Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Momby Kristin van Ogtrop
MOTHERHOOD AND WORKING are journeys of trial and error, and you sometimes feel like you know less than you did when you started. I for one know less about the following: why boys always say "Nothing" when you ask what they did at school that day; why husbands never turn of the TV; why you can't fire someone just for being irritating. But I do know a few/b>
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MOTHERHOOD AND WORKING are journeys of trial and error, and you sometimes feel like you know less than you did when you started. I for one know less about the following: why boys always say "Nothing" when you ask what they did at school that day; why husbands never turn of the TV; why you can't fire someone just for being irritating. But I do know a few things, including the fact that a good many working mothers could use some sort of organizing principle, a few labeled bins to hold the chaos. Hence this collection: an alphabetically arranged dictionary of terms, observations, lists, complaints, questions, musings, and the occasional diatribe about the little joys and major nonsense that define life for me, and untold women like me, on a daily basis.
"A witty lexicon of marriage and motherhood."Vogue
"van Ogtrop has created an entire lexicon for modern parenting to make the life of a working mother that much easier, not to mention funnier."The Daily Beast
"A hysterical and touching handbook for frantic working moms."Self magazine
"Frank and funny."Entertainment Weekly
"Full of humor and insight of how to juggle a successful career and a growing family."Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, Seattle Book Examiner
"This handy survival-primer will offer a laugh, some respite or both. There's something for every mom here."Linda M. Castellitto, Bookpage
"van Ogtrop offers insightful advice with humor and warmth."Marigne Dupuy, the Times-Picayune
"Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but pretty much dead on."Tara Trower, "Mama Drama" columnist for The Austin American Statesman
"Full of hard-won wisdom and kick-ass wit, Just Let Me Lie Down perfectly captures the joys and frustrations of an entire exhausted demographic. I would like to add one more thing to van Ogtrop's mile-long To-Do list: Run for President."Mary Roach, author of Bonk, Spook, and Stiff
"Just Let Me Lie Down is the very definition of a smart, funny, and useful book about parenting and work. If you can add one more item to your towering to-do list, it should be to read this book."AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All
"Wise, warm, and well-adjusted, Kristin van Ogtrop untangles life's alphabet of chaos one letter at a time."Ben Schott, author of Schott's Miscellany
"A wise and witty thesaurus of marriage and parenthood. The ideal girlfriend gift."Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
"Wise, moving and hilarious--and refreshingly (ok, staggeringly) honest--Just Let Me Lie Down captures the choas, ambivalence, and dagger-through-my-heart love felt by just about every working mother."Cathi Hanauer, editor of The Bitch in the House and author of Sweet Ruin
"A smart and hilarious primer for all those terminally over-committed moms who not only could use a laugh, but need one."Steve Almond, author of Candy Freak and (Not That You Asked)
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Just Let Me Lie DownNecessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom
By van Ogtrop, Kristin
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2010 van Ogtrop, Kristin
All right reserved.
Adding insult to injury
“Area of opportunity”
Absentee parenthood: The state of being that sometimes defines your life and is by turns depressing and wonderful.
There are wonderful things about being an absentee parent, namely taking business trips that involve staying in a hotel room all by yourself, or having vital work meetings that keep you from going on the field trip to the local recycling plant, or being generally much too busy to bake anything for Teacher Appreciation Week. Yes, it’s possible that other mothers will whisper about what a slacker you are, but you just need to learn to live with that.
But there are depressing moments too, and they can come when you least expect them. Once I was walking to school with my middle son, something we do nearly every day despite the fact that he would much prefer to be driven. I was leaving for a long business trip the following morning, and as my son launched into his routine anti-walking complaint (note: school is all of six blocks away), I said brightly, “Just think! Tomorrow I will be in California, and Daddy will drive you to school for the rest of the week!” My son looked crestfallen. “Oh no,” he said. “That means I’ll have to eat breakfast in the car, and I hate eating breakfast in the car.” And as much as I was looking forward to sleeping in a giant hotel bed all by myself, not to mention taking two long flights with no phone or e-mail access, the breakfast-in-the-car comment did dampen my enthusiasm. It may have been my son’s way of telling me without telling me that he was going to miss his mother, or perhaps he just didn’t want to have to eat breakfast in under seven minutes and arrive at school with peanut butter on his face. Depending on my state of mind (see Guilt curve, p. 83), I could interpret it either way.
Accounting error: The irrevocable mistake you make when you decide to have one more child than you can actually handle, which pushes the parental sanity balance sheet from the black (a place of comfort, if occasional boredom) to the red (excitement, panic).
A few years ago I happened upon the book Where There’s a Will by John Mortimer. In one particularly delightful passage he explained the necessity of always having a child around the house. I realized I couldn’t have agreed more, which led to the ruination of the family balance sheet, in the form of a midlife-crisis baby.
Our midlife-crisis baby arrived three weeks before my forty-third birthday, when I was still forty-two, which seems more than a year younger than forty-three when you’re dealing with matters of reproduction. My husband and I had talked for the better part of a decade about whether or not to have a third child; the first child and even the second were no-brainers, but deciding to have a third was really a commitment. No doubt some of my reluctance came from my mother’s cautionary words: “Having two is like having one and a half, but having three is like having ten.” (And this from a woman who could actually take care of three young daughters, throw dinner parties, and sew clothes, all in the same day.) I had had two miscarriages when I was thirty-nine, which left me wary. After producing my first two children with tremendous luck and efficiency, the back-to-back miscarriages were a giant surprise that resulted in a lot of sadness on the part of me and my husband and a lot of tears on the part of me. I felt jinxed, and I was not eager to repeat the experience.
As time passed, I began to view the miscarriages as the inevitable result of (1) a lack of enthusiasm on my part, and (2) God’s conviction that the whole third-child thing was a really bad idea for me. But the sense that someone was missing just wouldn’t go away. One day I explained the God theory to my husband, who replied, “Well, maybe God was testing you, to see how much you wanted it.” This confused me a great deal. What if he was right? When I turned forty-two I made a decision: I did not want to turn fifty-two and still be wondering if we should have another child. Having a third was also appealing in terms of my midlife-crisis options. Compared to Botox, plastic surgery, a convertible, or an affair, a baby seemed like an eminently healthy choice—no sneaking around, no facial injections, no having to run out and put the top up if it started to rain.
So that was it. I informed God of my decision but didn’t let my husband know for a couple of months. I told him on our fifteenth anniversary, and I think I was pregnant about four minutes later. This time, miraculously, everything stuck: I did not have a miscarriage and the baby was not born with two heads. Given my “advanced maternal age” (honestly, can’t someone think of a better term?), each new test that came back normal was an unbelievable gift, like getting a horse for Christmas when you’re twelve. The day my third son was born felt like the luckiest day of my whole life.
One very nice thing about having a baby once your career is pretty much established is that you don’t worry nearly as much about how your pregnancy will affect your ascension to whatever height you’re aiming for. People around you marvel at how relaxed you are about the whole thing; they chalk it up to the wisdom of experience, and you don’t have the heart to tell them that you’re simply exhausted and just don’t give a damn unless something is on fire. And when you have an established, demanding career, maternity leave actually feels like a vacation. Which is perverse.
So now I have three children, with an eight-year gap between the last two and ovaries that got the job done in the nick of time. Regarding having one child too many, and a life that is perhaps 25 percent too chaotic, friends told me, “Once he’s here, you won’t be able to remember what things were like without him.” That is not entirely true. I clearly remember being able to sit down with a glass of wine before dinner on Sunday night and read a book. I also remember sleeping past 7:30, having stairways in my house that were not blocked by ugly baby gates, and being able to decorate our Christmas tree with an overall symmetry in mind, rather than with the need to keep all breakable ornaments clustered at the top. You are not supposed to admit this sort of thing when you have a baby in your forties, because if you are able to bear a child at an age when half of your contemporaries are either having hot flashes or getting fertility treatments, you should just be grateful and shut up about it. But no matter how old or grateful you are, there really are benefits to not having a toddler around.
Now, other friends told me, “Once he’s here, you won’t doubt your decision for an instant.” And, whether or not our balance sheet has gone permanently into the red, that part is absolutely right.
Actually: One of the top five most dangerous words in the English language. Beware any sentence that begins with “actually,” as in “Actually, we’ve decided to eliminate your whole department” or “Actually, I don’t think it’s the best haircut you’ve ever had.” Other dangerous sentence starters: “I’ve done a lot of thinking” and “Mom, don’t be mad.”
Adding insult to injury: When, after you’ve gone jogging for the first time in years and can barely make it up the stairs the next day, your husband—who may genuinely think he’s being helpful—observes: “You really should find time to work out more.”
“Area of opportunity”: The silly euphemism a boss or human resources representative uses when there’s something about your performance that needs improving. After all, an “area of opportunity” sounds a lot more palatable than “the thing you seem incapable of doing.” However, I would suggest that areas of opportunity not be limited to the workplace. I have several areas of opportunity for the children I live with:
• Feeding the cat before he starts meowing like he has his tail caught in a door—a meow that only your mother seems to hear
• Reading a book instead of playing on the computer every chance you get
• Putting your shoes in the closet, rather than right in the middle of the doorway, where you are inconveniencing even yourself
• Stepping outside to feel the temperature before declaring that you don’t need a coat
• Cleaning out your fish tank before your whole bedroom begins to smell
• Showering, for once in your life, without your mother having to insist
Automatic writing: A trancelike state in which you have no control over what you are communicating. William Butler Yeats’s wife thought she could pull this off and so can you, only in your life “automatic writing” means dashing off an e-mail on your BlackBerry while leaning on the kitchen counter, with someone standing next to you begging for a peanut butter sandwich. And so the e-mail makes very little sense, if you’re even sending it to the right person. (Just ask my sister about the time she sent confidential company information to her neighbor Michael Bacon instead of to her coworker Michael Salmon.)
Excerpted from Just Let Me Lie Down by van Ogtrop, Kristin Copyright © 2010 by van Ogtrop, Kristin. Excerpted by permission.
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Kristin van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple magazine and has held positions at Glamour, Vogue, Travel & Leisure, and Premiere. She lives outside New York City with her family.
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When a woman decides to start a job after becoming a mom or the other way around, there are countless statements that only women can truly relate to. We've all heard the saying, "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan..." yet so many of us find that simple statement overwhelms us to the point that sometimes that pan is too heavy for us to pick up some days or on others we'd like to wield that pan as a deadly object to answer one last request of us. Can you relate? In the book, Just Let Me Lie Down by Kristin Van Ogtrop, she defines these "momisms" in alphabetically order of what its like in the day to day lives of working moms. Here are just a few of the classics I enjoyed: Caller ID Malfunction: When you have dialed a number and cannot remember whom it belongs to, but the phone is ringing and it feels too late to hang up, in case someone has gotten up out of the chair on the other end to answer your call. Are you calling the pediatrician? Your boss? The plumber? It's anybody's guess. Just A Second: That eternity between when a child says he'll do something you've asked and when he actually gets around to it. Technological bipolarism: When you wake up on the morning and can't imagine how you would get through life without your Blackberry, but by bedtime you want to strap a bomb to it and blow it to smithereens. Young and restless: Your children at the dinner table. Based on my experience as a mother of three boys, eating dinner as a family is so stressful (see Unhappy Hour, page 216) that it feels like it should be a part of the workday. And yet we persist. As you can tell this book is such a welcome sigh of laughter and smiles for any mother that wonders if Calgon can truly take her away from it all. Trust me, this one is not to be missed. I received this book, compliments of Hachette Book Groups for my honest review and am so glad I read this one. It helped me realize that I am not the only one thinking these things or living them for that matter. I have an ally in Kristin and she is truly a 5 star rating. She is also the editor of Real Simple magazine, also a favorite of mine! The book is available in hardcover and eBook formats.
Disclaimer: Not a working mom, not a mom, not even a woman. Still, very impressed with this book. Working mothers are a special breed. Having to balance the emotions, responsibilities, and sheer WORK of being a mom with the pressures of working outside the home is one of the most daunting tasks out there, and that special group is well deserved of a book that is easy to read, provides a little perspective, and on top of that, is pretty darn funny. JUST LET ME LIE DOWN is that book. Author Kristin van Ogtrop uses here experiences as both a mom and a magazine editor to pen a dictionary of terms every working mom needs. Some are just flat out funny. Most are funny with a bit of a message. A few are just pure genius. Throughout the book, the consistent theme is one of balance and perspective; sorting out what's important from what just gets in the way. It's a skill all of us could use, but that a working mom can't live without. Whether it be giving advice about Blackberry addiction, finding time to have dinner together, or just making sure to take some "me" time, van Ogtrop's dictionary can both educate and entertain any working mom who can find time to read just a few pages every so often. Again, though I'm not a working mom (I'm a working dad, but that's way different) I picked up some important nuggets from this book. In addition, I asked my wife to read it, because I think she will pick up a few things as well and that's an endorsement at least as good as anything I can write here. Warm, smart, well-written, funny, and easily digestible, JUST LET ME LIE DOWN makes a great gift for any working mom out there. Highly recommended!
Kristin is blessed with a career of her own, a loving partner and three children, all of which leaves her in a state of exhaustion. This never-ending cycle can drive a parent mad. Even the best of parents need a break, a chance to just "lie down". Kristin reminds me of what I see as a typical mom. She loves her family more than anything else and needs to take some time out for herself. If you can relate to needing a little "me" time, this is the book for you.
In the time since I became a mother seven years ago I have both worked and stayed home. I worked for the first year and a half of motherhood. After adding a second child to our family and trying a job sharing plan that didn't end up working out as planned which coincided with a decision to relocate across the country and sell our house (which meant I wouldn't be able to stay at that job anyway) I started staying home and I have been home now for a number of years. I know that the clock is starting to wind down to my going back to work outside of the home, but I also know in my heart that right now I am not ready to do that. This book works well for both working outside of the home moms and stay at home moms. I hate the fact that stay at home moms are viewed as not working, as if every day is a day off, but that is a whole different topic. Kristin van Ogtrop is the editor at Real Simple Magazine and has been working since before her first child was born. Her writing is funny and easy to read. I got through the book in just a few days mostly while I was nursing my son or winding down before bed. Each chapter is arranged with a letter and alphabetical listings of terms for moms. Some examples are "accounting error" when you accidentally have one more child than you can handle, "boredom fantasy" when you remember back to when you were much younger and actually had enough free time to be bored, "ignore the tray" where you must act like a waiter and not look at all that is on your plate otherwise it will all tip- just keep you head up and keep going and you will be fine, and "that-sounds-like-fun-I'll-try it!" where you end up thinking you can do more than you can and end up in a situation that may be uncomfortable or just a pain like having your house renovated while you are still living in it. Van Ogtrop is really funny, it is nice to read about other mothers who don't feel like they have it all together all the time. I really enjoyed the alphabetical nature of the book, it made it feel organized. Earlier this year I read a book called Mother Daze and this reminded me of that one. It was also written by a working mother who had three children and they both did a good job with relating to the reader and using humor. For all mothers and maybe even all women, there is such a balancing act going on in our lives with how much time to give to our jobs, our families and ourselves and it is so hard to achieve what feels just right for all of those areas and really, sometimes if we just managed to get a bit more sleep it would go smoother but it feels like there isn't enough time to get that rest since so much needs to be done and we just keep going around on this treadmill. I requested this book for review from Hatchette Books.
I have no tolerance for this genre of cutesy musings. It has a certain tone, the tone of feature writing in the lesser women's magazines. This is what they call a bathroom book. Or a gift book, meaning a book you don't care to read.