First things first: I adore my kids. And I love being a mom...usually....I first understood there might be a problem while watching the finale of the trashy “reality” show The Biggest Loser , and I realized, with horror, that I was envious of the contestants. I couldn’t help noticing that in order to get healthy, they had to leave home “for the good of their families.” Hmmm. Maybe I should gain 100 pounds and apply to the show.
Soon after this, my friend Marlissa told me quite calmly that while she doesn’t actually want to die, sometimes she does want to disappear. “I’d like to come back at some point,” this tired mother of two reasonably explains, “but I would like to go away. For a while.” Apparently I’m not the only middle-aged mom craving a serious getaway.
I’m not saying that I (or any of my friends) regret staying home to raise our kids—it’s been our choice, and one we all know we’re extremely lucky to have—but there’s no denying it’s cost us. As Marlissa explains, “I’m not the person I used to be, but I liked the person I used to be.” I know what she means. Somehow we’ve morphed from hip, fun, productive people into Women of No, Mothers Who Teach Right from Wrong, Parents on the Lookout for Teachable Moments. Even we don’t like us.
When did the parental pendulum swing so far toward wholesome family togetherness? Maybe it’s time for it to swing back, at least a little, toward benign neglect. As it stands, I’ve arranged it so my children get to be artists, athletes and musicians after school; meanwhile, I spend my days—and sometimes, sleepless nights—as a world-class nurse, mediator and schedule keeper. As I brought my daughter a glass of juice one day, she said with a regal little nod, “Thank you, Jeeves.” Clearly, this can’t go on.
If raising children takes a village, I’m stuck. In my neck of the woods, there’s no one left to call. Everyone’s maxed out. Then again, maybe all it really takes is a little cash and a willing partner; at least, that was my thinking recently when I booked two nights at a hotel with three mom friends. It was only half an hour from home, but it felt like a world apart. The only problem with this approach? Reentry, and then back at the sink. In other words, I’m still in search of a strategy I can use in the long run. After giving it much thought, I’ve decided to forgo sublimation via food and drink, mainly because that strategy causes more evils than it cures.
But change is most definitely in the air, if only because I can’t have my kids grow up thinking I’m their personal concierge and limo driver—one they don’t even tip, mind you—and being right.
|Betsy Block has written food features and restaurant reviews for the Boston Globe and Wondertime magazine, and online for NPR’s Kitchen Window and Epicurious.com. Her book, The Dinner Diaries: Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World, will be published in July by Algonquin Books. She lives near Boston with her husband, two kids and 15-year-old mutt.|