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You're Not The Boss Of Me: Adventures Of A Modern Mom Paperback – December 26, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0758215371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758215376
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,121,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Candid and largely unapologetic, Los Angeles writer and mother of two Schickel indulges herself first, her kids next and arbiters of proper motherhood never in this frequently funny, entirely irreverent and occasionally inappropriate essay collection. Though she starts with an amusing pregnancy chronology ("Week 36-Your Baby is Now the Size of a Barcalounger"), Schickel makes her real subject apparent in the next essay, concerned wholly with trying to fit into a cool dress for a Patti Smith concert. More often than not, Schickel uses her rarified concerns to make cutting cultural observations; guilt over her inability to keep up with hip, feminist "Alterna-Moms" segues into a takedown of "Life-Stylers" in general: "Whether the theme is Urban Cowboy, Church Lady, [or] Sex-Positive Swinger ... [they] seem to come with wardrobe, ideology, and upholstery swatches so you don't have to make any difficult choices." Occasionally she missteps with some you-had-to-be-there stories, like her night out with a girlfriend at a West L.A. strip club, but even there she manages some incisive last-minute commentary on the nature of desire-her own and her daughter's. Amid crass language and off-color topics-including her post-natal marijuana habit (now ceased)-Schickel turns the parenting experience into a child-like search for sense among the rules we follow, make and break. Though both author and subject are prone to selfishness and immaturity, this bold, addictive collection deals honestly with the messy, confusing, scary human condition and comes out laughing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Erika Schickel, the author of "You're Not the Boss of Me," is the girlfriend we had in high school and college who was soda-through-the-nose hilarious. We never imagined her as a mother, but in this collection of essays, Schickel shows us how that zany girlfriend became a mom. Quirkiness aside, she's the mom we should all aspire to be: real. Schickel takes us beyond the facade, letting us see inside the woman who saw everything as a joke.

"Boss of Me" is neither another instruction manual advising us on coping with breakfast cereal confrontations, lost children in the park and toilet training, nor is it a book of cutesy stories about kids doing the darndest things. Schickel's collection is anything but strained fruit and should be required reading for all uptight moms attempting to raise their preschool summa cum laudes with flawless parenting.

"Boss of Me" begins with Schickel's own physical growth during pregnancy, and her descriptions are never pablum. "Week 20 -- Your baby is now the size of a small clutch purse," she tells us. "Week 25 -- Your baby is now the size of a crock pot.... Week 36 -- Your baby is now the size of a Barcalounger."

Schickel takes us into a Jiffy Pop version of playgrounds, wiping butts, the multicultural school day and...lap dances at strip joints. She challenges us to have fun like she always has. Yep, Schickel shows us what relaxes her and what keeps her mojo going as a mommy.

Although lap dances might not be expected on a mom's night out with her girlfriends, Schickel has learned that "a woman is so much more than the sum of her ever-changing body parts."

She's not a "Trad-mom" or an "Alterna-Mom" either. "Trad-Moms read labels for caloric content, Alterna-Moms read labels for potential toxins." she explains. "Trad-Moms put their toddlers on leashes at Disneyland, while Alterna-Moms strap their young to their bodies and hike them up mountains."

The book delivers the audacity promised by the title, not as much in regard to raising kids as in the author's learning to take charge of her life. By doing so, Schickel understands - and so does the reader - the internal pain behind her humor. Along the way, we find out that she stashed a marijuana supply in a Play-Doh can - and that her lingering addiction offered another place to hide.

When her parents divorced, "dividing up everything they owned, books, friends - us," and Schickel was sent to boarding school, sisters were separated. She observes how her own daughters experience the love-hate relationship of sisterhood that she missed out on.

Ultimately, Schickel must come to terms with her inability to let others take care of her, that she can't always be the boss of herself. while recovering from foot surgery, she makes us laugh as she mines the fields of her psyche. But sometimes this sounds too much like a therapist explaining why she couldn't let herself heal.

Maybe Schickel thought a clinical tone at certain moments would keep her rich chocolate writing from turning into marshmallow fluff, but she's not that kind of mom - or writer, either. Like a lap dance taken to the peak of arousal, the more poignant scenes could have used that last beat of climax.

Schickel says she at first resisted becoming a writer and went into acting, but "You're Not the Boss of Me" proves she made the right choice. She does her forefathers, uncles and cousins proud.

She's a smart mom, an honest writer and, gradually,a not-so-hard-on-herself boss. And she's still the girlfriend we love to hang out with - we giggle and snort ourselves silly before we can put this book down. -- The Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2007

Now that we can't move a muscle without signaling lifestyle, the literary ground lies thick with parenting memoirs, a dreary subgenre practiced by midlife boomers convinced that they alone have pioneered discovery of the joys and sorrows of raising children in the modern age. Often as not, the memoirist is peddling a full-service parenting philosophy that shows up all other child rearing as false or faulty - and holds out the royalty potential of her or his priceless apercus doubling as self-help manuals. Still, there are exceptions. Like many other tales from modern motherhood, Erika Schickel's "You're Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom" looks suspiciously like a series of recycled freelance essays cobbled together, just barely, with stitched-on themes, then rushed in to print by a publisher looking to tap into the angst of the overprivileged. We'll forgive her that because she's a frisky, surprising writer, opinionated and blessed with a smart bullshit detector. Schickel, who's in her 40's and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters, comes from a long line of writers, from whom she strenuously sought to differentiate herself by becoming first a sexual and cultural rebel, and then an actress. Before she became a mother, Schickel writes at the end of this disjointed but bracingly candid book, "I had been a svelte, rising actress-about-town." That might be stretching things a bit - IMDb has her guesting for a lot of series television, and she played a shrink in Toxic Avenger, Part II way back in 1989 - but we won't quibble. Childbirth turned Schickel into " healthy, robust, two-hundred-pound postpartum person," the bit parts stopped coming, and her agent fired her on official letterhead. For which we should be grateful, because the howling creative void that ensued caused Schickel, now at home with her kids, to take up her pen and become what she was meant to be, a writer. "You're Not the Boss of Me" mines these essays extensively, and could have done with judicious editorial pruning of her ruminations on her foot surgery, her unlovable cat, the shepher's pie she made for the multicultural potluck at one daughter's school and the sugar cookies she tried to bake for the other's homeroom teacher. Ballast aside, though, Schickel has a singular voice and a point of view untrammeled by current parenting bromides. Her father is the wonderfully cantankerous film critic and book reviewer Richard Schickel, and whether by genetic inheritance or osmosis or both, she inherited from him an unwillingness to be snowed by fashion or cant - as well, perhaps, as a useful truculence born of a childhood scarred by the ugly divorce of her warring parents. Schickel strives dilligenly to be an "alterna-mom" but she has neither time nor stomach for the cloth diapers, the irreproachable but tedious I-messaging of playground mediation, the endless runs to Whole Foods for organic this or that. "I sucked at Alterna-Momming," she writes, "I simply didn't have the conviction required to actually stuff a birthday pinata with raisins and string cheese. I could talk the talk, but I couldn't walk 10 feet in their Birkenstocks... Realizing that I didn't fit in with the Traditional Moms or Alternative Moms, I felt lost, unmoored, alone in my convictions. I was just a Slacker Mom with a guilty conscience." Schickel doesn't heap contempt on either of these two groups, but she rightly skewers the tiresome and self-defeating tendency to theorize everyting a parent does. "Life-stylers rankle me," she writes. "People lacking in imagination about themselves sign up for lifestyles... All these Alterna-Moms would claim to be square pegs, misfits, rebels, and yet there's a feeling of mindless conformity here... I could see these children after a few years of child-centric education; muddy, unable to read, tantruming in the yard, telling their mothers to go fuck themselves, having their every feeling validated, no matter how shitty. It made me shudder." Perhaps because she works at home, Schickel doesn't use her platform, as so many mommy memoirists do, to slag off on traditional mothers who choose not to work. Her own child-rearing habits, like those of her self-selected women friends, are defined by common sense and a practical feel for human limitation. She listens to her kids, but not endlessly. She yells when tired or frustrated (in my book, any mother who says she never yells is either lying through her teeth or headed for early cardiac arrest) and gives them cereal and pancakes front-loaded with sugar. She relies for support and therapy on her girlfriends. Still, no one would accuse Schickel of being a regular mother. When she needs to get out of the house she heads, apparently with the blessing of her husband, to a Westside strip joint for a steamy lap dance. And she copes with the intrinsic boredom of much mothering by slipping out into the yard on a regular basis for a joint. She'll doubtless get a lot of tut-tutting about this in the letters columns, and frankly if I heard this from anybody else I'd be rolling my eyes - there goes another entitled poseur trying to pretend she's not someone's mommy. But Schickel isn't striking attitudes, or playing rebel girl (okay, maybe a little). She's a woman of appetites she's unwilling to give up, but with enough intelligence to figure out that when her marijuana consumption is getting in the way of taking care of her kids (and ruining her skin), it's time to lay off the weed for good. In supple, economical and often very funny prose, she lays out the central dilemma of modern motherhood - that you can love your kids with the deep, dark inchoate love no other relationship offers, and still feel as though you're drowning when you have no escape and no other stable identity to your name. -- The LA Weekly, February 14, 2007

Surfing the wave of mommies-gone-mad memoirs, author Erika Schickel - whose work has appeared in the L.A. Times and BUST - makes a splash with "You're Not the Boss of Me," a collection of fresh, funny vignettes about being a mom and a writer and the problems with trying to maintain both a motherly temperament and a womanly sexuality. In the essay entitled "Journey to Another Girl," previously published in L.A. City Beat, Schickel and a friend leave their children and husbands at home one evening to go to a local strip club, where Schickel's interest is piqued by a dancer with a "Marlene Dietrich meets Mae West" vibe. The lap dance that ensues in both sensual and uncomplicated, leaving the author breathless and wanting more. At the other end of the spectrum is "Bum Wrap," a brief scatalogical inquiry into the joys of potty training. Although she handles her kids' "taupe-colored mole sauce" in stride, Schickel tries everything to get her youngest daughter to wipe herself, dreaming of the day she'll "emerge from the bathroom with a sparkling, self-cleaned anus." In "Fire Escape," the author, a certified pothead who insists that reefer is a defensible parenting aid, rethinks her habit when her kids find her stash, and realizes that quitting might help clear up her "pizza-like" acne. Schickel's unabashed style, and her willingness to scrutinize her own values with self-abasing humor, set this book apart. -- Bust Magazine, Feb/Mar

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Customer Reviews

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What a fun read - quick, easy, hilarious.
Rachel J.
I sometimes feel a little insecure around all the perfect parents and their perfect solutions for their perfect kids.
Elizabeth A. Decker
Erika Schickel is a wonderful storyteller, and shares many keen thoughts relating to her many experiences.
Steven Petlak

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Kane on January 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
I brought Erika's yellow paperback with a picture of a frightening man-baby with me to the dermatologist. The People magazines were all old, so I cracked it open for a look. First thought: "this book is funny" ... and the essays are the perfect length for a waiting-room read. What surprised me, and reason I am posting my humble review, is that mixed in with girdles, lap dances, and fetuses the size of crock pots, is a patchwork quilt of heartfelt sentiment that rings truer than any Hallmark card. If you are a mom who can become lost in the scent of your baby's hair, while forgetting to wash your own, then this book is for you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on December 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
These twenty-five amusing essays reflect on family life starting with the proverb that "Unsafe sex is so hot" as author Erika Schickel and her spouse Doug remove the layers of protection to go skin on skin resulting in the positive blue line appearing on the home stationing kit. Each of the entries are insightful as Erika's womb contains a foreign insurgent who starts as the size of a microscopic pimple but nine plus months later is a whale until she sheds the pounds naturally with the birth of Georgia and the new role of tushi cleaner. Talk about insanity, she and Doug begin the process over again. This is a fun look at family from the perspective of the mother as Ms. Schickel turns Erma Bombeck inside out with the pits and cherries gone as only the bowl requiring cleaning is left behind. Fans of humorous insightful looks at the modern security momma will want to read YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME as the parents learn who rules the roost.

Harriet Klausner
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Decker on February 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Parenting is hard work. Sure it's full of warm fuzzies, tremendous rewards, love, nice smells (sometimes) but also heartache, frustration and a lot of doubt. I sometimes feel a little insecure around all the perfect parents and their perfect solutions for their perfect kids. Makes me feel, well, not so perfect. When I first had my son I went out and bought Anne Lamott's book, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, and discovered it's OK not to have a clean house, a clean head of hair and although not great, no big deal to drop your baby on the floor once or twice. During that first year, Anne Lamott helped reinforce the fact that I didn't have to be perfect and with great parenting came great mistakes. Nine years later, I just put down my copy of You're Not The Boss of Me, Adventures of a Modern Mom, Erika Schickel's keenly observant, no apologies look at life, motherhood, family and friendship. She's my new hero! Her interest in everything (check out Journey to Another Girl) and ability to really connect with life is delivered in a style of storytelling that invites us all to pull up a chair, snuggle in front of the crackling fire and enjoy the show. She kinnda makes you feel like her best friend and when she saves her best friend Rae's daughter from choking you want stand up and give everyone a hug. Traveling with Erika's through her life, which at times can be pretty damn intimate, is like sitting with a good friend and maybe a good friend is the only one who can tell you what parenting and for that matter what life is really all about. I laughed and cried all the way to the end as I connected and realized this is one mom who was never going to judge. Ms. Schickel is the Southland's answer to Anne Lamott, only a little bit hipper with a lot more edge but not edge like an Alterna-Mom, but edge like as in a cool human being. On the road to making a family, this book should be on the top of your list!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Schoner on January 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
Schikel really captures those "special" moments in parenting - the teary or embarassing or chest busting pride moments. But more than that, she relives for me the everyday rituals, common dramas, myriad of park visits - all of those moments I mean to record but opt instead for sleep at the end of a long day.

When I laugh or get choked up while reading this book it's because Schikel has given a voice to and helps me gain perspective on the new "Me" - as mother.
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By Nom de Plume on July 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
Caution: Ericka's book is NOT for the faint of heart. It sorta skirts the unspoken boundaries of motherhood like the wonderful Scary Mommy books/website. The author's brutal honesty is written in a very mesmerizing, naked prose. You WILL find yourself blushing while reading this book. Such a breath of fresh air. I might not engage in all of her habits and pursuits, but I did enjoy hearing about her adventures. Just food for thought for all of you moms out there who feel isolated and/or different and/or unconventional. The shock value is invaluable as she literally sticks it in the face of convention and does it her own way! I also enjoyed learning about her family of origin and relationship with her divorced parents and how the divorce affected her relationship with her sister. (Hey, do I get an award for using "her" one too many times in a single sentence??!!! Sorry for any offense you grammarians out there!). Anyways, I recommend this book to all open minded women (and men) who want to live vicariously through the eyes of one very strong woman.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Are you a trad-mom, an alterna-mom, a rad or bad mom? Perhaps you are prim and prissy, and if so you won't relate to this book. The rest of us will laugh, be shocked and muse over these honest tales of growing up. Erika is funny, she's hip, she's weird, she's normal, and she loves her daughters.
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