Back Bay Books, $16.00, ISBN 978-0-316-06829-1
Memoir, 2011 (Reissue)
Motherhood books come in two types, generally. The ‘rules’ type of books, which often becomes the bible of new mothers, only for them to learn that while they may know the rules by heart, their babies don’t and those brats would do anything they want. Moms of more than one kids may prefer those that have mommy authors sharing anecdotes about the whole experience, poking fun at instructional manuals and telling one another that, you know, it’s okay if you sometimes fantasize about running away from the family – everyone has that fantasy once a while, and you’re only human if you do.
Just Let Me Lie Down, subtitled Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom, belongs to the second category. By the time she wrote the book, the author is the editor of the eye-rolling fluff magazine Real Simple, and she had her third kid when she was in her forties. This book is written in the style of a glossary, with each section listing down a word or a phrase beginning with a certain alphabet, and the author’s definition for each entry. These entries are all related to the motherhood experience, of course.
The good thing about this one is that it is light, breezy, and only funny enough to make me smile – a good thing as I read this under some medications that seem to operate under the assumption that drowsiness is the key to wellness. So I never laugh too hard or wince too strongly to get my head throbbing. Okay, so I don’t find it that hilarious, despite what the marketing materials and the many blurbs insist, but I’m cutting this book some slack as, you know, I’m sick and all.
I also like how the author doesn’t shy away from the thoughts and feelings that moms may entertain and feel guilty as a result. She uses humor to normalize the sense of panic or suffocation that may make moms sometime think yearningly of those times when they have some time to themselves and life was perfectly under their control. But those moments are often temporary, of course, as at the end of the day, most of us really don’t want our kids to vamoose. Right? No, don’t answer that. I’m not sure whether this is intentional on the author’s part, but I also sense that she’s often conflicted between her career and her kids – she’s arguably at a good place, career-wise, when she had her third kid, and I get this feeling that a part of her is still reconciling with the compromises and even concessions she has to make now that she is a mother to a small kid again. But that’s okay – I can relate to that too, and I suspect many working moms will too.
The downside is, as I’ve mentioned, this one being “just” a pleasant, chuckle-inducing read when all the hype led me to believe that I would be getting some side-splitting book with hilarious, unconventional insight into motherhood. This one is none of that – it’s just a mom who is probably richer and more successful than most of us, sharing her experiences to make fellow moms smile and nod knowingly now and then. Not that this is her fault – this time, it’s all me – but her background and status nonetheless create a sense of distance between her and me. Reading this book is like watching a sitcom – I may relate to some of the funny moments, but I don’t relate to the author. And that kind of holds me back from truly enjoying this one.
Not that I didn’t, I have a good time reading it. But I wish I’ve enjoyed it more.