The first time The Mister took our daughter to visit my in-laws in Virginia, I opted to stay home. I kissed and hugged them, and after waving as the train disappeared into the tunnel, called my mom sobbing that they were gone. When The Boy weaned and was able to make the six-hour trip, I repeated my crying again. I felt guilty at the relief of having a weekend all to myself. When I once complained about my husband’s lack of help with the kids, a “well-meaning” person told me that staying at home was nothing compared to my husband’s workday. I labored under the delusion that being a stay at home mom was less work than my husband’s nine to five. To this day I still fight feelings of guilt that family free weekends are selfish, and my desire to stay home during the kids’ formative years was lazy and undeserving of time alone.
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. My social media streams filled with platitudes of love for mom, with retailers cramming advertisements about hot things mom would love into email, pop ups, and web banners. It was a conflicting week. On one hand, I loved looking at the celebrations of moms and the memories of my friends. But I also had the same anxiety I get when the last of the turkey is strategically placed in the fridge and every other commercial hints at the gift that will be a hit plays incessantly on the TV. It’s too much.
“Summer is awful! There’s so much pressure to enjoy yourself. It’s like New Year’s Eve for kids.” Gene Belcher, Bob’s Burgers
If summer is New Year’s Eve for kids, then Mother’s Day is the mom equivalent. When the kids were younger and brought home gifts they created in daycare, I loved the day. We would go to church, lunch, then visit each of our families, make the requisite phone calls and head home by seven at the latest. Now Mother’s Day is a chore. I can’t wish this one Happy Mother’s Day first less a feeling is hurt. I have to word my social media post just right so I show the correct amount of love and gratitude about being a daughter and being a mom. Church becomes a jostling match, trying to fit into an over stuffed pew with the rest of the occasional church goers sitting bored through a bloated sermon about a mother’s love. Gifts are appreciated, but never as sweet and touching as the photocopied mother’s love poem with fat hand prints memorialized in pink paint. I don’t even know where to start with the eating out part. If the entire family makes plans to eat out, someone (me) usually leaves pissed because of the dust-up during casual conversations. If we time it wrong, the family is waiting for up to an hour to eat a tepid meal served by surly wait staff.
Monday after Mother’s Day, takes a new narrative. Social media fills with memes about the mess that is left from the day before, half-joking post make the rounds about wishes to celebrate the day FOR mom with rest.
Why does a day designed to celebrate the role of mothers have to be so exhausting?
For years I have been backing away from the big celebrations. I didn’t even call my family, just a generic text message. I didn’t want the hassle. I wanted to be alone. I wanted this to be the one Sunday where I wasn’t lugging baskets of clothing to the 24 hour laundry; stomping through the supermarket, resisting the prepared meals and choosing healthier options; wrestling with clutter in the bedroom. This Sunday, this day of me, I choose to spend binge watching six advance episodes of Orange is the New Black, working in my garden, and taking silly pictures with the kids. It was glorious.
Tonight The Mister and The Boy bundled into the car to visit the in-laws for the weekend. Even though The Boy is known for packing two socks and one pair of underwear, I didn’t pack for him or bother to check his bags. He’s old enough to know what he needs for a weekend away plus there are Targets all over Virginia if he didn’t pack properly. I walked them to the car, ending my farewell prematurely when I saw a former student driving past the house.
I won’t waste time wishing I knew better than to feel selfish for having some peace every few months. I also am okay with my decision to skip the stress of visiting my in-laws. I know how foolish it was to cry when my children left. They didn’t love me any less. In fact, they came home excited to see me and talk about the family they met on the other side. Relishing time alone and enjoying sleeping in late, making meals people would not eat, finishing a novel in a weekend, or watching TV shows that don’t revolve around lessons of kindness with dinosaurs or talking trains, doesn’t make me selfish. It makes me human.
Tonight I’m enjoying the quiet of being home alone.