A look on the lighter side: All stressed up and nowhere to go


Years ago, my husband and I took a class together in stress management.  We thought it would help us learn to relax.  

But that’s not how it worked out.  

I kept a diary — here’s how it went:

It’s the final night of Stress Management class.  Where on earth is the baby sitter?  

She was due here half an hour ago, so I can give my five-minute presentation on “Identifying a Major Stress In My Life, and Which Technique I Will Use to Get Rid of It.”  

I am dressed up for going out in public, and the boys are all set in pajamas, teeth brushed and bed-time stories read — but since my husband is going to class straight from work, I am trapped in my house until the babysitter shows up.  There’s nothing I can do, except hyperventilate.  

Perhaps one of the techniques from class could help:

“Relax your body, one muscle group at a time.  Breathe in and out very slowly.”  

For a while there, all my sitters were calling in sick.  

Or rather, one time the sitter was sick; another time, the sitter’s child was sick; another time, the sitter was fine, and her child was fine, but the little boy she watched during the week was sick with something contagious, and she was still in the incubation period.  

“Make plans in advance; allow extra time for contingencies.”  

That would be the time I booked a sitter three months in advance.  My best friend was being honored at a dinner dance, and I was giving the speech; but before committing to the major investment of dress, shoes, and purse, I had to know I could go.  

So I called my sitter—  a whole quarter of a year ahead! — to reserve the date.  

It’s true, that did reduce my stress considerably — until the week before, when I called again as a reminder, only to discover that she had forgotten all about me and booked herself on a cruise.  

“Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.”  

Some friends suggested I join their Babysitting Co-op, and swap babysitting time with other parents.

It was a fine idea — except they held their meetings at 8 p.m. on school nights, and since my husband always worked late, I would have needed to hire a sitter just to get to the meetings.

“Visualize a successful outcome.”

Many people start with younger kids as mother’s helpers, and train them up into being that Holy Grail of sitters, the Reliable Saturday Night.  

I thought I’d found just such a prospect, a young girl who came to me every Wednesday afternoon.  

Until the Wednesday when she arrived at my door and proudly displayed her newest acquisition: a tongue stud!  “What’s that you’re saying?” I asked her.  

“I thaid, ih thtill hurth!”  

“Whatever you do, do not open your mouth in front of my children till I can get you home!”  

Thith wathn’t, I mean this wasn’t quite the outcome I had envisioned.

Are teenagers really the segment of our population best suited for watching young children?  

Besides, how do you find one who isn’t busier than you?  

Because the real  problem is that as soon as one of these paragons gets a social life, yours is over.  

I learned this the hard way with another girl, a college student.  

She was the answer to my prayers — until the summer all her girlfriends got married.  

Then I had to arrange my own nights out around a minefield of rehearsal dinners and bachelorette parties.  

It all ended the night I dared to get theater tickets, only to have her cancel us for a “tan lines emergency.”  

Apparently, her newest bridesmaid dress had straps in a different location than her bathing suit’s, and she had gone on an emergency beach weekend to rectify the situation.  

“Picture yourself in a peaceful place… you have nowhere to go and nothing to do.”

The phone is ringing.  It’s my sitter — she’s stuck in a 20-mile backup on the Expressway; a fuel truck has overturned  and nothing is moving either way.  

There’s no telling how long she’ll be.

There is only one thing to do.

“Prioritize; do you really need this in your life?”

“Hello, Professor Dharma?  I’m sorry, but I won’t be making it to class tonight.”  

Trying to get out of the house is creating too much stress in my life.  

Maybe in another 10 years, I can try again; for now, I’ll just have to live without it. 


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