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The Day Off

Cora’s been symptom-free for
twenty-four hours now, Glory Glory Hallelujah. And all my
rocking/cleaning-up time with Cora gave me an opportunity to think
about my day off on Saturday, and what I learned from it.

Basically, my beloved husband gave me Time Off for my birthday last
month – a stretch of time to be dictated by me, for purposes
to be chosen by me. His blank check (well, as blank as our finances
would allow) was one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever gotten.
The last time I’ve had more than a few hours to myself was
May of 2006, as a Mother’s Day gift. That time, I left Brian
with several bottles of pumped milk and an anxious 11-month-old
Maddie. I spent the day roaming around the city, reveling in my
freedom and falling back in love with New York.

This time, I chose to fit in a little bit
of everything: I went to an exhibit I’d been longing to see,
spent some time wandering and shopping, and took hours browsing at
a bookstore. I hit the museum with a girlfriend – a
girlfriend who is close enough to me that, when she said she might
wander and shop with me a while, completely understood when I said
I needed alone time. That’s a friend.

I hit the local mall – the nice one, not the one near the
house that’s one of our fall-back spots for rainy days. And I
luxuriated in the chance to simply wander from shop to shop, trying
things on when I wanted to, stopping for a drink when I desired,
gazing pensively at a window display as I thought about Christmas
lists. I felt amazingly free and light, and realized it’s
been quite some time since I’ve hit the mall without dragging
the diaper bag – replete with two water bottles, two sets of
four kinds of snacks, two silkys, two sets of diapers, the works
– and that I was physically lighter, not just emotionally.

I’d like to tell you that I began staring longingly at
toddlers as the day went on, and that I got teary-eyed when a baby
near me burst into tears. I’d like for you to think I’m
that kind of mom – misty-eyed at the thought of time without
her children. But I’m not. Oh, I got misty-eyed all
right– at the thought of the day coming to an end.

I actually feel guilty at how little I missed the girls. I mean, I
thought briefly about them throughout the day, wondering how meals
and naps were going. And I certainly never wished they’d go
permanently away or anything. But as I went to get my lunch in the
food court, I chortled with glee as I steered towards the salad
place and away from the lines of moms and tots at the Chick-Fil-A.
I sat eating my salad, sharing not one bite with a greedy
three-year-old who’d normally be sitting across the table
begging for “one more bite” and swearing she’d
leave Mommy’s salad alone after that, and watched other moms
struggle to find high chairs, to juggle multiple toddlers at once,
and all I thought was, “Man, I’m glad that’s not

Is this wrong of me? Am I missing some essential Mommy gene, that I
was so unrepentant at being out and about sans children? I hear all
these mommies say they miss their kids the minute they drop them
off at nursery school, and I get that, I do: it’s not just
dropping your child off for a few hours, but changing your way of
life. Your child’s life is now in the hands of a stranger,
and you realize you will be continually playing a less and less
important role in your child’s life from now on. But leaving
the girls to the comfort of their own routine, with Daddy and Gamma
all to themselves? Nope, no sadness there. I took my day –
nearly twelve glorious hours – and never once regretted,
never apologized.

There’s been fallout of course; there’s always a price
to pay. Not with Brian – he’s had nary a long-suffering
sigh or pointed “You have no IDEA what I went through on
Saturday”, or even an “You owe me BIG” come out
of his mouth. But both girls sensed a change, and their animal
instinct smells something off on Mommy and circles up proactively.

Maddie wants to know details: where did Mommy go? Why did she go
without Maddie? Why wouldn’t she want Maddie around? And of
course, I don’t supply those details, knowing she’s too
young to do anything but take it personally. Mommy was simply busy
all day, up until she came home. And ever since then,
Maddie’s been clingy, sensing her Mommy slipping out of her
orbit a little. She spent all Monday morning running stiflingly
boring errands with me, never once complaining about the bank or
post office or dry cleaner’s, simply choosing to be with me
over staying home and playing.

And Cora, of course, is all over the map. Her time away from me
drives her healthily towards Daddy and Gamma, while at the same
time rebounding into an even stronger jonesing for Mommy. She went
immediately into her stomach bug, of course, during which time she
was often surgically attached to my hip. And Monday she seemed
happy and confident, then cried inconsolably when Gamma put her
down for her nap.

It’s as if, every time I take time to myself, I lose a bit of
the girls’ trust. Their world is shaken – their
assumption that Mommy is Always There once again proven wrong.
Frightened, they try to recapture the world as they knew it before,
but it’s simply impossible. And I know it’s good to
make them realize I won’t always be there; it’s one of
my main jobs over the next dozen years or so. But I do hate seeing
that look of betrayal and confusion in their eyes.

Don’t get me wrong – give me another day off, and you
won’t even see me for breakfast I’ll be gone so fast. I
think it makes me a better mother, a more patient and attentive
one, when I get some breaks to breathe the air off the reservation.

I may make a break for it every once in a while, and revel in my
freedom, but I hope they know I’ll always come back.


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