This past week Scott asked me what I wanted for my first Mother’s Day: brunch, a spa day, and a card “signed” by Alzette were some of the typical gifts we discussed. I knew I didn’t want to go to brunch. I’m a fan of brunch on Mother’s Day as much as I am of dinner on Valentine’s Day: I’d rather skip the crowded tables and overworked staff and go out some other time. As for a spa day or some other type of “day off,” this appealed to me. But I didn’t really want to get away from Alzette and the family. I wanted mothering to be part of my celebration of being a mother!
I realized what I wanted was what everyone wants: more time. I thought about the concept of a “break” from mothering for Mother’s Day and why everyone seems to desire it. I don’t usually long for time away from Alzette. Sure, I appreciate being able to go on a walk by myself, and certainly the idea of not holding a baby all day and having my arms and mind free is great. But simply being around Alzette doesn’t cause me stress. One of the reasons I quit my job is because I love spending time with her. I consider her to be a model human being: she is kind, she holds no prejudices, she can learn languages better than I can, she lives in the moment, and she finds absolute joy in making cool sounds or looking at a piece of sunshine on the floor or in waving around a washcloth. Being with Alzette is not stressful. Taking care of her isn’t either. Cooking for her, changing her diaper, snuggling her when she needs love – none of these activities are stressful in and of themselves. What I couldn’t get, while I thought about these things, was why I still feel stress on a daily basis.
Then it hit me: time! It affects everything I do. Why, when she wakes up early from a nap, do I get frustrated when she has trouble staying asleep again? If she doesn’t want to sleep she doesn’t want to sleep, who cares? It’s because I’m trying to get things done while she’s napping. Why do I get annoyed when she wants to crawl around the floor and play with her blocks with me? That’s a nice thing, but I just got done spending 45 minutes feeding her and dancing with her and now I’m trying to finish cleaning the kitchen.
Then I realized this is the source of everyone’s stress. When I was at my previous job, people I met would always get excited when I described what I did: “Wow! That seems awesome!” “A dream job!” they would say. Yeeesss, I would say hesitatingly. My job was awesome, I got to do so many cool things. But I was constantly stressed out. Why? The work itself was so engaging, even fun! But looking back, it was rare that I ever felt I had enough time to do it. I was met with new assignments, priorities, and deadlines almost daily. This is typical of so many office environments. If I had more ambition, I would develop some sort of office management model based on the concept of indefinite time, market it to businesses, and start a consulting firm. The idea would be re-structuring the work place so that no one ever had any deadlines, and people operated under the idea that they had an indefinite amount of time to work on their projects. But I hardly want to add that brainchild to my daily list of activities.
So this Mother’s Day I’m not doing anything particularly special. Or maybe I am. I’m doing what I want, with no time limits. If the baby cries, Scott’s picking her up. If I’m in the middle of writing or making a meal, I don’t have to stop. And the things on my list get priority. (What I’m really getting for Mother’s Day is a more relaxed week ahead – which is a good thing since the weather is going to be fantastic.) I’m doing laundry faster than I’ve been able to in weeks. Yes, I’m doing laundry on Mother’s Day. But I bet I’m not alone. Part of mothering is finding pleasure in the simple things: a long shower, a good book, an empty hamper. And later today, we’re all going to Michael’s for a sundae (Mom’s get one free today). Because really what’s better than the gift of time, and frozen custard?