I have a confession to make.
I dream of taking a vacation to this place:
This, my friends, is an old-fashioned Sanitarium. This one happens to be The Battle Creek Sanitarium, but it’s just an example. I’m not picky.
A Sanitarium was a place that people, often women, went to convalesce from a period of “nervousness.” It is distinguished somewhat from a “saniTORium” which is where Jack Nicholson goes in The One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A sanitorium is a just a nice word for an insane asylum. I’m allowed to say that, you see, because I have been in one of those, although they called them “In-Patient Treatment Centers” even then, 20-some years ago.
In any case, it used to be that people who felt totally overwhelmed by their lives could be taken to one of these lovely places to rest, and take fresh air and nutritious food (and enemas – but hey, nothing’s perfect) until they felt up to regular life. And who, I ask, feels overwhelmed more often than mothers?
Somewhere along the way they fell out of favor. It probably coincided with the advent of BlueCross BlueShield, but what do I know? All I know for sure is that they don’t exist anymore, and if you want to “convalesce” somewhere you can now choose between a psyche ward (which really does have its benefits) or a nursing home.
The 1960’s introduced an alternative to the sanitarium: Valium. It was prescribed to housewives by the millions. It became so popular that The Rolling Stones even wrote a song about it. Damn them. Leave it to popular culture to raise a red flag about drug abuse. Even so, for years, “Mother’s Little Helper” was a mainstay in medicine cabinets everywhere. And why? Because this shit is HARD. Obviously. 59 MILLION patients can’t be wrong.
Tonight, my husband and two eldest children didn’t get home from school until 7:30pm. There were no extracurriculars, that’s just the regular schedule plus traffic. The three littles had already eaten dinner and were waiting up past bedtime (oh dear gawd) for Daddy to tuck them in. You may wonder what the rest of us did for supper. Well, it was supposed to be this lovely meal I had defrosting on the counter for Dinner: Round 2. Yes, I get to make dinner TWICE a day. You’d think I’d be a better cook by now. But I was too tired. I had Nurse Ratched on speed dial. So we had Little Caesar’s. Again.
And this leaves me wondering, what the hell happened to mother’s little helpers? Have we just evolved past the need for them? In the same way that co-sleeping shows we’ve evolved past the need for our own bed and a whole night where we don’t have to worry about about smothering our infants or sending them plummeting to their deaths?
At this point, I think they should stop making movies about invincible bionic soldiers and just cast a Superhero Mommy, conquering the world with no sleep, no food (your kid’s sandwich crust does.not.count.) and no armor. Because armor is not comforting folks, and no one wants an iron-clad mama to kiss their boo-boo. She could stop nuclear annihilation, rescue a million baby seals, cure cancer, and still have dinner on the table. Then perhaps she could ride off into the sunset towards a lovely box of Corbett Canyon.