Friday, March 1, 2024

This Mother’s Day, Leave Me Alone Please: One Mother’s Relatable Plea

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What do we want for Mother’s Day? Sometimes, time off is more precious than flowers – or is it?

Mother’s Day is approaching (what? did the last year gobble itself?) and here’s what I’d like: a day off. As in, a day off from being a mother (and a wife, for that matter). Nothing personal, except that this is my annual leave day from mum duty. My day pass, if you like.

I’d like my Mother’s Day gift to be an experience. An experience that sees my husband, Michael, do all the parenting of our seven-year-old and all the household chores.

When it comes to receiving gifts, I’m not much of an ‘actual object’ kind of girl, more of ‘an experience’ kind of girl (never, ever make that skydiving) – and I’d like my Mother’s Day gift to be an experience. An experience that sees my husband, Michael, do all the parenting of our seven-year-old and all the household chores.

In this wonderful alternate world, I’ll accept a cup of tea, and breakfast in bed (pancakes with plenty of maple syrup, please), and may stay there for a couple of hours reading a book from my towering, neglected bedside-table pile. Later, should I decide to get dressed, I’ll hang out with my sister and have a glass of vino. If there’s a spot free, I’ll get a massage. To finish, I’ll watch the latest episode of Outlander (because, well, Jamie Fraser).

Most importantly I want to do Absolutely No meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking or dishes. I spend way too much of my life on this, in a tiny kitchen – having to make two separate dinners because of food intolerances and preferences. And sorry, My Food Bag, but your recipes take twice as long as you say they will.

Lured partly by the large kitchen and the need to only make one dinner, I stayed at my mum’s and stepfather’s Northland farm for a fortnight recently – by far the longest time I’d been away from my son – and my stepfather wondered, verbally, if Michael was coping without me. “Er, yes”, I replied.

I may also have said something along the lines of, “well, I carried a baby in my friggin womb for nine months, experiencing insomnia, extreme nausea and, after that, weight gain, then a painful birth, then largely unsuccessful breastfeeding, breast-milk pumping, and ongoing sleep deprivation, plus I was the primary caregiver. So, yes, Michael can cope with school drop-off and pick-up, and cooking dinner, for a couple of weeks”. My stepfather nodded and carefully backed out of the room.

How do other women want to spend Mother’s Day? I’ve done a deeply unscientific poll among women from the fantastic Facebook groups Feminist Mothers Aotearoa, and Brilliant+Amazing+Writers+Mothers. I asked this not-at-all-leading question: “For Mother’s Day, would you want a) the traditional gift (flowers or other) and a day of family time? Or would you prefer (like me) b) a ‘day off’ from parenting to do everything you want to (like a sleep-in or massage or glass of wine with a friend) and nothing you don’t want to (housework, meal planning, cooking etc)?”

The results are in. Fourteen women chose A, and 28 women chose B. Emma: “B without a doubt. That would be all my dreams come true.”  Tania: “B, plus someone else does all the stuff I usually do so I don’t have a backlog the next day!” Jessica: “B. It’s not even close. I have no interest in flowers – it’s just another thing I have to look after.” Another woman books herself into a hotel for the night.

While I didn’t offer a ‘half-and-half category’, 12 women commented that they want some sort of mix of the two options – with some saying they’ve swung back and forth over the years. Sam: “If you combine the two [categories], with a sensory-deprivation float tank as the gift, it can make the ultimate ‘nobody talk to me, nobody look at me, nobody ask me anything’ experience’.” Lou: “I like flowers, dinner out somewhere, and my car cleaned. If the first two can’t happen, then my car being cleaned can and so that’s my non-negotiable.” Fair. Simone jokes that she’s choosing her own category of ‘C for Cleaning’. “My family cleans the house while I watch.” Also fair.

So it’s the ‘Bs’ (28) for the win over the ‘As’ (14) and the half-and-halfs (12).

However, several women from the ‘A camp’ mentioned something along these lines: that, when your kids get older (particularly when they’re teenagers), you’ll want to hang out with them more than vice versa, and you should drink up every moment before they’re totally embarrassed by you.  Actually, my son shied away from holding my hand in public this week for the first time – and he always makes me the cutest Mother’s Day cards. OK, fine then, I’ve officially turned: from a B to an A. Well, maybe half and half.                                                                                                                           

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