by Anatoly IVANOV


“Off the Clock” – Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done… by Laura Vanderkam. Oh, wow. Such a promising title. Again.

Bless those who helped increase my reading speed! Because this book is 1% trite time management advice and 99% memory recalls of various mothers about their children’s petty joys and travails:

“One snowy January day a few years ago, I followed Sam, then six, into the backyard to keep an eye on him. We trudged through untouched snow that came up to my knees and close to his waist. He followed behind me until we came to a small tree. Then he broke off to labor across the drifts, climbed the tree, and inched out along a limb that was perhaps six feet in the air. He talked to himself softly for a long time. I strained to listen. Eventually I realized he was working up the courage to leap off the branch and into the snow. In those moments there was fear, and daring, and finally exhilaration as he threw himself into the powdery white.”

Still with me? Wait, there’s more. Much more…

“Her second child, Brenna, was born with a rare skin condition called harlequin ichthyosis, in which her body produces excess skin. Skin has functions that most of us take for granted, and this genetic disorder has profound consequences. Brenna can’t sweat, so her body temperature has to be carefully regulated. She’s highly susceptible to infections. Her skin grows tight around her joints, which limits her movement. Indeed, her skin grew so thick over her fingers in the womb that she could not uncurl them for a long time. She doesn’t grow much hair, and her skin is usually red enough that people do a double take. She needs a long bath daily to scrub the excess skin away, and must be covered head to toe in Aquaphor multiple times per day to keep her skin from cracking. She wakes most nights because she is so itchy; Westlake and her husband take turns soothing her and getting her back down.

The management of her condition requires regular medical and therapy appointments. Westlake reports that Brenna has eight different physicians she sees: an ENT to clean out the skin that grows thick in her ears and can keep her from hearing, dermatologists for the skin issues themselves, ophthalmologists for her various eye problems (such as being born without functional eyelids, which also turn out to be skin), a GI doctor (she had a feeding tube for the first few years of life), a rheumatologist to deal with her juvenile arthritis, and of course the general pediatrician for the routine kid stuff.”

Is this a book on time management with any advice at all?!

Well, sure, it contains glimpses of “keep track of time, set aside some free time, enjoy some free time, hire an assistant to free up some time, batch-check e-mail to guard free time, pay others to do the chores to buy some free time”.

A friend of mine struggling with day-to-day time management asked if this opus would help: “Any new ideas? Maybe a clever strategy under all that trivia?”

Alas, no, not really.

Seems to me the author secretly wishes to write memoirs about raising children but is rightfully afraid no one will read them (did you skip the ones I quoted above?). So… here’s an enticing cover-up title for you, a “creative writing” oeuvre that re-mixes anything and everything from Tim Ferriss books to academic happiness research.

Recommended for sentimental moms looking for time wasted… sans le style de Proust.



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