Standing in line at the grocery store this weekend, I couldn’t help but be entertained by the headlines on women’s magazine covers that held promises of a better life, or at least a better fall:
“Update Your Fall Look”
Then there were the general parenting magazine covers that purported to ease family stress:
“Keep Your Family Safe”
“Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms”
Finally, if I followed the advice on re-doing my wardrobe and keeping my family safe and fed, I could reward myself with the adult topics offered up women’s fashion magazines:
“The Smile That Gets You What You Want”
“Naughty Thoughts He Has at Work”
Whew! All that in five minutes in the checkout line. Although I had not flipped through a single issue and was facing forward in line, I felt a strange tinge of embarrassment looking at the covers. Like driving by a car wreck, you don’t want to look but you can’t look away, either. We all have an attraction to the promise of a “do-over” or fresh start especially when the seasons change. I did, however, find myself wishing for headlines that helped real women:
“Strategies to Reduce Your Workload”
“How to Get Rid of the 1,000 Emails in Your Inbox”
“De-clutter the Weekends: Finish Laundry, Pay Bills and Still Have Free Time”
Recently, when a crisis developed in my own family, I had to drop everything cold turkey. I was stunned when I came back and saw for the first time how ridiculously overloaded I was. Yes, my family has over the past year pleaded with me to “drop something,” but I thought they were being unreasonable and perhaps even selfish in wanting me to do more for them. I even wrote out a list of all my obligations to prove them wrong. But, it took a week away to get some perspective and finally admit that my “to-dos” were indeed too long.
I pondered how to extricate from this pickle without letting anyone down. Even though a diplomatic exit plan was not in hand I started shouting “Uncle.” My, how freeing it was to say, “I just can’t do it.” I discovered that people just smiled and said, ‘I understand.” They may not have liked it, but no one worked me over, either. I had taken the first step to becoming a less frazzled mom and a more pleasant person to live with.
I also reconciled that a decent chunk of the task list was in my control. Or, as a friend said yesterday, “Don’t let people ‘should’ on you.” Yes, I was a reliable, stand-up person, but that did not mean I had to have my finger in every pot.
I had initiated my own helpful headline: “Mommy Make-over Now.”
Carol Lewis Gullstad September 19, 2011