done just so you can cross them off.
Mid-conversation screen saver: The thing that unexpectedly happens when your husband is talking and suddenly you start thinking about whether you should take that chicken out of the freezer to defrost and if you should wear your black pants to work tomorrow because it’s only Monday and you might be able to get away with wearing them twice this week without anyone noticing if you put enough days in between.
No child left behind: The reminder running through the head of nearly every working mother after just one brush with disaster… (All mothers have a story about leaving their child somewhere, or locking them in the car, or…)
Oppositional advantage, or Newton’s law meets your life: The fact that having two opposing forces in your life – work and children – vastly improves your ability to put things into perspective…to every action (pursuing a career) there is an equal and opposite reaction (trying to raise children).
PTSD (Post-Thanksgiving stress disorder): The state of extreme anxiety you experience during the month of December.
Quest through the chaos, a.k.a. quest that leads straight to madness: The search through your entire house for an important document, photo, or piece of memorabilia that your child needs to take to school – tomorrow.
Ravages of time: The damage you inflict upon those around you when you find yourself with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done.
Separate issue: The children you bear who will, inevitably, spend most of their lives apart from you. And your issue? That you will never stop missing them, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Triumph of the caregiver: When children injure themselves (or damage valuable property, or get into physical fights, or just generally make really bad decisions) not on your babysitter’s watch, but on yours.
Unmilestones: Important developmental moments in the lives of your children that no one notices but that, regarded as a whole, present the depressing truth that your kids are growing up and away from you…Part of the reason people have more children is to relive the moments they weren’t paying attention to the last time around.
Very, verrrryyyy sleeeeepy…: Your constant state. No hypnosis required.
Women not on the verge of a nervous breakdown: The rare working moms among us who are in charge of every committee and board and project and task force and who still have time to run marathons and make birthday cakes from scratch.
X marks the spot: The imaginary end of the imaginary treasure map you wish existed for all the times – that is, about a dozen every day – when your child claims he can’t find something that is either right in front of him, lost in the disaster zone that is his bedroom, or left in his locker at school.
Young and restless: Your children at the dinner table…eating dinner as a family is so stressful that it feels like it should be part of the workday.
Zip it: What you must tell yourself when you are at that conversational tipping point when you really want to say the thing that will anger your husband, make your child storm out of the room, or cause a co-worker to think you are unreasonable.
Let’s face it, the above concepts are all too familiar to all of us parents who are honest with ourselves – and who still have some sense of humor remaining. That’s the only thing that gets us through it, the humor and those adorable kids that wake up on the right side of the bed when we least expect them to.
Kristin captures life as a working parent perfectly in this great compendium of experiences we’ve all gone through at one time or another (or will at some point in the near future). She said it best when she described the great balancing act working moms and dads manage on a daily basis: “There are things we do because we love our families and there are things we do because we love our jobs, and sometimes these things try to cancel each other out.”
If you’re reading this at work, on your lunch break, after the kids are in bed or before they wake up, you may be a working parent and I commend you for taking a few moments for yourself.