It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of three boys, two dogs and a husband who never turns off the TV must be in want of a She Shed.
What’s a She Shed, you wonder? Just ask Pinterest, which we can simultaneously applaud and blame for bringing this trend into perfect, peppy, inferiority-producing focus. According to the site, a She Shed is a structure in the backyard where a woman can escape the countless demands of her life and find her true self again. It’s “the new man cave!”
But the more pictures I see of She Sheds, the more they scare me. If this is a woman’s answer to a man cave, then I’d rather be a man. Gone are the foosball tables, the beer on tap, the elaborate sound systems and exercise equipment. Instead women get shingle siding, lavender paint, window boxes, lace curtains and an abundance of gingerbread trim. These decorative signposts are all fine in isolation. But cram them together and throw a glue-gun-fueled scrapbooking project on top and the result is a gigantic estrogen explosion. Just imagine a Nancy Meyers movie with Beatrix Potter doing the set design. We might as well force those with a Y chromosome to move to another continent.
Which I’ll admit can be an appealing thought if, like me, you are the mother of three boys. I have a dear friend whose therapist once told him that he starts fires just so he can put them out. I have a similar problem in that I keep having boys and then just want to get away from them. Why? They need me too much. When I was a new mother, I believed that my boys would seek me out for my unique life wisdom and deep insight into the really important things (if a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; whether virtue is its own reward; why women never get tired of the six-hour Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth). But no, my boys need me, and me alone, to find the crapola they have scattered all over the house.
I think What to Expect When You’re Expecting should stop devoting so much attention to labor and delivery (after all, they are fairly brief episodes in the grand scheme of things) and issue an updated edition with a chapter titled “Things Your Children Will Never Be Able to Locate Without Your Help (and Yes, Those Things Are Probably Upstairs).” I, for one, would have been much more prepared for the joys of motherhood if I had read such a chapter when I was pregnant. Instead I greet each day with the vague panic of not knowing when I am going to have to produce a missing shin guard with only three minutes’ notice because the soccer game actually starts half an hour earlier than Dad thought. It’s like waking up every day in the same movie, filled with hidden predators. If the audience knows when they’re going to pop out and scare the heck out of me, it’s not saying.
Which brings me to my latest invention: Mom’s Little Panic Room™. Perfect for the woman who doesn’t have time for window boxes and hates gingerbread trim but still needs an impenetrable escape from the terrifying demands placed on her by disorganized children. I’m pretty sure this is a product that’s going to catch on. Imagine a Kevlar-reinforced bunker with its own communication system and a special hatch in the roof for the delivery of everyday essentials such as sleeping masks and vodka gimlets. Instead of scrapbooking supplies, Mom’s Little Panic Room™ will have custom cubbies well stocked with all the things that are constantly going missing in the average American household because no one (read: children, husbands) puts them back where they belong–nail clippers, flashlights, Scotch tape, AA batteries and pens with caps.
Clever mothers everywhere understand that laziness nearly always trumps need when it comes to missing shin guards–which means if a child is forced to walk all the way outside and penetrate Mom’s Little Panic Room™ in order to get help, well, chances are he can find that shin guard on his own. No more learned helplessness–and plenty of time for Mom to watch all six hours of Pride and Prejudice. Straight through!
Now all I need is someone to fund my idea. I’m imagining a disorganized young tech entrepreneur who needs a surrogate mother. Oh, and someone to find the keys to his Tesla.
Van Ogtrop is the managing editor of Real Simple
This appears in the July 06, 2015 issue of TIME.