We receive a big stack of magazines every month, and of those, a large percentage are free subscriptions. I’ve never needed an excuse to read a magazine, although I don’t always fork over the cash for them. Once, when my mother-in-law was trying to describe me to an employee at a library we both frequented, the disappointed librarian exclaimed, “Oh yes! She checks out…magazines.”
Some magazines, like Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Inc., I love. Others — like Parents — I find myself reading just because the content baffles me so much.
For instance, a few months ago, Parents ran a Venn diagram of stay-at-home moms vs. outside-the-home working moms. The word “exhausted” was conspicuously absent from the stay-at-home mom’s circle. I rubbed my eyes and looked again, thinking perhaps my sleep-deprived orbs deceived me. But I showed the magazine to two or three well-rested friends, and they saw the same thing. Outside job or not, I think any woman who has brought forth another human from her own body will agree “exhausting” is a mild and kind descriptor.
This month, one of the feature articles in Parents is about hyperparenting. I have no idea what hyperparenting is; but admittedly, I’m still getting used to the idea of the word “parenting” being tossed around as a verb. My Oxford dictionary tells me n., a father or a mother; but then again, there’s probably a word for people who still own multiple copies of physical dictionaries, too.
I’ve been reading the article in snippets, in between explaining to a small bouncing kangaroo the difference between the clothes in the laundry basket and the clothes in her dresser. (“I not Aveline today, mummy. I just a little kangaroo.”) The author, Gail O’Connor, cites a 1995 University of California, San Diego study which apparently found that “mothers spent an average of about 12 hours weekly actively attending to their children”. The author goes on to say that “by 2007, that number had risen to 21 hours.”
Certainly the author meant 210 hours? Because, in any given 168-hour week, I would say about 210 of those 168 hours are spent actively attending to my child — er, kangaroo.
I started a load of wash, first stopping to gather up Hello Kitty unders from various points throughout the house while once more expounding upon the virtues of the laundry hamper to my bouncy offspring. I then stepped on a Lego, removed a My Little Pony comb from my screeching kangaroo’s flowing locks, and spent the next fifteen minutes explaining that I could not, in fact, miraculously refill the squeeze bottle of Elmer’s despite the pile of farkly [sparkly] beads just begging to to be glued into the coloring book pages.
I turned back toward the coffee pot. I could see the fluorescent light glinting off the stainless steel of the French Press. The miraculous vision blinded me, and I tripped over the magazine. Twenty-one hours per week, it said.
Cold coffee in hand, I moved a pirate and a Lego flower and sat down again to ponder this. Last Wednesday was 24 hours long, five of which I slept, except for the two occasions at 4 AM and 5 AM when I was, in fact, not asleep and instead in my kangaroo’s room bouncing her. (Ah, how the tides have turned.) According to my highly-calibrated mathulator, I logged 21+ hours of “actively attending to a child” on Wednesday alone.
Staring blankly into the bottom of my coffee mug, I suddenly remembered where we had an extra bottle of Elmer’s glue. “Aveline!” I called, holding out the magazine. “Do you still want to glue beads?”