The Good Gifts for Mother's Day
My partner asked today what I'd like for Mother's Day. My daughter is nearly two. I do not want a coffee mug. I do not want to go to brunch. I do not want obligatory items, if they feel obligatorily given. I want time, spaciousness, indulgence, movement, presence, and joy. I want to feel seen, even when we are so, so tired and the perpetual-ness of parenting is wearing us thin. So here's the handy wish list I made for my love, who I know wants me to feel all of those things. I don't want him to have to guess or feel trapped or feel like strategic planning is involved. I want to make it easy for him to give to me, with the same ease I want to feel in giving to my daughter. (And that ease in giving becomes easier still when my well is full.) If your partner or family or friends want to make you feel special on this day, gently offer up my little primer with any addition, edit, or addendum of your own.
The Gift of Time Alone
Please, take the child / children / children and pets and leave the house. Take everyone but me to something that lasts a minimum of 2 hours (if the baby is still a little-little) or longer, if possible. Tell me the exact time you will return home, and barring an emergency, do not return home before then. (Forgot the diaper bag? Go buy diapers. Hungry kids? Feed them anything you want. Fries for days.) Do not ask me to do anything for our family in the time you are gone. And do not ask what I plan to do, lest I feel like I must fulfill some list. (I will probably take a long shower and use special conditioner that takes 10 minutes to process, then pretend to nap but instead stare at my phone or read trite, brain-rotting magazines, and then eat crackers while standing at the counter, listening to nothing, nothing, nothing but the sound of each crunch.) It's my time. It's my Mother's Day time alone to remember that I am a person first and a mother after that. Come to me Mother's Day morning with a date circled on the calendar. Say, "I'm really excited about getting this time alone with the kids!" and smile, smile, smile. Together let's rejoice about my future freedom.
Barring leaving the house, please let me leave for several hours without any of my responsibilities (read: babies) in tow. If it's in our budget, I'd like to go to a Restorative Yoga class or a Gentle Yoga class or a Postnatal Reset Yoga class (Whole Mama Yoga's next one in Raleigh is May 12 and our next one in Carrboro is June 9!) or even get a massage or have an afternoon at a spa. (In the NC Triangle area, Hillsborough Spa and Day Retreat is a great option.) If we're in savings mode or watching our cash flow, I'd simply like to leave the house alone without any errands to run and just wander aimlessly [in Target, at a park, in a coffee shop, through an art museum: insert bliss.] This one, too, needs to be scheduled to work: the real joy is knowing for certain that this is going to happen. I get to look forward to it, plan the special space for myself. That date is my real Mother's Day.
The Gift of Indulgence
There is some little indulgence I love. Maybe a pricier wine or freshly ground local coffee or a small-batch chocolate bar. Maybe that funky cheese you hate. Maybe an embarrassingly processed junk food that I can't bear to put in the grocery cart. Go. Go to the grocery store or the fancy store and buy this thing for me. You do not need to wrap it. You don't need to buy a card. Bring this gift to me with love and affection. Say, "I notice you, and I see how much and relentlessly you give, and I remember you love this one small thing: so here. Here it is. Enjoy it." I will probably cry.
The Gift of A Mini-Break
There is one particular parenting chore I don't like. I do it. Routinely. I do it nearly always. But it's not my favorite. I sometimes rush through it. I sometimes get a little grouchy doing it after a long day. Maybe it's bath time or meal planning or morning wake up. Maybe it's cooking dinner or cleaning up after dinner. Maybe it's bottle cleaning or breast pump equipment cleaning or lunch packing. Maybe it's waking up at night to comfort or feed the baby. Whatever it is, do it for me for three days in a row next week. Just three. And say this to me every day that you do it, "Hey, I'm going to give the kids a bath again tonight to celebrate Mother's Day. Thanks for all you do. What can you do for the next 20 minutes for yourself while I do this?" When I try to talk you out of it or say "no, it's OK. I can do it tonight," shoo me away and tell me that you actually don't mind this chore. Tell me, in fact, that it's one of your favorite chores to do. If this is a lie, know that I will know, but I will be OK with your lie. Lie as needed.
The Gift of Time Together
Some of the things we do as a family turn out phenomenally. We all have great fun. The drive isn't too long. The packing is minimal. The chaos is functional. The stress stays low, and there's easy laughter. Let's do that thing. Maybe a hike. Maybe a museum visit. Maybe a backyard picnic. Maybe a family yoga class, where we all go together. Let's do that thing and put our phones away and be together. Let's do something low-stress and fun, simple and silly, and let's do it soon. If possible, let's do it on Mother's Day. If not, please plan it and prioritize it and make it happen. It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated or unique. It can be something we've done and enjoyed many times before. It does not have to be all-consuming or perfect. Just pick something we like to do together and let's get excited about doing it together. In parenting, the days are long, but the years are short. There are never enough happy memories. Let's make more.
Any Gift At All
This Mother's Day, celebrate me in a way that you know will be meaningful to me. If I like flowers, buy those. If I like long conversations, find the space and time so we can have one. If my favorite thing is touch, let's cuddle, but with a celebratory intention. Give me something (material or intangible) that honors the deep giving that I offer up (probably without fanfare or much complaint) daily, daily, daily.
The good gift (the best gift!) for Mother's Day is the one that genuinely sees and honors that perpetual giving.