Saturday, February 7, 2015


I saw this article on Facebook and started to write snarky comments about it, but it was just too much so it gets its own post.

The author writes that as a SAHM, she is entitled to downtime away from her children and thus schedules a vacation for herself, and only herself, once a year. She refuses to feel guilty about it and sets out to explain why she needs such a vacation.

First I need to say I agree with the premise of the article that everyone needs to get away sometimes. That everyone needs to have the ability to recharge in a way that works for them. If taking a yearly solo vacation works for her and her family, I say more power to her. It probably isn't what I would do, but whatever.

She has four children and her oldest is nine. Why, I have four children and my oldest is nine! I think I have a pretty good perspective on what life is like with this type of household.

That being said, this article makes my head explode. How myopic can one person be?

The first half of the article she discusses why taking time away is important and the cultural landmines around vacationing without your children. This all well and good. Then she just runs right off the rails.
(T)he current climate of parenting tells us that enjoying extended time away from our offspring is indulgence at best, neglect at worst. 
Is this more or less true for a stay-at-home mom? On the one hand, because I am with my kids for so much of the year, I probably feel less guilty than a working mother about taking the occasional break from them.
Ya think? This has to be the understatement of the year.
On the other hand, young children tend to be very dependent on their primary caregivers, usually in a way that is unbalanced vis-a-vis the other parent.
No. There is no on the other hand here. Young children are very dependent on their mothers. Period. The End. Not their "primary caregivers." Babies don't cry for Miss Lulu from daycare when their mothers are available. Not their fathers. Sorry. As much as fathers can love and care for their children, babies prefer their mothers. Life is not fair that way. And do you know what makes young children cross? Not seeing their mothers at night after not seeing them all day.
The average worker’s holiday lasts just over four days. Don’t stay-at-home parents need a comparably unbroken period of annual leave?
Well, well. I guess that's probably true unless you have had four kids in under ten years. Like she has or like I have. And then the greatest likelihood is that you have spent every last vacation day you have on maternity leave. I wonder if she thinks recovery from childbirth is a vacation? I wonder if she has ever spoken to one of her employed peers to know how little time she would have had off if she had had a job all these years?  Does it even occur to her?
The point of a vacation generally is to offer a sustained respite from the stress of the activity that takes up the majority of your time—so that you can return to it with the potential to do better. Such respite is even more crucial to one’s overall well-being when the work is of an intense, round-the-clock caliber, as parenting undoubtedly is.
Isn't that worded carefully?  You need a respite from the activity that takes up the majority of your time. Is this her way of explaining why she needs a vacation away from the children, but her employed husband does not? Maybe his business trips are his vacation in her mind. Obviously since she parents around the clock, she is even more deserving of a vacation. As if parents with jobs do not parent at night. I wonder if she would like my schedule for a few weeks.

Myopic. That's the only word I can use to describe it. I agree with her general idea about time off, but, man, her reasoning could use some perspective.


As an aside, I mentioned that line about parenting around the clock to Dave. He objected saying that you were not actively parenting at night when the children were asleep, you were only on call. I laughed. I have taken the vast majority of the night duty over the years. I think most mothers do. It wasn't because Dave wouldn't do it, but because I thought I should. I justified it by saying he needed more rest because he had to spend his days with the children and I was just going to work. I'll bet SAHMs use the exact opposite reasoning: they have time to rest during the day and it is more important for their husband to be rested for work. My point is that mothers are very reluctant to give up the night duty. We might actually value it.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

Privileged is the word that comes to mind. I usually hate that word, but yeesh. Some of us would love to have that kind of thing as an option. But for most of us four days away from everything is an impossible luxury.

Actually, though, I'm not sure I'd take it if you handed it to me, at least not while I have a baby or toddlers. Being away from my kids all night is hard.

In our 9 years of marriage I've taken two trips to go to friends' wedding out of state and both times I took the nursing baby with me. And it was very nice to see my friends, but it was also stressful to have sole responsibility for a baby 24/7 in a strange place when we were totally off the baby's schedule. And the second time, with Anthony, I missed the other kids very much. Now for a wedding, those are trade-offs I'm willing to make. But I'm not sure I could feel comfortable just taking a vacation because I deserve it.

I did sort of think that the rest I got after Lucy was born was a little like a mini-vacation because my mom was here to take care of things and because physically I needed to recover, I spent a couple of weeks moving from bed to couch and back again. It was actually kind of nice and the closest thing I've had to a break in years. I watched a bunch of shows streaming online and read books and didn't worry about housework.

Jenny said...

What bugged me about the article is that it has a good underlying message. Everyone needs find ways to avoid burnout, to have time to rejuvenate, to be cared for when necessary. That she goes on vacation to accomplish this goal for herself doesn't bother me, even though leaving my babies for days doesn't sound relaxing to me. But her tone was galling.

Katherine said...

I’m a SAHM and I have 6 kids and my oldest just turned 9, so while I’m not in her boat with twins nor yours working outside the home, I think I’d share some similarities on parenting. Personally, I need a break and I know I need a break, but a 4 day trip would be really difficult for me and probably pretty unpleasant. I need small breaks throughout the day and maybe once a week but one big break will not help me 6 months after the fact and, at the end of the first day, I would miss my kids. So while I relate to the needing of a break, I can’t relate to her preference for such a particular break at all.

I think what bothers me about her article is twofold. One is the way her language presents her vocation as though it were a job. They are hardly the same thing and you cannot speak about one as though it were the other. Yes, mothers - all mothers, both SAHM and working moms - are generally underappreciated. But I think it is only undermining the vocation to think of it as a job. There is no “punching in your time card” as a mother.

The second thing was the defensively agressive tone. My reaction to her demand for a vacation was, “Ok, so what?” We all need a break, but why the meticulous argument that it has to be a 5 day trip away from home? OK, so 8/10 parents wouldn’t do it.. that doesn’t mean they would spit on her for doing it. She is writing to the 30% of people from Parents Magazine (I know that is where I go to decide how to parent! /sarc) who think it is morally reprehensible? Maybe I’m just out of the loop on parenting trends but if that is the issue, then she needs to worry less about what other people think.

Jenny said...


I think you described exactly what was bothering me about the article. She was using "job language" to describe her vocation. You can't just clock in and out of motherhood. Or if you can, you need a more coherent explanation about why parents with jobs don't get the same latitude. There's just a disconnect. If motherhood is a job that requires a vacation, why does an employed parent's vacation require continuing to do her job? This isn't coming out quite right, but it seems that her reasoning implies that a full-time parent requires a resort vacation to qualify as a vacation, but an employed parent only gets to take on the duties of a full-time parent to qualify as a vacation. (But I thought full-time parenting required a vacation?) There's a giant hole in logic here.

MrsDarwin said...

Haven't read the article, and I hope you'll take it as a compliment that I'd rather read your synopsis than waste the brain space on the original piece, but this "me me me" vacation mentality was one of the things that really rubbed me the wrong way about A Mother's Rule of Life.

I too take the night shifts, for the reasons you give. It doesn't really bother me, and I don't feel like Brendan should have to get up for it, unless I'm actively nursing the baby when another child needs something (not all that common these days). I do feel like it's "my job", and I'm content enough to do it, as I have for the past 13 years. I don't think that mothers taking the night shift is a hill to die on, since I know some people I respect who follow different practices (except I do think that both parents getting up together with the baby is a sleep suicide pact), but I don't see myself ever doing it differently.