November-December 2011

Gimme a Break

Classified ads are filled with people ISO (In Search Of) everything from used pianos to Elvis impersonators. So why shouldn't parents turn to them for a bit of help in their daily lives?

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Classified ads are filled with people ISO (In Search Of) everything from used pianos to Elvis impersonators. So why shouldn’t parents turn to them for a bit of help in their daily lives? Here are the ones I’d run:

ISO: Hostess for a child’s birthday party
Job description:

  • On party day, cram two weeks’ worth of cleaning into two minutes in a pathetic effort to impress other parents at drop-off time.
  • Attempt to frost birthday cake while simultaneously preventing 2-year-old from frosting the dog.
  • Send my husband out for juice boxes. The moment he returns, tell him you forgot to ask him to pick up candles, too. Fight briefly before realizing you’re both too exhausted to continue.
  • Order (and eat) too much pizza. Mentally berate self. Console self with generous slice of cake after berating.
  • Allow children to attack piñata, and watch as they morph into savage characters out of Lord of the Flies, then throw self in front of bat-wielding child when he lurches too close to party-mates.
  • Clean up party mess, then stagger upstairs only to discover that one of the Lord of the Flies cast-mates has left a parting gift: He has thrown up in the hallway.

Compensation: Leftover cake; Extra Strength Tylenol

ISO: Mommy for a morning
Job description: 

  • Take my place in bed early on a Saturday morning while I sleep late in an undisclosed location.
  • Endure kicks to the kidneys from a small child whose aim and force would draw the approving eye of a D.C. United soccer team scout.
  • Periodically lift head from pillow to yell, “No electronics allowed in the morning!” at older children.
  • Push dog off bed when she leaps up and licks your face.
  • Repeat cycle for another hour or until the sun shines through the open slats of the window blinds someone forgot to close the night before, blazing directly into your eyes.

Compensation: Dark circles guaranteed to prompt cries of sympathy—“You look so tired!”—and coffee. Lots of coffee.

ISO: Errands R Us employee
Job description: 

  • Hustle kids into minivan and head off to bank, drugstore, gas station, dry cleaners and grocery store. Arrive at bank only to realize you have left your wallet at home. Detour home, then resume errands.
  • Glance at numbers spinning at the gas pump and realize you’re paying more for a tank of gas than you did for your wedding dress. Inhale noxious fumes as you gasp in shock at the final tally.
  • Arrive at grocery store and discover small child has fallen asleep in minivan. Attempt to transfer child to cart without waking him. Fail and, along with cost of groceries, pay the price of a cranky kid. Argue with older children about the merits of Cocoa Puffs vs. bran flakes. Realize no one will ever eat the bran flakes, not even you. Especially not you.

Compensation:  Cocoa Puffs you can sneak from the pantry and blame on the kids when the box runs out.

ISO: Potty trainer
Job description: 

  • Buy quantities of “big-boy underwear” and present them to the toddler with the animated expression of a game show host. Put new undies on toddler. Applaud as he models his Thomas the Tank Engine skivvies. Explain reward system: one M&M for every successful encounter with the toilet.
  • Congratulate self on expert handling of this developmental milestone just as toddler loudly proclaims, “I wet.” Throw towels, clothes and Thomas undies into downstairs washing machine.
  • Go upstairs and immediately step in a fresh puddle and skid across floor like a cartoon character as toddler giggles and wets himself again.
  • Cram remaining M&M’s into mouth. Briefly wonder if anyone has ever thought of spiking M&M’s.

Compensation:  all of my credit cards, plus slightly used supply of Thomas the Tank Engine undies.

Sarah Pekkanen is the author of the novels Skipping a Beat, The Opposite of Me and the upcoming These Girls. Her website is, and she can be reached at