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Challenge: Reflecting on a Year of Pandemic Parenting

I love you all so much. Now, please, leave me alone.

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For Mother’s Day this year, I have a request. Sure, I’ll take a card and flowers, maybe even a macaroni necklace. But before the mental load is placed on me to decide how I want to spend the day, or where I want to be taken for dinner, let me make it easy. Here’s what I want for Mother’s Day: I would like just a single day of alone time.

I am 46. I work full time and have a few side gigs. In my house with me lives my 2 ½ year old son, husband, a couple of dogs, my parents and an apex predator goldfish who recently Jeffrey Dahmered six of its siblings. My husband and I, like so many, haven’t seen the inside of our offices in 13 months. My make shift office at home used to be a section of my bedroom designated for work. It has slowly morphed into an office with a section designated for sleep. I haven’t gained the Covid-19. I rounded it up to 20 instead for good measure.

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I’m currently wearing old maternity stretch pants while I write this because nothing else fits. Including my wedding rings. Having a baby at almost 44 has me simultaneously riding the waves of both toddlerhood and perimenopause, and let me tell ya – they go together like oil and water. I’m pretty sure I could use a higher dose of my anti-anxiety meds prescribed to me following my son’s birth, because, well, see previous sentence. Speaking of him, he’s been gone from school all week with the croup that has turned into a sinus infection that has turned into a head cold. He has no idea why he’s not at school though and doesn’t care. He’s having way too much fun climbing daddy like a tree while he’s on a conference call, and eating dog kibble right out of the bin because, as he says, “mmm, it’s so tasty.” At least its high-quality dog food, and probably better than the crap he’s actually willing to eat lately.

I love my people SO MUCH, but please, for the love of God, Mama needs a little tiny break.

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What I want isn’t new. I’m not reinventing the wheel. Moms have been taking ‘mom trips’ for years, gathering their own mothers or girlfriends together for a good time somewhere else: a beach, a winery, a cabin on a lake or a spa. Trading yoga pants, eye patches and “more coffee” emblazoned mugs for their old fancy heels, make up and big-ass glasses of wine. All of a sudden, Instagram is fired up with group photos from the #kidsfree #girlstrip with shots, karaoke, facials and more wine in the hot tub. But let’s be honest: everyone is still in bed at a reasonable time.

That sounds fun, but it’s not exactly what I want. For 24 hours, I want to be left alone. I want to check into a hotel room and face plant onto the bed. I want to sleep in, order my own damn room service, watch Bravo and Hallmark channels, take a long skin peeling hot bubble bath and not be texted, touched or asked any questions. Not a single one. Is that too much to ask? If it makes my absence feel better, I’ll wear the macaroni necklace the whole time. Even in the tub.

Why do I and so many others need this? Well, for starters, a 2019 study of parenthood in four wealthy countries found that U.S. mothers have it the worst. And that study concluded BEFORE the Covid-19 pandemic started and things got really bad.

Women are drowning in stress, juggling a lot of balls in the air at any one time, trying to figure out which balls are rubber, capable of bouncing back if dropped, and which ones are glass. Between February and December 31, 2020, nearly 3 million women left the workforce due to the pandemic. The rubber vs glass balls analogy indicates that the career ball is rubber and will bounce back. But the pandemic rages on, so only time will tell if it was glass after all.

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Do you fantasize about disappearing for a few hours or a night? Then do it. Whether that means a night at the Ritz Carlton, the Motel 6 or on the couch of your best friend with no kids. Now’s the time to pull together those hotel and credit card points and convert them into a free night somewhere. Cash in on those favors people owe you and ask one of them to babysit. Those friends who have said throughout the years, “Let me know how I can help,” well, now they can! Send the kids to their house and unplug at your own, if not for a night, then a few hours.

My girlfriend Laura Washburn of Crownsville, MD has done this for herself a couple of times. “About once every six months, I check myself into a hotel alone for the night. Preferably one with a water view and room service,” she said. “I'm immensely grateful for my life, my loved ones and my career but as a professional, mom, stepmom, wife, daughter, aunt, sister, friend and household manager, someone always needs something from me. In those 24 hours, I'm just me again. Being responsible only for myself is freeing.”

For Mother’s Day this year, another friend has asked for what she calls: "Live like my husband day," where she can “enjoy my kid when I want to, and then just walk away at will and not be responsible for any of her care.”

There’s a reason why airlines tell you that in an emergency situation, fasten your oxygen mask before you help others fasten theirs. We are no good to anyone if we ourselves are out of gas. Dads and partners: are you reading this? Help a mom out. Help her take care of herself, so she can get back to taking care of everyone else. In the end, everyone will benefit from this gift.

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