When I turn my calendar from April to May, there’s always that one Sunday that stands out from all the rest, that one weekend day that’s branded with fine print declaring: Mother’s Day. It’s a holiday that demands my attention. Because I know if I ignore it or forget it, I will never hear the end of it from my own mother, and from other mother figures I’ve come to honor over the years.
And now that I’m a mother myself, I sort of get it. There comes a time, one measly day out of 365, when you, as someone who has nurtured a child into an adult, feel entitled to have your offspring shower you with tokens of appreciation—brunch at a pricey restaurant, a framed photo of them or one of their pieces of “art,” an afternoon at a rose-wallpapered teahouse, a handmade card.
And that’s all fine and good. But I’ve been thinking about what I’d really like for Mother’s Day, and it doesn’t involve silver teaspoons or craft paper. It actually doesn’t involve my own mother or my children. In fact, it involves only me.
At times I feel so overwhelmed by all my duties as the mother of a toddler (and with one halfway out of my uterus) that I just need a break. And when I discover another mama struggling with parenting, I want—no, yearn—to give her the gift of a break. And sometimes when I see my own mother, I think, “How did you do it with four kids—two being twins—and not take a break? Aren’t you tired? Can I give you a break now?”
To me, every day is Mother’s Day: we are responsible for feeding our children nutritional meals and shuttling them to school and activities, we teach them and keep them out of harm’s way, we kiss scraped knees and discipline ugly behavior, we explain things over and over and tickle them till they give in, we hold them when they are sick and work long hours to pay for their shoes. So when my calendar tells me it’s time to celebrate mothers, I say, “Great! A day off!”
The old adage “A happy mom is a happy family” is so right on. And a break from family to do something just for yourself and all by yourself will recharge your cerebral cortex like just about nothing else. So join me in making this Mother’s Day extra-special for you or a mother you know by giving the gift of Time for Herself. Here are some ways to do it:
A Magazine Subscription
This may sound quaint, and in today’s digital world, it probably is, but there’s truly something special about finding a glossy in your mailbox that you can drop in a tote and take with you to your comfy patio chair, the doctor’s office, your work desk, a park bench, or your bed. Give someone a gift subscription (or hint to your husband or kids that you want one for yourself) to a magazine that covers a subject that seems indulgent, whether it be celebrity gossip, cooking or crafting, travel, or literature—there’s a huge variety. For the price, this is one of the least expensive ways for a mama to enjoy time for herself—whenever, wherever. You can even make the time more special by adding her drink of choice (wine, herbal tea, margarita mix), some dark chocolate, and earplugs (to drown out the kids in the other room) to accompany her reading escape.
She doesn’t have to be alone to have time for herself. Give a mom the gift of an education. Check community centers, city colleges, and flyers at local coffeehouses for interesting classes that she (or you!) would appreciate. I’ve discovered that mamas are so busy teaching their children that they forget how much they themselves love to learn. So enroll yourself or a mom you love in a class. Think creatively: ballroom dance, a foreign language, a musical instrument, wine tasting, Pilates, composting, memoir writing, digital photography … the list goes on. Mama’s brain may be overloaded with laundry and packed lunches, but there’s always room for something creative, unexpected, and fun.
An Overnight Trip
Los Angeles resident Jill Brenek, mother of two, suggests taking a whole twenty-four hours off. Book a stay in a nice hotel (spa amenities a plus) not too far from home, bring a novel, watch bad TV, order room service, take a really long bath, and sleep in. What could be more perfect? And if your spouse gives you puppy eyes about leaving, invite him or her—and even the kids—to join you the next day and/or night. Book two nights near an amusement park and have the first night to yourself, and the second night and day the kids will have so much fun on the roller coasters that they’ll forgive your absence.
A Date … with Herself
C’mon, you can do it. Imagine what your perfect day out would be with a certain loved one, and then just do it alone. The gift of babysitting is key here; then the mother is free to enjoy her own uninterrupted company. Working mother Jamie Gorman describes her ideal “date” as going to a museum, preceded or followed by breakfast or lunch, on her own. “It’s so peaceful and rejuvenating,” she says. “It invites a contemplative state of mind.” Who can argue with a Mother’s Day present like that?
Whether you’re shopping for gift ideas for your own mother or a mom friend, or collecting hints to drop to your spouse and kids, the key is to be creative and think outside the box. For mothers, indulging in time alone can mean anything from a full day at a meditative retreat to five minutes of “tiara time.” (In her book Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets, Lisa Quinn describes the donning of her beloved tiara as “[v]ery much like a Do Not Disturb sign, it alerts my kids that Mommy is not listening to any fighting or tattling during this period, and my husband understands that he is in charge until the crown comes off.” She wears it whenever, wherever a break for herself is essential. Try it!) And last but not least, do not feel guilty about taking this time for yourself. If you do, well, then your kids have won. And who wants that when they win the other 364 days of the year?