My sister-in-law studied infant massage when my twins Sadie and Patrick were just about 6 months old. After weeks of classes, Amie asked me to help out on the last requirement for her certification. She had to offer a demo class for five mommies and went straight to the most recently pregnant person she knew (yours truly) for guinea pig recommendations. I agreed immediately and lined up four other mommas for the class (and even a few alternates. I quickly discovered infant massage is NOT cheap and this demo situation was a legit score).
We scheduled our first session for the next week. My girlfriend with impeccable taste and a cleaning woman offered up her living room. Our first class started much like the first day of high school, with an ice breaker. Amie asked us to introduce ourselves, introduce our babies and describe our “perfect day.”
A perfect day.
My mind immediately left the Pottery Barned-to-perfection space and headed for the land of pure imagination.
I pictured myself sitting outside in the sunshine, waiting for the ferry to NYC, toting just a yoga mat, drinking a cup of Rook Coffee‘s Costa Rica blend, reading Gabrielle Bernstein‘s newest book. I imagined a reminder flashing on across my cell phone, highlighting the facial and massage I’d be enjoying at the spa. I saw myself booking a private meditation session with Elena Brower and then, just because it was all getting really indulgent, I imagined she’d invite me over for tea and talks about all the gorgeous things I see on her Instagram account (you know, all the other times I pretend we are friends).
Before I had a chance to fantasize dinner at Momofuko with my college girlfriends (just kidding, I did ginger scallion noodles and sake bombs), one mommy broke the ice and my heart just a little bit.
“Hi everyone! My name is Jess and this little guy is Tyler. Tyler just turned five months old and he is such a big boy! On our dream day, daddy would stay home from work so we could all go to the beach and play in the sand. Afterwards we would go for ice cream and maybe Tyler would get to try a bite!”
Imagine squeals of delight, smiles and loving nods, followed by equally dreamy days like:
“Park with our puppies for a family picnic!”
“Boardwalk for french fries and her first ride the train!”
“The farmers market for fresh veggies and then home to cook together as a family!”
Or at least, imagine the other adults doing that. Then imagine me, completely panic stricken because clearly my answer was not in any way, shape or form in line with everyone else’s dream day.
Thank God and everything holy that I got to hear all that before my turn. I mumbled something that sounded like “relaxing at home with a good movie” before faking a blowout (diaper, not hair – though now that I’m thinking about blowouts, please add that to my dream day) and dashing for the bathroom.
Were they kidding? This was a room full of first time moms who until very recently enjoyed things like happy hour, manicures, shopping for pants with buttons and taking showers alone (the Holy Grail of motherhood).
Did having a baby really turn them into such amazingly selfless people, with dream days wholly dedicated to the same bundle of tears and poop (and love) that consumed every other day?
My gut says no. I don’t mean that harshly. In fact, I do believe that every mom dreams of picture perfect family days. That being said, I think we spend equal – if not more – time dreaming about a few hours of sweet release. To hit the pause button on 24/7 momming. To maybe even hit rewind, Michael J. Fox style, and head to a different point in time, when we weren’t responsible for other human lives.
I love my girlfriends for loving their kids, and loving to spend time with their kids. I feel compelled to say “I love mine too” – and I do! – but I feel equally compelled to say I don't want to spend every waking minute with them. I had a good run for 30 years, taking care of just me. It was super easy and, looking back, I can see just how much I took it for granted.
If I got my dream day, my free day, I would savor every second. I’d bow down to the gods of indulgence, spontaneity and saying “yes” to things like martinis on a Tuesday.
Four years after that infant massage class, I’m finally at peace with what I really wanted to say. I wonder what would have happened if I had the guts.
Maybe a collective sigh of relief? Because being a mom is hard. It’s OK to say we need a break and it’s even more OK to enjoy that break with every fiber of our being when we get one.