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Mommy's Day Off

For Mother’s Day this year, my darling daughter gave me a day off.

On the back of a photo of her and my husband waving bye bye at the camera was written, “Mommy:  You deserve a day off.  I’ll watch Daddy.  He’ll be ok, I promise.”  So a couple Saturdays ago I had a whole day to myself for the first time in almost 12 months.

And it’s not that I even needed a lot of time to do something; it’s more that I needed time from being constantly “on”.  I’ve never been more than one nursing away from my daughter; for the past six months I’ve been planning her solid meals as well, and for the past three months that’s included dicing fruits and vegetables thrice daily, coming up with a variety of nutritious starches for each meal, and rotating a medley of healthy protein for her.  I spend half my day moving her towards or getting her up from a nap, arranging walks around crabby times and snack breaks, and in general always thinking three steps ahead.  

I’m away from the house regularly for work – I’m not saying I’m never separate from her.  But even when I’m out I’m on a short leash.  As soon as work is over I’m rushing home to nurse her and put her to sleep.  If I get to work 15 minutes early I run through Buy Buy Baby to buy the babyproofing gadget/sunhat/sippy cup we need and never have time to get.  When my mom watches her and we’re at a movie (twice so far in the past twelve months), it’s racing home in time for lunch/snack/not imposing too much on mom.

My life revolves around her.

So for one brief day, the world stopped turning, and I walked away.

I got up with her in the morning, got dressed, and hit the city with only a vague set of plans.  I left behind a daughter delirious at getting Daddy all day and twenty pages of notes entitled “Tips To Make Your Day Easier”.  I had planned all three of her meals, done the prepwork, pumped the milk, and picked out her playclothes.  I left instructions on segues into naps, suggestions for where to go for walks, the best time of day to run errands, and more.  Brian’s a pro with her, but doesn’t know her day schedule, so I know he was nervous; but he sent me off with a confident smile.

My dream for the day: get a massage.  Shop.  Walk around with nowhere to be.  Browse the bookstore.  Sample perfumes.  Stroll through the greenmarket.  Try the cute new bakery on the Upper West Side.  And baby, I did it all.  My one rule: no errands for other people.

For nine hours I ping-ponged all over Manhattan, giddy with joy at how easy it was to get around unencumbered by a stroller and diaper bag and a baby that needs constant cajoling.  I could change my plans in an instant, stay longer in a store if I wanted, wait in a long line to try clothes on and not worry about missing a feeding: the world was my oyster!

Did I discover that being off on my own wasn’t all I thought it would be?  Did I spend all my time pining for my daughter?

Nope.  It was everything I thought it would be.  Awesome.

I had a brief glimpse of what life will be like in a few years, when she’s in school and my time becomes a bit more my own.  I felt like I had room to breathe, to think about myself for a change, to luxuriate in a croissant for 45 minutes if I wanted.

And while I was enjoying the freedom, I did find that being a mommy now colors every facet of my being.

Though I was amazed at how quickly I fell out of synch with Maddie’s schedule – I’d look at my watch and it’d take me a couple seconds to remember what she’d be doing at that time – I was unable to open a bottle of water without automatically unwrapping a straw and putting it in the bottle for her to share with me.  When I saw a mommy walking down the street with a new piece of gear I’ve been interested in reviewing here, I stopped her and chatted for a few minutes about it.  When I got a table in a café I’d pick it based on the one having the most space around it for parking a stroller.

Apparently, you can take the day off, but not turn off the instincts.

In the end, I did some family shopping – clothing for my husband, and a new book for Madeleine. I spent a lovely hour browsing new books and choosing which ones to buy.  And it was in the bookstore that I knew it was time to go home.

Standing in front of the new releases, I caught sight of a fiction cover with a photograph of a woman standing, a toddler girl hugging the mother’s legs.  And I was hit with such a fierce wave of longing for my daughter I almost had to lie down.  My body missed her hovering on the perimeters, the constancy of her touch, the shockingly easy intimacy I have with her.

I paid for my books and hopped in a cab.

Back at home, my daughter waved cheerily but not particularly enthusiastically from her dinner chair while my husband fed her.  Brian was startled to see me a full two hours before her bedtime, and I breezily explained I was simply tired from walking so much.  And that was true.  But I also needed to be back with my family.

I’ll nourish myself through a lot of long, hot summer days with the memories of that day off.  A little mental break goes a long way, and I know I’m a better mommy for having such a big stretch of time away.

But I also know now what I’m missing when I’m out, and I am glad to be back.



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