Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Are We Allowed a Break?

It's genuinely not my intention to call anyone out or shame them, but the truth is, there was a comment on my last post that I can't stop thinking about:

"I'm reminded somehow of a lady I knew that took vacation from work but continued to drop her child off at daycare at the usual time every morning the entire week. He knew she was on vacation - he was only a toddler but he knew his mother was going to be hanging out without him. I think the attitude or message probably made him feel less valued and I have wondered how that turned out."

My thoughts are:

1) That is one smart toddler if he really understood that.

2) Are we really not allowed to take a week off all to ourselves once we have kids?

3) Is taking short periods of time to ourselves something we should worry will scar our kids for life?

4) If we do take that week to ourselves, should we expect that all other mothers are judging us for it?

Food for thought.

24 comments:

  1. It's just another extension of the mommy wars. The tendency in parenting nowadays where a mother is seen (by some) as less of a mother if she isn't also a martyr. IMO, it's not healthy for kids or moms. We don't stop being people when we become moms. We still need downtime and rest and our own interests. Not every waking minute of our lives that doesn't result in income needs to be dedicated 100% to our children. A happy, well-rested mom is a very good thing.

    That comment is just a different form of the SAHM/WOHM 'debate' that comes up from time to time. Yes, I think we can expect other moms will judge us for it, since some undoubtedly will, but I think it's an awfully dumb thing to judge another mom over. Everyone needs a break now and then, even moms. I am very much looking forward to my week off in February, myself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Fizzy, I thought the exact same thing you did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not to mention, maybe the mom had to do errands on her 1 week of vacation. Ever try to, I don't know, go to the DMV with a toddler? Not easy or fun for anyone, including the toddler.

      (This is not to imply that alone fun time is not ok for mom to take also.)

      Delete
    2. Yes, I was put off by the comment, too. And was going to say the same thing about errands/house projects/life stuff. I haven't taken a whole week off but I've definitely taken days off here and there and go cut my hair cut, eyebrows waxed, run some errands, and then relax the rest of the day. My kids didn't suspect a thing (but if they knew, who cares, they should learn that we all need a break now and again)

      Delete
  3. Parenting is hard enough without worrying what other moms think of our choices. Notice that we don't have to defend our actions to the dads.

    My daughters (5 and 12) know that I take a yearly week away from them for a medical conference or a retreat (Board Exam next year). They see that I come back healthier and calmer, having used my down time during the conference to exercise, eat gourmet/spicy/exotic foods, enjoy some grown up conversation with new acquaintances and overall just nurture myself.

    ReplyDelete
  4. LOL. I'm doing that right now. I have today off, but I still dropped my child off at daycare. I pay for her by the month, not the day, so it'd be a waste not to. So far this morning I've ran errands, but now I'm going to sit down, take a blessed nap, and then clean the house (when she's not following behind me making more) this afternoon.

    I actually think it's more disruptive to mess up her routine and keep her home. You have to remember small children are mainly creatures of habits, messing with their schedule is asking for trouble. Plus she actually enjoys the time at daycare playing with her friends.

    Moms are certainly allowed breaks! This mom is a much better mom when she takes a break once in a while. You have to feel up your own bucket before you can pour anything into your children.

    Twice a year my mom would travel to Mesquite with a few of her friends for a few days and splurge on herself. I promise you I am not emotionally scarred by this. I never felt any resentment towards my mother for that, or any other time when she took some time for herself.

    Of course some other mother is judging you. She is probably going for the 100% martyr route of motherhood, is feeling worn down, and saying that her kids will be better off for her martyrdom is the justification she has to cling to in order to get her through that. Mother's are already judging me, with no reservation about keeping it to themselves, because *gasp* I am a working mom, and a million other reasons. I've learned to just shake my head and not take it to heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was living in a big city for a year I joined a citywide mothers forum to find out about things. However it got so anytime my kid would do something inappropriate in public or I'd make a mistake, I'd lean over to dh and tell him someone was going to report me to city mommy. Because they were always reporting and judging behavior they didn't like. And there was no way to win. Can't be on your phone at the playground or talking with adults bc omg the children. Can't play with them either bc coddling, helicoptering, stifling creativity. If you can't win no matter what, might as well do what you want.

      Delete
    2. Yes, this....exactly this.

      Delete
  5. Hahaha, oh man, what bs. I know the answer too-- the kid turned out just fine. Because kids do. (And one could argue that not always being the center of the universe is a good thing, but I don't want to judge the other mother's parenting. Her kids will probably turn out fine too. Kids tend to, absent of real problems.)

    We've got some posts on similar topics, but a good lesson I learned from my mom was that it is way better being an adult than it is being a kid (wouldn't it be terrible if the reverse were true?), and that moms don't have to be martyrs. Growing up I was always very proud of her. She was also a prof, so I'm sure she also got the, "but don't you get summers completely off? why are you putting your kids in daycare?" 'Cuz I get that too. (Hint: my summers aren't completely off, and my kids bounce off the wall when it's just us taking care of them.)

    (Plus, a good daycare is an awful lot of fun and toddlers thrive on routine. My son's classmates with the SAHM are always begging to get to stay in after-school care.)

    Ah mommy wars. Glad I'm not on fora anymore!

    Here's one of our posts on related issues: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/should-kids-come-first-a-deliberately-controversial-post/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely adore this (and wish I'd heard it sooner, and repeatedly) "a good lesson I learned from my mom was that it is way better being an adult than it is being a kid (wouldn't it be terrible if the reverse were true?)". No wonder you have such a great attitude!! What a totally different way of seeing the world than the child-centric one that seems to be touted these days. We don't have to make sure our kids are always having fun because omg precious childhood---they have their whole lives ahead of them.

      Delete
  6. love this post. i didn't notice/see the original comment, but i agree 100%. and i look forward to a number of conferences, girls weekends, and random mental-health-day massages in my future. and i'm not sorry about it at all! :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am glad you mentioned that because I have been thinking of that comment since last week. I also take my child to daycare if I have a day off so that I can run errands and have a true break without having to worry about anything.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Saw that comment and it made my blood boil. When my daughter was a toddler, I had full-time childcare and a part-time job. Sometimes I left the office early and didn't pick her up immediately. Sometimes I worked out, sometimes I had coffee with friends, sometimes I caught up on paperwork. Amazingly enough, her father didn't necessarily pick her up the minute he got off work, either - and wouldja believe no one *ever* commented on that when he did it, but lots and lots of people commented on it when I did it....patriarchal misogynist BS. My daughter loved daycare, she loved her routine, and when I did pick her up early she complained LOUDLY.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Of course I didn’t mean mothers should never have a break. This incident stuck with me because the child was very, very upset each morning, much more so than at a regular drop off. The conversation was about making sure you forge a good relationship with your kids while they are little. Perhaps this mother did need a break; however it seemed that perhaps her child needed a bit of vacation then, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or maybe the child was too used to being the center of attention. Or maybe he had a tooth coming in. Or maybe you were projecting. We can't know as we weren't there. But no kid is going to be harmed by not being taken on a vacation when he's supposed to be going to school. "It builds character." (That's another quote from my mom. "Buck up," she would say. And we would! It's a good skill to have.)

      Delete
    2. It's also possible the child was upset because his routine was broken, even if he was going to daycare. If I have a vacation day and still bring my kids in, I tend to linger more, make an exciting breakfast, etc, and I think that leads to confusion. And it does sometimes result in more tears at drop-off. But those tears are gone by the time I peek through the window after I leave.

      Presumably, since the woman is not you and it sounds like someone you don't know very well (since you now "wonder" what happened), you can only conjecture as to the situation.

      Again, I didn't want to call you out. But I felt compelled to address the comment. Even if that's not what you intended, that's how it sounded.

      Delete
    3. Good point on the routine-- he might have been staying up later than usual because of the vacation. DC2 is always a fussy-butt when she has to get woken up to go to daycare (instead of waking up on her own). Good thing my kids are perfect or I might have to worry about other parents thinking I'm a horrible mother any time one fusses at dropoff.

      Delete
    4. I'm going with projection on this one. There are any number of reasons a child can be more upset than usual, many of which have been named already, and none of which have to do with child neglect or not forging a relationship with your kids when they are little. I think maybe you should spend more time focusing on your own family, and less time worrying about what other people are doing.

      Delete
    5. There are a lot of things to worry about regarding children in general-- I'm a big proponent of worrying about whether or not children are getting enough to eat. So I support food pantries and food stamps and WIC and school lunch programs etc. (politically in some cases, monetarily in others). There are some people more amazing than I am who put their worry about children to good use by being Big Brothers and Big Sisters, or as Voices for Children (advocates for the child in court room proceedings), or volunteering at Ronald McDonald house, and many other kinds of volunteer work. So it's not always bad to worry about other people's kids... however, things like food insecurity, child abuse, shelter, illness, and so on are more likely to make a long-term difference than whether or not some kid fussed more than usual at drop-off.

      Delete
  10. I have been thinking about this a lot, and I think I need to go back to Fizzy’s original question: Is it OK to take a break?
    I was truly surprised by the vehemence of the responses. Considering the issue, I’ve been trying to reach back to the source of my initial reaction, years ago. I realize that I actually come from a tradition in which, largely, it is not OK to take a break. Maybe a very minor break, for certain reasons, but an entire week? No. I have friends/family to this day who would not even go see a movie or go shopping without the children, etc. – once you have the family, it just isn’t done. I am really on the liberal side as I do tend to take an afternoon here and there of “me” time but for the most part I don’t bring it up in conversation.
    So there it is. In this neck of the woods, not OK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a tradition that creates a lot of unnecessary angst. (And may be drawn historically from trying to keep women out of the workforce unless they're needed to supplement their husband's salary, though that's just speculation.) But it's unlikely that the woman in question's family has any such tradition, and thus it is unlikely that her son was feeling any such angst from bucking tradition.

      Personally we don't go to movies (at all) or shopping without the children, but that's because we both work (slightly more than) full-time and like spending our limited free time with them. And they like going shopping. I would actually feel more comfortable taking time off during daycare because that's time we're already used to being apart.

      Delete
  11. Honestly, the moms who are the most defensive sound the worst. If it's working for your family, why do you give a flying fig what others are saying? Methinks too many working (in the home or out) mothers protest too much...

    Do I judge mothers who work FT and then take off for 'me time" when their kids are miserable? Sure. Do I judge the SAHM who slave away being perfectly sweet 24/7 with their kids and homemade cupcakes? Yes sir! I judge them all- because they are all different from me and their choices do not match mine. I think some are selfish, and some are martyrs... but most are just trying to juggle it all the best they can. The ones jumping up and down looking for a fight or using women's lib to defend their personal choices especially drive me nuts.

    If you are mostly confident that your kids are happy, your home life is relatively balanced, and your partnership is stable- why are you reacting so hotly? No matter how perfect you think you've managed your family... someone somewhere thinks you are doing it wrong. And at some point you or your kid is going to do something stupid that will make it look like they are right. Best to not tempt Karma by being judgmental out loud eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because not everybody is as strong-willed as I am, or, apparently you are. Societal narratives do have an effect on society. Individual mothers do worry about how they're being judged and do make choices based on those perceptions rather than on what makes them happy. If we strong-willed women say nothing and walk away, we are complicit in promulgating guilt. The standard we walk past is the one we accept, to paraphrase the Australian General.

      Ps f the patriarchy. Peace out.

      Delete

Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. There may be a delay between submitting your comment and its publishing. Thanks for commenting!