What do moms really want for Mother's Day? Flowers? Jewelry? Breakfast in bed or brunch at a nice restaurant?
Hah. What moms want for Mother's Day is time.
In a recent Macaroni Kid survey, "an afternoon to yourself" was the top choice for moms this year, coming in far above those traditional Mother's Day gift staples like flowers, jewelry or breakfast in bed. With some reports suggesting that, on average, American mothers have only about 30 minutes of time in their days which are unaccounted for (and waiting in the pick up line at school does not count as free time), it is no wonder.
Where did our time go? We asked several hundred time-hungry mamas. Here is some of what we heard:
Simply managing logistics for your family consumes a great deal of time and, more often than not, "you're the scheduler. You know where all the lessons will be, all the appointments, all the games. Invariably, you're making three calls every time there's a new item added... one to update the spouse and two to rearrange the appointments that are being bumped from the new item. Pre-kids, you were scheduling one person, now you're scheduling the entire family," is how New York mom Sabrina Condon describes it.
Add a child with special needs and the logistical challenges multiply. Kendra Jenkins, a SAHM to a special needs child, feels like there is never enough time in the day. "Between bringing my son to walk-in services at school for speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy in the morning and then driving 45 minutes each way for private therapies, I am just exhausted. My husband works 60 hours a week so that I can stay home as I left my career as a nurse to be home with our son."
With 71 percent of all U.S. moms working outside the home (according to the Pew Research Center), work consumes lots of time for lots of moms. Add a commute and that daily commitment can easily stretch to more than nine hours, reports Alison Wenger. Working mom of twins Kelly Tarkany concurs: "Between work and a crazy amount of kids' sports activities, overseeing homework (why do first graders have hours of homework?), appointments and cooking, it seems I'm always adding more items to my task list than I'm removing."
Single moms? Well, multiply pretty much everything.
Is some of the lack of time, in part, a product of our own creation? Perhaps, as many moms report an inability to walk away. Macaroni Kid's Melissa Alcorn explains. "I think moms struggle with walking away... walking away from a mess, a pile of laundry, a to-do list, work, etc. and that leaves us wishing for more hours in the day. There's always going to be something that needs to be done and the struggle is being able to ignore it for a while. I'm in this camp -- I will do, do, do all day long and sigh at how much more there is to do. And I just can't understand how my husband can sit on the couch reading a book with toys scattered all around him and dishes piled high in the kitchen. He can walk away and ignore the to-do list. I can't. The struggle is real."
Michele Iallonardi concurs: "Even when I have 'free' time, I am worrying about what else has to get done, taking care of things for my family, running around doing errands," while WAHM Jamie Clark admits that she "feels guilty if I sit down to do nothing. Like because I'm a mom I'm always supposed to be doing something. Even typing that, I realize how crazy it sounds."
Has our connectivity consumed our free time? Baltimore's Shae Jackson thinks so: "We live in this world of instant gratification. I call you, you answer. You text me, I respond right away. We've reprogrammed ourselves to expect instant responses. Those two minutes here answering this email, two minutes there responding to that text, all add up to a raft of time down the drain for things that are not necessarily important. When I was a child, if you called me at my house and I didn't answer you called me back later until you found me to plan lunch. You didn't call me at my house, then my cell, then texted me until I answered right away to have lunch with you."
Whatever the cause, Mother's Day presents a perfect opportunity to thank the moms in your life with the gift of an afternoon to themselves.
And if you are wondering what moms will do with a little time for themselves, for most, the aspirations are pretty simple. Hamptons mom Mary Anne Miller would "log more days per year on the sand with my family and friends" while Macaroni Mom Jo Beth Bootz craves 10 uninterrupted minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee and her own thoughts.