Last year, the holidays were not so merry and bright for me.
I'll spare you the exact details, but I had a miscarriage, lost a job, dealt with some post-move depression and took on every single aspect of the holidays without any help from my husband. Come Christmas morning, when I should have been snuggled on the couch, smiling over my delicious cup of coffee while I watched the kids open their presents, I was instead sad, slightly bitter, exhausted and suffering from one too many post-wrapping paper cuts.
"Bah, humbug" is right.
This year, I vowed to do things differently. I decided that I wanted to go into the holiday season feeling relaxed and joyful, not angry and tired. I blasted my Christmas music and got a head start on decorating and shopping, basking in the glow of a fully decorated house and a completed list before Thanksgiving was even close. And, because I knew that even with my best intentions, the stress of the season would sneak up on me, I also vowed to do one very important thing for myself: I was going to take a timeout day.
One day, just for me, without kids or husband, stress or obligations, work or worry. One day just to completely and totally relax, recharge and rejuvenate. After all, as moms, we pretty much make the holidays (as well as life itself) possible for other people, so it would only make sense that we need at least one day off a year, right?
And, because I knew that even with my best intentions, the stress of the season would sneak up on me, I vowed to do one very important thing for myself: I was going to take a timeout day.
I did some research into an affordable spa package (I have never been to a spa!) and decided that I 100 percent deserved this.
And then my kids decided to 100 percent throw up.
For almost a month straight, my four children took turns alternating between running fevers, expressing mountains of snot and sneezing directly into my eyeballs, resulting in me eventually succumbing to not one, but two of the first adult non-mastitis related fevers I have ever had in my life. My "one day" became a mere dream as I barely even left the house, let alone managed to escape for a blissful spa experience.
I felt trapped, and just when it seemed as if we had turned a corner and could send my youngest daughter back to preschool, another round of sicknesses hit. I hurried her out of her Thanksgiving school luncheon with glassy eyes and tissues in hand, lamenting the $300 I had spent on preschool that month for a measly three days of attendance.
I was tempted to feel sorry for myself, but after more than 10 years of mothering little people, honestly, I have come to expect this exact thing to happen: Just when I try to do something for myself, the kids will somehow manage to thwart it. But this past weekend, as the day that was supposed to be "mine" approached and I had to mournfully cancel all of my carefully made plans, something inside of me changed.
I did something that I have never done in my almost 11 years of marriage, something that felt truly revolutionary to me: I asked my husband to take the day off of work.
For you to understand how big of a deal this is, you have to realize that I have never, ever asked my husband to take a day off of work. Not when I had our babies and he only had an actual half-day off of work to watch me deliver, not when I had four kids ages 6 and under and had a 105-degree fever and could barely function, and not even the time I was pregnant and all the kids were sick out of both ends. For whatever reason, I have always stubbornly soldiered on and insisted I could handle it and that we should save his sick days for a day when we actually need them.
Apparently, that day is today.
I can't explain to you exactly what shifted in my mind, except that I finally decided I am done trying to prove that I can do it all. Why have I internalized that the kids are my sole responsibility all of these years when they happen to get sick? What has suffering through all the hard parts of parenting alone all these years done for me or for my family? Do I get some kind of award for being the most miserable? Will Santa deliver a "Cleaned Up the Most Puke Single-Handedly" award?
So, today, for the first time in our marriage, my husband took the day off to be with our kids, and I have had the day to myself. I've caught up on my freelance work, I've indulged in a cheesy holiday romance movie on Netflix, I've drunk several cups of piping hot coffee and, later this evening, I'm going to meet my sister for some gym time and manicures.
It was so incredibly difficult for me to overcome the guilt of asking my husband to do this for me, but I know now how important it was. Because while it might not be a day at the spa, my timeout day has still been the rest and recharge I needed, mostly because I finally learned what even a massage definitely wouldn't given me—the belief that I am actually worth taking time for.