The last thing I need is more togetherness.
It’s almost Mother’s Day, time for homemade cards and crowded brunch celebrations. And while I appreciate the thought behind these and the other gifts my kids shower me with every year, all I really want for Mother’s Day is the one gift I never receive — time alone.
I don’t need an expensive spa vacation or weekend getaway. I’d be happy spending the day in my pajamas in bed as long as I’m by myself. Hell, when my kids were younger, even going to the bathroom alone would’ve been a precious gift. I have more time to myself now, but it usually comes at the end of a long day when I’m too exhausted to do anything but watch HGTV. The idea of a day alone with no kids, errands to run, or time constraints is more appealing to me than any diamond necklace or bouquet of flowers.
I know this is verging on sacrilege. I’m supposed to look forward to Mother’s Day and the opportunity to spend time with the people who made me a mother. And, of course, I’m glad to be a parent. But while there will someday come a time when my kids are grown and I eagerly anticipate the hours I get to spend with them, it’s not here yet. I work from home, and my days are packed with carpools and after-school activities. I spend all day, every day with my kids and what’s in short supply is time to myself. The last thing I need is more togetherness.
I haven’t always felt this way. I used to work outside the home, and time with my kids took on a very different meaning to me. I was constantly trying to carve more time out of my day to spend time with my kids. But these days I spend more time trying to prioritize my own needs and wants than I do worrying about spending quality time with my kids. My kids are a given; I am always the afterthought.
In theory, Mother’s Day is supposed to be about making moms the priority (and pacifism, but that’s a topic for another day). But the problem is that Mother’s Day still emphasizes mothers as, well, mothers instead of individuals who have needs and wants apart from raising their kids. Why not give moms the gift of choosing how they’d like to spend their one special day each year instead of assuming they’d love yet another brunch? Let us have one real day for ourselves. Just one.
The first time I tried to spend Mother’s Day alone, my twin daughters were still infants. I was exhausted and sleep-deprived, so I told my (now ex) husband that I’d love to spend the night in a hotel room all alone. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he asked me if I really wanted to spend Mother’s Day without my kids. Why yes, yes I did! I booked myself a hotel room, but my evening alone was wrecked by his comments about how upset the kids were to be away from me.
There are plenty of problems with that story that have nothing to do with Mother’s Day. But my ex-husband is by no means the only person who reacts the same way when I say that what I really want for Mother’s Day is time alone. Any time I express a desire to spend time away from my kids, I’m treated to a display of motherhood martyrdom of Olympic proportions: They would never want to spend such an important day on their own.
Even my own teenage daughter recently told me very judgmentally that one of her regular babysitting clients had asked if she was free that day. “Can you imagine not spending Mother’s Day with your kids?” she asked me. You bet I can. Give that woman a medal.
No matter how I’ve celebrated Mother’s Day over the years, it’s still only one day. The real problem isn’t whether I go to brunch or spend time to myself, it’s that there’s an overwhelming pressure on mothers to devote themselves to their kids at the cost of their own needs and wants. Raising kids requires us to put our kids first, certainly, but it’s never meant that we had to come dead last.
In every healthy relationship, there has to be room for both people to exist as people — even when one of them needs us to wipe their butt and sing them to sleep. The balance may swing dramatically in favor of our kids when they’re tiny, but it should never exclude us entirely. Mothers are just people, not paragons of virtue. Idolizing motherhood might sound good in theory, but in practice all it seems to do is create impossible standards that harm actual mothers.
So spend Mother’s Day however you’d like. But leave room in your day for yourself, the person who exists somewhere underneath the trappings of motherhood and devotion. Remind yourself she exists, and find some small way to nourish her. And you’ll find me doing exactly what I need — all by myself.