Work/Life Balance, the Mommy-Wars, and Other Fabulous Beasts

sock monsters

After a hard day at work in the American psyche, even imaginary creatures need a vacation.

The following is an excerpt from a work that currently exists only inside my head. I envision it as a sort of mashup between Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary and a medieval bestiary. My only criteria for inclusion are “things that don’t really exist.”

Mommy-Wars: A particularly insidious creature, not unlike the siren who lures sailors to their deaths with a song that can only be supposed by those of us who have not heard it to be both attractive and yet totally creepy. The Mommy-Wars is likely native to North America, where women have time to be tormented by such legends as they are not preoccupied with gathering firewood while avoiding assault and murder in actual war zones. The Mommy-Wars is a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, cobbled together from disembodied pieces of reality not by actual mommies, but by a larger society which has, over centuries, honed its ability to remove power from all those pesky womenfolk who insist on inconveniences like voting rights and an end to street harassment. Functioning in much the same manner as the zombie virus, the Mommy-Wars is believed to operate by infiltrating a mommy’s brain and making her want to devour the brains of other mommies on sight, or at least diss their decisions regarding whether or not to breastfeed. Though the author admits the possibility that the Mommy-Wars may be lurking out there somewhere in the mountains along with the Yeti, she has never personally encountered the Mommy-Wars, but has rather found that mommies are awesome human beings who love and support one another and, quite frankly, have neither the time nor the energy to hate on one another for feeding their children fast food versus organic free-range kelp nuggets. All available evidence points to the strong probability that the Mommy-Wars do not exist, but are a charming folktale invented to remind women of their overriding biological function, distract them from the issues they really care about, and frighten them away from banding together to enact reforms such as universal health care for children and paid maternity leave, which, if achieved, would surely bring our entire society crashing down in an apocalyptic blaze of horror.

Multi-tasking: The beliefs in Multi-tasking and Work/Life Balance may have derived from similar cultural roots, and indeed, Multi-Tasking is the true Hydra, though it is as lovely as a siren and as sparkly as the rainbow-colored-winged-fairy/mermaid/unicorns that serve as a gateway distraction for little girls to prepare them to accept the myth of the Mommy-Wars as adults. Those who claim to have evidence of Multi-tasking point to their ability to do more than one thing at precisely the same time. However, this is a physical impossibility, unless you are a Time Lord (and possibly even then). Though scientists have disproved the existence of Multi-tasking, many people still stubbornly cling to belief in it, as they attempt to pursue Work/Life Balance by posting artsy photos of their children’s dogs’ gourmet dinners on Instagram on their Smartphones while at work in the middle of a meeting, not realizing that, in fact, they are actually accomplishing absolutely nothing.

People-Who-Don’t-“Believe in”-Things-that-Actually-Exist: With alarming frequency, many self-proclaimed homo sapiens assert that they do not believe in the existence of things which are, in fact, demonstrably real. A particularly salient example is climate change. That the climate changes can be demonstrated by science, meteorology, and going outside and looking at stuff. Others do not  believe in homosexual marriage, despite the facts that gay people exist and that many of them have been so audaciously self-assertive as to believe that since they pay taxes and die for their country, they deserve the same treatment as everybody else and have gone and married one another over the protests of straight people whose straight marriages are so delicate and ethereal as to be in danger of imminent destruction by the existence of loving and committed relationships between strangers they will never meet. While the existence of human beings who do not like gay marriage or understand climate change is within the realm of probability, it is only possible to ignore or oppose these things, not to legitimately deny their existence. Therefore, the reasoning human being will not succumb to the shiny attractiveness of this particular myth, and will aver with certainty, “I do not believe in people who do not believe in climate change/gay marriage/etc.”

The Stock Market: Like the deities of countless ancient societies, the Stock Market is an imaginary creature which has nevertheless inspired such fervent devotion that mortals have constructed an elaborate temple in its honor, populated by priests and priestesses who throng its halls in a black- and-charcoal chaos of ritual dancing and fevered chants. While the temple and the practitioners of the faith are in fact demonstrably real, the actual Stock Market is not unlike the gods and goddesses who are its cultural predecessors, in that while much is sacrificed on its altars, there is little actual physical evidence that any of the money really exists. The Stock Market is less interesting than the pagan rites of yore, however, as there is much less blood, the costumes are predictably boring, and when sacrifices are made, the victims are so far removed from the temple itself as to go unnoticed by the vast majority of the practitioners.

Work/Life Balance: This mysterious beastie is two-headed, recalling the Hydra of Greek mythology. Like the unicorn, Work/Life Balance has inspired many noble yet misguided quests spurred on by the hope of attaining its magical curative powers. According to legend, the fortunate hunter who is able to capture this elusive beast will suddenly be in control of and at peace with the outcomes of all major life decisions. Those who set out in search of Work/Life Balance will be disappointed, however, as the existence of such a creature is predicated upon the amusingly flawed belief that work is not part of life and that the two are in fact diametrically opposed. The prosaic truth of the matter is that work, like anything else, is part of life. If, in fact, Work/Life Balance were a real critter, one would also expect to find evidence of related species such as Parenting/Life Balance, Marriage/Life Balance, Taking-out-the-Trash/Life Balance, and Using-the-Loo/Life Balance.