It’s Mother’s Day morning. My children are walking down the stairs, but then my husband circumvents them. I hear fierce whispering, and then one child pops up on my side of the bed.
“Happy Mother’s Day!” my son says. He has obviously been coached.
“Thank you!” I give him a hug and realize he has a book in his hand.
“Is this for me?”
“No,” he says. I roll my eyes.
My daughter gives me a hug, but doesn’t wish me happy anything.
Greeting card companies have taught all mothers that Mother’s Day should be a day where we are celebrated, a day where our children would have neatly combed hair and unmussed color-matching outfits, a day where our partners would do all of the work and leave us to enjoy a day of relaxation. Just one day where our children wouldn’t throw a fit or shit themselves. That day will never come.
It doesn’t mean that I still sometimes don’t carry irrational hopes.
I rub my face with my hands and walk out to the kitchen. My husband has placed my Mother’s Day presents on the counter, and I unwrap them: soap and lotions and bath bombs and a bouquet made of chocolate.
My husband sits down in the bedroom and turns on the television. I see this and long for that kind of break. While he’s there, the children won’t hassle him for food or announce to him their bathroom habits. Even if I am behind a locked door, my children are on the other side, commenting on or questioning what I’m doing.
I sit in the recliner in the living room and let my daughter curl into my lap.
This is better, I think and hold her tightly.
She asks for some chocolate for breakfast, and I tell her no. She leaves my lap to sprawl on the floor and kick the couch.
“No fits on Mother’s Day!” my husband announces as he emerges from our bedroom to get something from the kitchen.
She continues doing exactly what she was doing as he retreats back into the bedroom.
As the morning progresses, I’m growing more and more frustrated. Shouldn’t Mother’s Day be at least a time where I get a fucking break? I find myself thinking.
While my husband is watching a drama about teenage treasure hunters, he has not been asked a single question. I’ve been watching Spongebob Squarepants for ten minutes and the onslaught of questions hasn’t stopped for even a few seconds: “Why is Patrick doing that?” “Can I have crackers?” “Why is my foot wet?” “Will you kiss my elbow?” “Will you tell her to stop touching me?” “Is that a bug?”
I start pinching my lips with my fingers, trying to contain whatever thing I want to snap at my husband. Maybe something like, “Why don’t YOU take them and actually celebrate ME?”
But then he emerges from his haven, gives me a hug, and asks, “What do you want to do today?”
“I don’t want to feed anyone,” I say, trying to keep my tone even-keel.
“Okay. Just have them come tell me when they’re hungry,” he says.
I want to slap my forehead. He’s not giving me a break. He’s giving me another job to do. I have to be the one to tell the children to go tell him they’re hungry.
Further, as a mother, I foretell my children’s needs. I know when they’re going to be hungry. Why can’t he be fucking like that? I think.
I take some deep breaths and walk away. I’m going to give him a chance. Let him do this the way he thinks he should.
Later, he runs to the store to grab some items for dinner. He doesn’t feed the kids before he leaves, and as soon as the garage door closes, my daughter says, “Momma, I’m so hungry.”
So much for not feeding anyone today, I think.
I sigh and pull out cereal.
When I’m less angry, I text my husband, “You didn’t feed the kids before you left.”
“I’m almost home,” he says.
“Too late,” I say back.
“You should have told them to wait,” he says.
I think, maybe I should have.
With all of the work I’ve done in therapy, you’d think I’d remember sometimes that expectations are premeditated resentments, that no one can read my mind, that if I ask someone do something I can’t control how they’re going to do it.
I’m still human though. I still want things, perfect things. I both love and hate being so needed. I both love and hate being my family’s planner, manager, prophesier. I just need a break sometimes. Don’t we all?
Later, I discover the secret: I leave. I take myself for a walk. I don’t wonder how he’s handling it because, at least, I know I’m not the one doing it.