I’ve read a lot of posts the last two weeks about what women really want for Mother’s Day. Some of them were helpful tips for husbands who really wanted to knock their wives’ socks off this year, some were hilarious spoofs of terrible (yet somehow totally awesome) gag Mother’s Day gifts, and some were frustrated post-Mother’s Day disaster stories. After reading these posts and reflecting on my own Mother’s Day experience, I’ve decided that some women are setting their husbands up for failure year after year.
For weeks leading up to Mother’s Day I dropped not-so-subtle hints about wanting a day without fussy babies grinding their razor sharp teeth against my nipples, three-year-olds following me into the bathroom and then insisting I vacate the toilet half-way through my business, and the Sisyphean task of trying to clean up after a house full of boys. My image of the perfect Mother’s Day was a blissfully luxurious fantasy, and it was safe because it was just that: a fantasy.
Deep down, in a place that I don’t like to talk about (the same part of me that eats Ben & Jerry’s while enjoying Twilight and listening to Justin Bieber), I didn’t really want my husband to give me the perfect Mother’s Day that I’d been hinting at all this time. I feel like a hot mess at the end of most days and I’m sorry to admit that I would have been pretty ticked off if my husband pulled it off without a hitch. What I really wanted was for him to TRY to give me the day off and then fail, so I could feel like the dutiful and invaluable savior who swoops in and fixes everything.
What I really wanted, more than chocolate, flowers, presents, and even more than sleep, was recognition that what I do on a daily basis is nothing short of heroic.
Being a stay at home mom is hard. Making sure both kids are alive and psychologically undamaged at the end of each day, while keeping the house from falling apart, paying the bills, cooking dinner, and cleaning up after the seemingly incontinent dogs (ok, that one might just be me), is the most difficult job I’ve ever had. It’s rewarding, exhausting, self-esteem-crushing, confidence-wrecking, joyful and miserable all at the same time.
People often tell me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to stay home with my kids, and yes, I agree. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to wallow in self-pity every now and then, especially on Mother’s Day. I want to lay in bed, listening to the chaos and carnage going on downstairs, and smile smugly to myself as I think “this would never happen if I was in charge”.
Because of course it would happen if I was in charge, and it does just about every day, but that’s not part of my fantasy. I want the opportunity to be the one outside of the crazy looking in, and feeling good about the fact that I didn’t let the baby fall off the slide onto the deck, the three-year-old paint the dog with finger paints, or the scrambled eggs burn to the pan so badly that they both had to be thrown away. None of these things happened on my watch last week, I swear.
I want my husband to crawl up the stairs to ask for my help: his hair a mess, clothes akimbo, eyes wild, and children hanging from his every limb. I want to pretend that I am annoyed that my perfect Mother’s Day has been ruined by his incompetence, when secretly I am reveling in the fact that only I can save this man from my life. I want him to look at me with love, gratitude, and relief in his eyes when I agree to come downstairs to help out. Just for this one day, I want him to tell me all about the respect and awe he has for my ability to survive and remain reasonably sane day after day. I want him to need me, and I want him to know he needs me.
As unpopular as admitting this might make me, I’m convinced I’m not alone with these feelings. Sure, I’d love a weekend away at a spa or wine-tasting event with my girlfriends, but more than anything I just want to feel special and important for what I do every day.
So, husbands, next year remember this when Mother’s Day rolls around: sometimes your wife might want you to fail. You don’t have to burn the house down or let the kids tie you up and sacrifice the dogs to their pagan gods, but at least have the decency to look haggard and exhausted by the end of the day. Get it wrong, just a little bit.
Go ahead and give her everything she says she wants, but then give her what she actually wants: your love, admiration, and a just a soupçon of desperation. Let her roll her eyes at you when you inevitably make mistakes and let her feel superior when she fixes them for you. Because there’s nothing worse in life than feeling expendable. I don’t want to come home from my day at the spa to find that my life simply went on without me, and neither does she. Tell your wife you need her, that her children need her, and how none of you could live without her.
Extra points if you do it with a glass of wine in one hand and massage oil in the other.