A few nights ago, Emmy Salazar’s husband Gus asked what she wanted for Mother’s Day. He would be shopping, because their son, Calvin, is just over a year old.
“What I really want,” replied the Provo, Utah, mom without hesitation, “is one uninterrupted hour of time while our son is awake.”
Gus Salazar may have been surprised by the simplicity of his wife’s Mother’s Day request. But it’s no surprise to Susan G. Groner of New York City, author of “Parenting with Sanity and Joy” and founder of The Parenting Mentor, or other moms the Deseret News interviewed. Groner said her own informal surveys have shown that women want some alone time and a chance to be pampered or at least time to pamper themselves.
A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Nutrisystem found that moms spend just 3% of any given week on alone time or self care. Instead, they’re consumed by work and child-related responsibilities, which makes a carefree day especially appealing.
“I know this sounds bad, but I would love to be alone and rest for a day!” said Stephanie Ryan, an Indianapolis mom who has a 4-year old. “Give me a literal day alone and I can restore my energy level.”
What Rebecca Beach of Dallas doesn’t want to do is “wash anyone’s laundry, cook anyone’s food or pick up anyone’s toys.” And she doesn’t want anyone to leave the dishes for her to clean up on Monday, either, said Beach, who owns MomBeach.com, a resource for moms who work at home.
Does that mean that children should be banished for a day? Not at all, said Groner. But moms want their families to express appreciation. And they definitely don’t want to do chores.
The National Retail Federation said as more folks are being vaccinated against COVID-19 and stimulus checks have been received, “consumers are going all out for moms this year.” Its annual survey shows shoppers will spend an average of $220.48 on Mom, which is the most in the survey’s history. Popular gift categories include jewelry and electronics.
While mom’s sure to love the flowers and other gifts, experts say she’d also like something a little more personal — and less costly. There is no shortage of options.
Michelle Garrett knows that her request “sounds a bit crazy,” but she hopes her family will spend Mother’s Day helping her clean out closets. “It’s something that needs to be done that never gets done. It would be a fun way to spend time together — and also to get something done. Then we could go get some ice cream,” said Garrett, of Columbus, Ohio.
“Mom would love to hear how thankful you are for the things she’s done in your life. Being a mom is a lifelong commitment full of hard work and sacrifice. I’m sure that she’ll love anything you had planned, but receiving a simple, handwritten letter of gratitude is priceless,” said devoted son Matthew Paxton, founder of the electronic gaming blog Hypernia in Washington, Indiana. “Writing about the things she did right, your favorite memories together or just telling her how she inspired you and raised you to be the person you are today would simply mean the world to her.”
While many moms want to escape the kitchen for the day, others want the laughter and
camaraderie of cooking together with their spouse or children. Those moms want time, too — but time that is others’ to give. Groner said that’s especially true of moms with older children who don’t have to be cared for or entertained, but can engage more or less on equal footing.
“One of the best ways families can truly spend quality time together is making food,” said Sarah Yeoman of Portland, Oregon, who photographs families cooking special dishes together for custom cookbooks at The Family Cookbook project. “There is something about the act of cooking together that brings out conversation and creates connection. Especially after a year when so many families have had to stay apart, reuniting on Mother’s Day over a family meal is going to be extra special.”
“My mom actually loves to cook, so I’ll be her sous-chef for the day and will be enjoying a nice homemade dinner with the family. Everyone is crazy about her recipes and being able to make them with her is the best kind of tradition,” Paxton said.
Price-free but priceless
Sally Gibson, founder of the eCard website Someone Sent You a Greeting, has a short list of ideas for gifts that can go along with a purchased gift or stand alone. The list includes:
- Help around the house.
- Being together and creating memories.
- Especially for young moms, sleep!
Kelly Rupiper of San Diego said her favorite gift is an ongoing one. Her husband bought a small journal back when her kids were little and every year they write her a letter on one of the pages. When they were young, their dad helped. “It is such a gift to be able to flip back through it and see what they have written and drawn for me each year and it doesn’t cost a thing,” said Rupiper, who runs www.upparent.com.
Groner suggests that kids and partners create coupons mom can redeem when she wants something like ordering takeout or having someone else clean the kitchen. She also likes lists of things they appreciate about mom.
Another Mother’s Day idea is letting mom pick the family activity for the day — absent eye rolls or groans if her choice isn’t popular, said Groner. Or, “schedule a surprise hangout for mom with her best girlfriends and arrange child care for the kids.”
After months in pandemic-forced lockdown, the world is beginning to open up again and Pro Paint Corner founder Phil Ash is considering the possibilities that offers as he celebrates his mother. Besides figuring out a handmade gift certificate — painting a room she wants redone or tackling another project with her — he’s thinking about outdoor concerts and activities they can do together, free or otherwise. Maybe he’ll help her in her garden.
Ash, of Falls Church, Virginia, is undecided so far, but he knows whatever he does will include time with her, doing something she wants to do.
Asking for help
Time may be especially important this year as the world emerges from COVID-19. Groner thinks burnout is always a real problem for moms, but particularly following a year of pandemic pressure. Moms are never good at asking for help or saying no, she said, but the pandemic has piled on challenges like home-schooling kids and working remotely.
She thinks moms could learn to be more respectful of their own time and resources if they will allow themselves to think things through before automatically agreeing to take on extra tasks.
“Instead of our knee-jerk saying yes to every request, we women need to say, ‘I have to think about it. Let me look at my schedule and see if I can do (whatever) the way it needs to be done,’” Groner said. “There are graceful ways of saying ‘I don’t think I can give a task the attention it deserves now.’ Women have to ask for help and for alone time and talk about how important both are.”
That also models for kids that they can desire and expect alone time, she said, noting it’s a better solution for siblings than fighting. The desire to have some quiet time is “very acceptable and important and no one should feel bad about it,” she said.
Groner’s perfect Mother’s Day would start with breakfast in bed, then time to hang out with good friends, instead of just the family she sees every day. Later, she’d rejoin her spouse and children for dinner — prepared by someone else. She’d really like to go kayaking on the Hudson River.
Emily Salazar gave birth to Calvin just before she graduated with a degree in communications from Brigham Young University. She did some contract work for a company she’d done an internship with, but decided that while he is so little, at least, she wants as much time with him as possible. “I like ‘momming’ as my job, Those moms who can work while they have a little one are superheroes, but I didn’t have enough time with him when I was taking on a contract,” she said.
Still, a bit of time for herself sounds pretty great. She imagines she’d spend an hour curled up with a book she’s excited to read, the third in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Saga, “The Hero of Ages.” And while she says she’s no Instagram mom, she’s been wanting to decorate the wall in Calvin’s room with cute Winnie the Pooh images that she printed on card stock. All she needs is a glue gun and a bit of time to get it done.
She figures her husband will try to give her that hour alone. But she also predicts that about 15 minutes in, she’ll hear her son giggling and babbling with his dad in the family room and she’ll find the sound irresistible. “I’ll saunter downstairs because that’s where I want to be, honestly. I like spending time with my boy.”