I know, I know. Who publicly admits that she doesn’t want to spend Mother’s Day with her own kid? That’s what this holiday is all about! The day when you’re supposed to mother-it-up and spend a fun-filled family day soaked in gratitude and blessings. Aren’t we supposed to want that?
Here’s the thing: I am a mother to a young child. Like all moms, I have 3,000 lists going in my head at once. I make sure that when we leave the house, it’s with teeth brushed, underwear on, flies up. I make sure that the sitter is booked, that the clothes are clean, that playdates are arranged, that doctor’s appointments are scheduled, that we have milk and eggs and Cheerios, that camp registration is paid. Oh, and did I mention that I also have a job outside of this?
So what I want more than anything this Mother’s Day — the one day of the year that I am apparently entitled to ask for exactly what I want from my family — is none of this. Not a single G**damn task.
But! you say (I can hear you!): Who’s booking a doctor’s appointment on Mother’s Day, anyway? Who does laundry on Mother’s Day? Is your husband actually the monster? (No, he’s not.)
I’m saying that I want relief not only from the tasks themselves but from even thinking about the possibility of the tasks. I don’t even want to think about the tasks existing. I know that I am supposed to be delighted by my kid bringing me breakfast in bed at, oh, 6:15am — but you know what thought comes immediately on the heels of how lovely?
Who’s going to clean up the mess she left in the kitchen?? (Me.)
Look, I’m not saying I want to sleep in and wake up to an empty house and not see my family until sundown, although, come to think of it, that sounds delightful. But I do want the bulk of my day to be about filling myself up in ways that will help me be a saner, calmer, happier me — and therefore, a better mother.
I learned this on my very first Mother’s Day when my daughter was 10 months old. I’d been on a year-long maternity leave, spending almost 24/7 with her, and was depleted. I decided that what I really wanted that day was a morning to myself in our apartment. My husband took her out — to the museum? To the park? I have no idea — and I stayed in my pajamas, made myself pancakes, and ate them under the covers watching “Enough Said.” I am quite sure that I cried at the glory of watching a movie at 10am without a single interruption, and am also quite sure that I said (aloud), This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
I hadn’t realized that I needed that time to myself so desperately — without being touched by another person, without being asked where some lost item might be found, without screams of “Mama!” That day, I soaked up every last millisecond of solo time. When I heard the key in the door, I was both relieved (I wanted to see her sweet face) and deeply annoyed (that was it?).
Now that my daughter is almost eight, I’m less enthralled with the idea of lying in bed all morning because I don’t need it as much; I’ve had much more time without her clinging to my neck (though this past year of pandemic has been a whole other kind of challenge). But I have made it somewhat of a ritual to spend at least half of Mother’s Day away from my family and my role in it.
One year I went out for afternoon drinks with girlfriends. Another year a few of us went on a shopping spree. Once we went to a Korean spa. The activity isn’t important. The key thing that I am looking for as I celebrate Mother’s Day is to feel unshackled in every which way. Is this cruel to say? Do I think of motherhood as a shackling of sorts?
No, I adore my daughter more than anything on earth, but Motherhood with a capital M comes with its own very heavy baggage, chief among them that you be ever-present, and if not ever-present, then ever-reachable. For just one day a year — one half-day a year! — I want to follow my own whim, drink and eat and be merry, like I did all those years ago before my daughter was even a proverbial twinkle in my eye. I want someone else to be 100% in charge in the parenting realm. I want to think only of me.
And then, I want to go home and snuggle into bed with my baby, and hear every last detail about her day.