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A Thankful Break From The Working Mommy/Wife Life


Thanksgiving was coming, and I was burnt out. The last year of The Working Mommy/Wife Life had included a few extra challenges—a move, starting my own business, some medical issues. We were on the uptick, but my emotional reserves were depleted, leaving me in overdrive. I knew I was in trouble when during a 30-minute workout, I had checked email twice and sent four texts: Uh oh. I was scattered, and the impending holiday stewed inside my chest.

My adventuresome self did not want to drive for 4 hours. The maker in me had no desire to plan, shop, cook or clean up a turkey dinner for 14. My usually outgoing and social self was too full to navigate any more opinions or needs. Thanksgiving was making me claustrophobic. Then it hit me: This Working Mom was going to tap out. The internal simmering subsided. A wave of warm calm settled through me, and I breathed deeper. Brilliant!

For my husband’s family, saying 'no, thank you' was fairly painless. Thanksgiving for them is mostly about hunting. Everyone gathers for the big feast, and then the men depart post-tryptophan nap to the family's hunting camp. This year, both my sons were old enough to go, which meant that I didn’t really need to be there. What I needed was to be there for me. To stretch my thoughts and recoup. So I could be there for my family when they returned.

As I helped pack everyone up at 6:30 the morning of Thanksgiving, my kids were a little concerned. My 12-year old saw through me, he always does, but he half understood and his excitement for hunting camp carried him the rest of the way. My 10-year old wanted his Mom. I hugged him and told him to have a great time with his dad, uncles and grandpa. I’d be right here waiting for him when he got back. My husband was a little sad, but let’s face it, I do most of the emotional caregiving in our family, and this created a wonderful space for him to role model this skill for our growing boys. Plus, it was only three days.

I admit that watching them walk out the front door and hearing the car pull away made me doubt my decision to stay behind. Maybe I could have bucked up and gone? I turned from the door and called the dog back to bed.

When people asked me about my Thanksgiving plans, I got mixed reviews. Most women I told, from grocery store strangers to best friends, were half jealous and part amazed. They wanted to know how I pulled this off. They immediately got that women are most often the family’s emotional pillars. As Moms and Wives, we are there for our families every day. Even when I travel for work, I move things along back at home with long-distance texts. I check in with phone calls. I make sure things are well-supplied and coordinated before I leave. It’s near impossible not to lose yourself in the endless demands of The Working Mommy/Wife Life. A half-empty glass can easily come into view, along with the idea that the only way to fill it—is to do more.

Other people I told, even a few that I’m not that close with, warmly and lovingly extended invitations for me to join their families for Thanksgiving dinner. They didn’t want me to be orphaned and alone. I was grateful and thanked them, but I wasn’t going to be alone. I'd have me, and I wasn’t going to exchange my family for another.

One friend asked if she could fly in to come see me: We could have a Girl’s Stay-cation? Saying ‘no’ was easier than I thought. Another time, this weekend's for me.

There were also a few blank stares. I watched faces squint in forced comprehension. You would choose to be away from your family over a holiday? What will you tell your kids? I know I sometimes don’t fit into the traditional mold of how or what a woman/mother should be, but I’m pretty sure this image wasn’t created by a woman in the first place. It is hard to pay it no mind.

My husband occasionally asked if I was still planning on staying home. I’m a lucky girl: He wants to be with me.

When the dog and I awoke from our morning nap, we sat down to a no-bake breakfast of plain yoghurt. Next, I got to creating my Year-End Checklist. (Yes, a Checklist. This wasn't about some Take-Back-Your-20s Vegas Vacation.) Kid stuff, work stuff, house stuff, holiday stuff. Blah, blah, blah. Mundane. Long. A list that reached deep into all the parts that together made me.

The point wasn’t to get it all done, but to get organized, to declutter, be thoughtful. I also like a clean bathroom, so I checked this one off first. But this wasn’t the cleaning of a Simmering, Working Mom who is half upset that she's the only one who realizes that the bathroom is dirty and whose hyper-intent on getting SOMETHING done. It was the cleaning of a self-absorbed, college student. With the music turned on. Taking my time. Humming along the way. I liked this person. She was patient. Smart. Forgiving. Strong. Funny. As I cleaned, I thought about all the love I had given to this world and was happy to give a little bit to myself.

The rest of Thanksgiving Day oscillated between intentionally picking through the list and walking with the dog. I also did some naked, sauna yoga which is really only appropriate when you are absolutely positive that you have uninterrupted alone time. There was no time crunch. No pressure to get things done. When I finally seated myself in front of the fireplace at 9pm for my dinner of raw nuts and dark chocolate, I gave thanks, not just for what I have, but especially for who I am.