It’s Mother’s Day. What do you want?
It’s Mother’s Day. What do I want? Apparently I want cards, flowers, brunch and a pedicure. Also, my local supermarket is offering a discount on six cheap bottles of Chardonnay. Thank you. I’ll take them all. However, what I really want is this: a year, a week, or gosh — maybe just a day — of guilt free parenting.
How would that work? Hmmn, let’s look at how it works now.
The Current State of Motherhood
It’s 7.22 a.m. on any given Sunday. Poppy calls querulously from her crib. Even though it’s my morning off, my eyes flick open and I’m alert. Next to me, Walter continues to sleep. His eyes are sealed shut, his cheek nestles into the pillow, the duvet rises quietly with his breathe. Despite being on duty, he is asleep.
‘Walter!” I hiss at his peaceful face.
“Poppy’s awake. It’s your turn.”
“Hmmm.” He turns slowly away from me, winding the duvet with him. After a moment, a muffled and unhappy voice says: “How long do I have her for?”
I contemplate the domestic book of accounts. Yesterday, I rose at 6.43 a.m. which means that, at 7.22 am today, he’s already done less work than I have … then, I took her for the whole morning, fed her lunch and put her down for her nap at 12.35 p.m. … which means that …
“You have her till nap time, and you can’t put her down a minute before 1 p.m..” Walter rolls out of bed with a sigh.
“I have her the whole morning?” he says, falling slowly and miserably into his clothes, “what am I going to do with her?”
I pull the duvet over my head and affect not to care.
But it’s impossible to fall back asleep. Not only can I hear my husband and daughter having fun in the nursery, but my long list of domestic chores starts to make me twitch. There’s food to prepare, laundry to fold, emails to write and overdue thank you notes to get in the post. There’s hair to be washed, books to be read, paying work to get done and a dog to be fed. And speaking of dogs, there’s so much dog hair pooling in the corners of our home that I simply must get up now and vacuum the whole house.
But this is supposed to be my morning off …
Suddenly I feel cross and resentful.
Walter and Poppy emerge from the nursery and I instantly feel guilty for seething. My child is the cleverest, cutest, funniest (etc.) human being and my husband isn’t bad himself. Warmth embraces my cockles.
Then Walter says: “Can you watch her for 15 minutes while I [shower/answer an urgent email/undertake a domestic chore].”
No way! I’m outraged — this is supposed to be my morning off. Walter, the love of my life, looks crushed.
“Okay,” I relent, “but I get an extra 20 minutes this afternoon.”
I spent the rest of ‘my morning off’ cleaning the house and feeling guilty for chiseling my husband out of 20 minutes and trying to avoid being with my daughter (who is the cleverest, cutest and funniest child on earth).
The Ideal State of Motherhood
Now, I could write at length about the ideal state of motherhood but I suspect that you have vacuuming to do. So, I’ll just show you this cover from the New Yorker magazine and imagine what’s not in the picture.
What’s not shown are the mothers who, while kids & dad play happily in the park, are wrapped in duvets at home enjoying deep, innocent, guilt-free sleep. In the non-picture, their fridges are loaded with fresh veggies, the clothes are laundered and ironed, and the thank you notes were sent a month ago. All questions about the gendered division of labor within the home have been resolved with calm and big-hearted good sense. For these mothers, love, marriage and parenthood have been successfully negotiated. Everyone is calm. No-one dodges the people they love.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of my readers who ever had a mother.
Cheap glass of Chardonnay anyone?