This past weekend was mothers day. I feel like mothers day has become a hallowed day of reverence towards mothers that no other minor holiday achieves. Even fathers day barely registers as anything more than a good day to shop at Lowe’s. But mother’s take up a difference space in our personal and national agendas. Mom gave us life. Mom kissed our owies and gave us baths. Mom cleaned our rooms and our homes. Mom cooked dinner and did our laundry. Mom took care of the pets we got bored of. Mom held us at 2am when we were scared or sick. Mom got angry when we got bullied and cried with us when we got dumped by our first girlfriend. Mom is undeniably important. (I love you mom). So it surprised our friends when I told them my mothers day gift to my wife was not flowers, breakfast in bed, and handmade cards from the boys. No, it was to take her kids away from her for the day.
No one will deny that the vast majority of moms don’t get the credit they deserve. Whether they are a stay at home mom juggling household duties with running kids around to practice, or a working mom trying to squeeze in a job along with the other stuff, moms are also typically running on empty by the time they get to sit down at the end of the day. (note: if you’re a stay at home mom, don’t read too much into that last sentence. You work just as hard, just differently than mothers with paying jobs). So when it came time to figure out what to do for my wife, giving her a break from all of her male children (including myself) was a no brainer. I got up early, got the boys ready and headed to visit my mom for the day, leaving my wife to do as she pleased. Of course by the time I got out she had already started the laundry and been grocery shopping, but that also meant her schedule was clear. When we got back and took her to dinner that evening, she told us how great her day was doing exactly what she wanted to without anyone elses input or interruption. It was a perfect day.
But there’s a group of people out there who think that story is incredibly horrible and sad. One of my wife’s co-workers was appalled that she didn’t spend the day with her boys. (her co-worker also doesn’t have kids by the way). No matter what explanation she gave, her co-worker didn’t get it. The same thing happened to model Rachel Finch this week as she shared that she sends her kid away every weekend to get a break from them. Apparently the full-time mom and model sends her two year old daughter to spend Saturdays with grandma so she can get some down time. As usual, social media exploded with infuriated people condemning this act of parental neglect. They couldn’t believe that a parent would be so calloused as to not want to spend every moment with their child. But is that really such a good thing?
I’ve seen parents so burned out with their kids that the kids are borderline neglected. There’s no relationship anymore as the kids and parents basically co-exist in the same household with the adults functioning more as living chaperons keeping the kids from killing themselves. The parents are exhausted and the kids are in their own worlds with friends, toys, or electronics. I’ve been there myself. The stress and worry of work eating away at me to the point I didn’t want to come home. I couldn’t handle what the family expected of me on top of what was already eating away at me. I just needed some space. I turned out to be not so great a parent as I snapped at my kids and did what I could to find “me time”. I wasn’t happy with myself or proud of my parenting, but I didn’t know what else to do.
So taking weekends off sounds like a fantastic idea to me. It’s not like the kids were going to foster care for the weekend either. It’s grandma. Growing up not really knowing or connecting with my own grandparents, making sure my kids have a strong relationship with my parents is extremely important for me. The best mothers day gift I can give my mom is time with her grandkids. And who is going to spoil them better than grandma anyway?
I have friends who have intentionally moved closer to family so that they have the additional support. They can drop the kids off with the grandparents any time and get a much needed date night and time away. However, for most of the world that’s not an option. If you don’t live near family, have a close network of friends, or the disposable income to pay for a sitter, time away from the kids to catch your breath isn’t possible. You take any moment you can. Sleepover at a friends? Can both kids go? Summer Camp? Do we get a discount if we send them for more than one week? I know there are plenty of parents out there who agree.
Now none of this is to disparage having kids. No parent who agrees they need more time away from kids would in any way trade those kids in or give up parenting. Our world revolves around our boys and our family. And it saddens us every day as we realize how fast they’re growing up and how much less they need us already. But in a world self-absorbed in it’s own personal fulfillment, I don’t understand how people are outraged over parents wanting, needing, and deserving a break from their kids. Think about it this way, even if you worked in your dream job with the worlds greatest boss and co-workers, would you want to go to work 365 days a year with no vacations?