What Moms Really Want for Mother's Day

Motherhood, I’ve found, is filled with unexpected ecstasy - and dark secrets.  The kind you only reveal to your most cherished friends, people who are also mothers, preferably ones who have known you since you were also a kid.  Sometimes, it’s hard to confess some of motherhood’s realities to anyone. Even yourself.


The murky truths are not the type of sentiments we see popping up in fancy script on pink and yellow Mother’s Day cards - already crowding grocery store aisles although May 13 is still weeks away.  But perhaps we all would be better off acknowledging - perhaps even celebrating - motherhood’s complexity.


Here is one of the blackest secrets of all: all moms, even the best ones, need great stretches of time away from our children.


I stumbled upon this truth a few years ago, after a decade of gung-ho modern parenting of my three children.  Ten years of nonstop 6 am mornings, endless nights caressing sick children, helping with homework, finagling childcare.  A decade of poop, vomit, splinters, chicken tenders covered in ketchup, wet towels on the floor. Entire months of precious time frittered away in car line, waiting for strep test results at the pediatrician’s office, and holding the front door keys while one of my kids ran back inside for a forgotten essential item.


In the midst of a typical month of break-neck craziness, my high school English teacher asked me to cover his final exam with a pep talk about being a published writer.  My husband inadvertently scheduled our family vacation for the same week.


My first thought was to renege on the promise to my former teacher.  Family first, right? But then I realized I could go on the trip three days late and meet the obligations both to my family and a teacher who had practically saved my life when I was a teenager.  By accident, this meant I spent three days alone, in my own home, between the day the kids and DH left, and the day I had to join them.


For the first time in years, I had time to breathe.


After my three days alone, when I was supposed to be packing to join my family, I called a woman who has been one of my closest friends since I was 13.  She is the mother of two boys, both a few years’ younger than my kids.  Of course she couldn’t pick up, so I left a voicemail. My message said (in a whisper, as if I were afraid the Mommy Police would overhear):


“I’m not getting on that plane.  I cannot believe what it feels like to wake up when I want to.  To go to bed when I want to.  To eat dinner - what I want to eat - when I want to.  It’s not just that I need a few more days to myself.  I feel like I NEVER EVER want to see my kids or my husband again in this lifetime.”


My friend still has that message saved on her cell phone.  She listens to it in her own bleak moments. Because she too, sometimes feels she’s going to go crazy if she spends one more minute with her children.



I was reading this during a rare moment of quiet with my two kids (5 and 2) playing with each other in their room. I was quietly nodding agreement to everything. Before I reached the last sentence I heard a thump and a piercing scream. I headed towards my 2 y/o and picked her up to find her diaper had come undone on one side and her bum was wet with poop. Then end of the evening spent investigating exactly when the poop happened and where the diaper became undone. Time away, YES--SIGN ME UP!!


Amen to this, sister. I'm divorced, so I get the mini breaks. Often they are filled with catching up on the things I couldn't keep up with as a single parent. But they are breaks nonetheless from the constant, nagging NEEEEEED of children. And, it's nice to have a break from picking up after the spouse too! I've told many of my friends -- divorce is the best of both worlds. You have intensive time with your kids balanced by that precious time alone. I still have sick child, job and daycare juggles which stress me out, but I also have a village and am getting quite comfortable with using the villagers to make my life more manageable. Thanks for addressing this dark secret!


The past two summers my husband and older two girls have gone off for a week of 4-H camp (overnight camp). Since I still had to work, the youngest would go to stay with the grandparents (Camp Grandma) and I got to have Camp Mom. It was AWESOME! I still went to work but when I came home, the house was absolutely silent. I ate what and when I wanted, watched what I wanted, read when I wanted, or did absolutely nothing. I got to shower and go to the bathroom without guessing how long before someone started calling "mom". I was happy to see my family upon their return but I felt *NO* guilt over enjoying my week. And we got the house cleaned up before they all left like we do before vacation so I wouldn't have to deal with while they were gone.


I heard you speak on MN Public Radio today and I am so happy to hear women talking about this subject. I think women should get the choice to be paid to stay at home and care for their children (as well as receive healthcare benefits) or if the women chooses to work; Daycare must be available and affordable. Our society has evolved, but the reality of working women has lagged. There are women and men who excel with and truly enjoy children. Those people should have the choice to do what they do best and be compensated for it (someone has to provide for our children- and they are our future). There are also people who, although we LOVE our children, we excel at and truly enjoy an occupation. This would encourage people to do what they enjoy and excel at. In turn, this would mean better quality of life and better quality of care for our precious children!!

In regards to "Mother's Day," again, I feel so grateful to have read this blog. Now I know it is acceptable to feel the way you have described above. When my first child was 10 months old I made an executive decision to take a 5 day vacation with my sister. I pushed as much guilt out of my brain as I could and I enjoyed each and every relaxing moment of the trip!!! However, this was not the best part of the experience. When I returned home my son and his daddy were very happy to see me. We hugged and kissed and went on and on for a time. Then, as duty always calls, I began to unpack and my little guy snuggled into bed. As my honey and I relaxed in bed I looked at him and said, "he didn't even know I was gone, did he?" Brad smiled and said, "Nope." This experience has helped me overcome a lot of guilt associated with working and daycare. Next year we are planning a 10 day trip to Mexico. Max will be on vacation at Grandma's!!!