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A Look on The Light Side: March 7, 2012

All Stressed Up and No Place to Go

Where on Earth was she? My babysitter was due half an hour ago, and I was expected at the final meeting of the class I was taking in Stress Management. In fact, I was supposed to give my five-minute presentation, “Identifying a Major Stress In My Life, and Which Technique I Will Use to Get Rid of It.”

I was dressed, and my two young children were even in pajamas — but I was trapped in my house until the babysitter showed up. There was nothing I could do, except hyperventilate.

Perhaps one of the techniques from class would be some 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 days 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 I committed to the major investment of dress, purse and shoes, I had to be sure 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 to remind her, only to discover that I had planned so far ahead that my sitter 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. That’s an arrangement where you swap babysitting time with other parents. It was a fine idea — except they held their meetings at 8 p.m. on school nights, and 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 had 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 promptly displayed her newest body-piercing: 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 her rehearsal dinners and bachelorette parties. It ended the night I dared to get theater tickets, only to have her cancel us for a “tan lines emergency.” It seemed her newest bridesmaid dress had straps in a different location than her bathing suits, and she had scheduled herself for an emergency weekend at the beach to rectify the problem.

“Picture yourself in a quiet, 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 was really 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 was creating too much stress in my life. Maybe in another ten years, I could try again; for now, I would just have to do without!

Judy Epstein is now allowed out of her house for short periods of time, as long as she returns with groceries. Any human contact is welcome at!