Getting away from my kids makes me a better mother. That’s right: the more drinking and dancing I do with my girlfriends while not in the vicinity of my children improves my parenting. I find that when I come home from a girls’ trip, I am far more patient and relaxed with the little monsters than when I left. When I return, my voice is almost unrecognizable; I speak slowly and in a monotone. I feel like Mary Poppins on Xanax, ready to face any and all unreasonable requests and demands with an understanding nod and an economy of words.
Usually, when my children ask for the impossible or unreasonable, I explain the million reasons why not, like I’m litigating in court — but with myself. This invariably doesn’t end well, leading to confusion and arguments from them about the flaws in my logic. Arguments like:
“But you let me wear a short-sleeved t-shirt the last time it was 50 degrees. How come not today?”
Answer: Because I fucked up that day.
How come Zoe gets to have a dessert at school AND at home and I didn’t get one at my school so she gets 2 desserts and I get only 1? WHAA!
Answer: There are people starving out there — and I’m not talking about those Lululemon ladies on the Upper East Side. Shut up about how many desserts you get.
But the answer I give after a weekend in Turks & Caicos is more like:
“Because my dear, sweet little soul, life isn’t always fair. Now, let’s sing!”
Maybe my zen state is because I’m finally well-rested after 2-3 days of post-dawn arousals, or maybe I’m slow to judgment or anger because I’m hungover from my last night of freedom in Vieques. But I really think it’s more than that. When I first started going on these annual trips (which have occasionally morphed into semi-annual), we had cute names like “Mommies Gone Wild” or “The Great Escape.” Now I feel like there is no need for euphemism when we plan these things. It’s a thing. A rite. Like Christmas.
I have had friends whose husbands have 0stensibly forbidden them to go on a moms’ trip or called them throughout with passive-aggressive reports on the well-being of their children in order to make the full load of their absence known, guilting them just enough so they can’t really let loose while they are away. Or they just lord it over them when they get home, to the point that it isn’t worth it for them to ever go again. I used to make the case for the necessity of it, reminding my mom-friends it’s not such a bad thing if some of the more, less-in-touch husbands learn what a day-in-the-trenches is really like.
And the hubby and kids seem to be okay with it, too. Exhibit A:
The looks on my family’s faces — total joy and glee — remind me of that Star Wars Ferrari scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where the valets take Cameron’s dad’s beloved car for a joy ride. Especially my husband’s face.
If it’s so mutually beneficial (for mom, for kids, for a working husbands’ relationship with said kids), why do so many moms feel guilty about taking off for a few days a year? I used to think the whole “happy wife, happy life” motto was vaguely sexist (if incredibly spot-on). But it’s been scientifically proven by The Journal of Family and Marriage — yes, that exists!
When moms return from time away, they come back rested and with a fresh appreciation of their home, children and their husbands. So let’s do the math: A happy wife = a more horny wife = a happy husband! Happy wives and happy husbands = happy marriages which = happy lives! It’s true, by the transitive property, a happy wife DOES = a happy life, for all. Now there’s change I can believe in.
But here’s the hitch, you can’t have it both ways, mommas. Don’t be looking for a homecoming parade when you get home. In fact, if you come home and your kiddos are so self-satisfied from their weekend with dad bowling, laser tagging and almost getting abducted from Dave & Busters that they barely look up from their finger painting project on the couch to say hello, then suffer through it. It is a painful thing, but it’s also a good thing. It confirms you did the right thing.