Friday, April 16, 2010

More 'Helpful Hints'? Oh, please!

Even at my advanced age, I still believe I have a lot to learn, so I'm always open to suggestions and advice on coping with my life/marriage/kids/etc.; which is why I subscribe to a wide variety of magazines and read informative web articles as often as possible. However, after awhile you realize that most of these articles can be boiled down to: “There is no problem with your kids’ behavior/time management/housekeeping/sex life/waistline/serenity that can’t be solved with a few helpful hints", implying that if you aren't blissfully organized, happy, and successful, it's your own darn fault.

Here's a sample of what you can read, if you want to feel thoroughly lousy about yourself . . .

Working Mother uses 'real moms' on its cover, which I find refreshing, except the accompanying profile, 'How She Does It', fawns about some annoying paragon who works long hours at an exciting job, yet still manages to pursue her painting hobby, work out regularly to keep her size 2 figure, and spend quality time with her 4 kids, serving them homemade pancakes and organic dinners, meanwhile looking fabulously pulled together. (She offers her own tips like "Don't be afraid to serve the same meal twice in one month" or "Even toddlers love helping prepare meals!", but she forgets to mention the fact that apparently she only needs two hours of sleep a night.)

This month's Redbook profiles Jennifer Lopez, who is 'just a regular mom like anyone else' who cherishes quiet time at home with her twin toddlers (since when have you heard of 'twin toddlers' and 'quiet' in the same sentence?), when she doesn't take them with her on photo shoots or concert tours, where they love amusing themselves quietly while she works. Somehow I suspect that there's a nanny (or major medication) helping them stay quiet - and I'd be willing to bet she has a bit more household/styling/working-out help, not to mention extra money, than the rest of us 'regular moms'.

Martha Stewart Kids has helpful hints like how to wean your kids off junk food by making 'Yummy Ice Pops' (just clean out an assortment of attractive small containers, purchase fruit at the produce market, cook & puree it with a little homemade simple syrup, and check every 5 minutes in the freezer until you attain the perfect consistency), or how to raise literate kids by installing an educational frieze of alphabet flash cards (it's as easy as nailing up two perfectly parallel strips of panel molding spaced 1/4 inch closer together than the height of a set of cards you make from posterboard). So now you can feel bad about your child-rearing as well as your homemaking skills - I for one still feel guilty that I've never served heirloom tomatoes on vintage etched-glass plates.

And of course, you now have the ultimate oxymoron, a whole magazine called Real Simple, where you can complicate your life even further by trying to organize their supposed time-saving tips ("Re-invigorate your blowout by teasing small sections on the crown", or "Create new accessories - make a necklace out of mismatched earrings!").

Where's the Imperfect Mom magazine?, with tips like why kitchens really don't need to be cleaned, how to disguise 'chicken again?' as something more exotic, and what to do when your kids bickering is driving you up the wall. (I recommend an iPod and a bedroom door that locks.) And I don't ever need to see another profile of a so-called normal celebrity mom until I read about one who either admits her life is ridiculously blessed, or one who really does it without a nanny, housecleaner, or any extra money, and whose house is as messy as mine. The thing is, if I weren't constantly reminded of impossibly perfect moms and size 2 women who do it all, I'd feel pretty good about my life - so until a more realistic women's magazine comes out, I'm going to stick to reading about international disasters in the New York Times - it's much less depressing!

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