Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just Let Me Lie Down by Kristin van Ogtrop

Kristin van Ogtrop may be better known as the editor of Real Simple magazine, a popular title featured at grocery store check-outs, drugstores, and bookstores (and libraries!). She's also the author of Just Let Me Lie Down: necessary terms for the half-insane working mom (2010). Organized as a kind of glossary for the working mother, this book is in turns thoughtful, insightful, tearful, and funny as hell. Just Let Me Lie Down includes terms such as,
Borrowed Time: The sad reality that, more often than not, it is the people around you who are really in charge of your schedule. Therefore, if you want any time for yourself - to go to the gym, say, or spend your lunch hour at your desk shopping online - you need to "borrow" the time from someone who thinks they have a more important claim to it (p. 28).
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 (p. 52).
I expected funny but I was impressed by Van Ogtrop's penetrating observations on family life. It's one of the few memoirs of motherhood that has changed my perspective on the experience. The book has helped me (mostly) come to terms with the emotional sacrifices made by those moms who head to the office, (or, in my case, the library), each day.

By far the most affecting entry for me was Mother load which Van Ogtrop defines as "the hard, enduring truth that you are selfish and your mother is not, and that you must pay her selflessness forward to your own children, who may never thank you and certainly will never love you as much as you love them" (p. 138). Selflessness is a recurring theme in Just Let Me Lie Down but, as the mother of a 16-month-old, I wasn't yet prepared to hear some of the harder truths that all mothers must eventually face. Even so, getting the heads-up from Van Ogtrop - a sassy, savvy mother of three who writes with a sincerity that I found very appealing - somehow made each revelation easier to accept.

Kristin van Ogtrop is a wonderful storyteller with a quick and cutting wit. She succeeds in balancing humour with insight where others in the parenting humour genre - like Stephanie Wilder-Taylor - stumble. New parents and veterans alike should all find something to enjoy in this book.

Thanks, Mom!

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