Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bitch on Wheels

Looking at the mug shot of Madlyn Primoff at 2 in the morning provides a jolt of adrenaline. This image seems borrowed from a seventies horror film; it is reminiscent of the psycho vagrant hanging around the parking lot or an extra from Night of the Living Dead.

It's not nice to make fun of the way someone looks (even when they are being booked on charges of child endangerment) but it is the vacant-eyed, strung-out Sunday evening expression that Mad Madlyn wears that I wish to address.

Working people everywhere (but probably less so in France or Italy) know the bittersweet quality of Sunday evening, that last refuge of blissful non-work before the relentless pace of the work week resumes.

A certain melancholy always sweeps over me at sunset as I bid farewell to unstructured time with my family and friends, to trysts with the New York Times spread out on the couch, to the memory of red wine, to the joyous cessation of demands, deadlines and deliverables, to the freedom to just be... without the pressure to constantly produce.

Of course, to working parents of young children, the weekend is often just as stressful (if not more so) that the work week...with the exception that you have no lunch hour, no arena in which to feel smart and competant, little or no time away from your kids and very little control over just about anything.

Though I have always preferred weekends to the workweek throughout my nearly 25 years of motherhood, I have often heard people with young kids say that they cannot wait to get back to work following a weekend and that their true work is at home, being a mom or a dad.

Maybe that sense of utter overload is what Madlyn Primoff was experiencing last Sunday evening when she dumped out her young daughters, who had previously been bickering in the backseat of her car, in downtown White Plains and drove away, leaving the girls miles from home.

According to news reports, the older ran after the car and was admitted back. The little one did not and was left alone by her mother and sister. A short while later, the crying kiddie was found by a concerned couple, fed ice cream and handed over to a passing cop.

The police took the agitated 10 year old to the station and waited for the parents to call. When Mommy Madlyn finally did, it was to report a "lost child." She then went on to tell the cops that she had let her daughter wander around downtown and couldn't locate her, blah blah blah, neglecting the troublesome part about throwing her out of the car.

White Plains' Finest reassured the mom that her daughter was safe and instructed her to come down to the precint to retrieve her. When she arrived, she was arrested and thrown into the clink for the night.

I provided this recap to save you from googling "Madlyn Primoff" on the off-chance that you hadn't heard of this story. Perhaps you have been working day and night on your doctoral dissertation or are engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Swine Flu or have just been in a remote village without internet access.

In other words, chances are that if you are breathing, you've heard about this infamous woman: Scarsdale wife, mother of two young girls and white shoe lawyer at a fancy pants Manhattan firm.

Not to mention bitch on wheels.

Over the past week, I've clocked untold hours reading civilian reactions on the myriad blogs and websites dedicated to Maddy's misdeed and have been fascinated to find that there is a hearty debate in this country (and even in such places like France and Italy) about the degree of heinousness of Madlyn Primoff's actions with some parents calling her insane and irresponsible while others give her a You Go, Girl! (and even 'fess up to having done the same to their bratty offspring) and still others admit to having had the urge but stop short of condoning Primoff's penchant for putting her kids out, curbside.

As my POV on L'affair Primoff is pretty evident, (yep, I find the notion of actually throwing your young kids out of the car hostile, crazed and nearly unforgivable) I don't wish to belabor it.

Instead, I want to draw a lesson from this story, one with practical ramifications.

And the lesson can be drawn from meditating upon the scary face of Madlyn Primoff.

We can learn from the face of Madlyn Primoff a truth that we have long suppressed: that it is too steep a transition to go from Sunday night to Monday morning when you are a working parent of small children.

Too jarring is the passage from a weekend at home where it can often feel like your kids are your boss to the office where your boss is your boss.

Honestly, how do we expect people to behave in a sane, responsible manner if they go straight from two days of chauffering their kids to various sports activities and birthday parties, overseeing homework and school projects, buying shoes and eating at fast food restaurants - not to mention playing referee between on-going squabbles in the backseat of a moving car -- to the world of stream-lined professionalism?

Working parents of small kids need a little buffer zone...where no one is their boss.

So, in the spirit of preventing more kids from being thrown out of cars (or worse) or to avoid the melancholy meltdowns of people like me who are guilty of loving weekends too damn much, I suggest the following modest proposal, which I will call Mad Monday Morning, in homage to Madlyn herself:

A mandated work week that resumes at NOON on Mondays, thereby creating a half-day recess for the working parents of young children -- or hell, just about anyone! -- who has trouble making the transition from Sunday night to Monday morning.

The time can be spent communing with nature, watching television, taking a long bath, saving the world, having a mani-pedi or enjoying intimacy with your spouse now that the kids are finally out of the house.

Working parents of America! Let us re-envision Monday morning, thinking of it not as a destination but as a portal between the realms of work and leisure.

Let us honor the need for a journey from one to the next.

And maybe, if we can build this bridge of sacred time, there will be less road rage along the way.

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