No Me in Mommy
By Melissa Face
I didn’t realize how selfish I was until my son was born last year. As it turns out, I really enjoy the luxury of a hot shower each day. I also like being able to drink an entire cup of coffee while it’s still hot. And, every now and then, it’s nice to get more than three consecutive hours of sleep. Who knew I was so self-centered?
There’s nothing like having a child to remind you that you are no longer the center of your own universe. I understand that now. Evan’s needs surpass mine on a daily basis. He eats first; he gets the first bath, and he decides when everyone else in the house will start the day.
Most days, being number two doesn’t bother me a bit. But every now and then, I feel like I need to recharge. I must have some occasional “me” time.
That is exactly how I was feeling back in June when my mom and I booked an overnight trip to Dover, Delaware. We left on a Thursday afternoon, had a quick dinner on the road, and arrived in Delaware right after sunset. Mom and I settled in to our hotel room and went downstairs to explore the casino. I found a slot machine that looked like fun, and then I ordered myself a drink. I had taken two sips when I noticed my cell phone vibrating inside my purse. The call was from my husband.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” Craig said softly. “The baby is burning up, and we are on the way to the hospital. He wouldn’t drink his bottle, and when I checked his temperature it was 102 degrees.”
I didn’t know how to reply. I was so desperate to get away, to take a break. And now, my baby was sick, and I couldn’t do a thing for him. The situation made me feel so incredibly helpless.
“I don’t know what to do,” I told him. “I’m five hours from home!”
“I know,” my husband said. “You can’t help that. I’ll call you when I know what’s wrong.”
My husband and my father took the baby to the emergency room. Meanwhile, I searched the casino for my mom. Once I found her, we went to our hotel room and waited…and waited…for a phone call.
Over an hour later, Craig called to tell me that the baby had bronchitis. He was on an antibiotic and already seemed to be feeling better. He was going to be just fine.
After vowing to never go anywhere without the baby again, I got a couple hours of sleep so we would be prepared for the drive home the next morning.
Once I returned home, the baby was already back to his typical, happy self. He was playing in his bounce seat and chewing on his toys. Still, I didn’t leave his side for several days.
Ever since this incident, I have really struggled with the concept of “me” time. I tried to figure out why I needed a break from the child I wanted so badly and love so very much. Why did I need to get away from a baby who smiles when he sees me, laughs when I sing like Elmo, and turns his head towards my voice regardless of how many people are in the room?
Well, maybe it was because that same beautiful child demands my undivided attention, requires constant supervision, and sometimes renders me completely exhausted when he screams like a screech monkey at all hours of the night. Sometimes I need to feel like a person and not just a bottle-making, diaper-changing, bath-giving, mommy machine.
In recent months, I have taken some “me” time in small doses. My mom has kept the baby so I could grocery shop, take a nap and clean my house. On a couple of occasions, Craig and I went to dinner with friends. And this summer, I even managed to read an entire novel while the baby rested. It felt great to immerse myself in a different setting for a while.
I’m still not ready to leave the baby overnight again or travel a long distance without him. It’s too soon and it makes me anxious. But I do give myself a break when I need it. It’s good for the baby and me.
I remember when I first announced my pregnancy, a friend told me to do whatever I wanted while I could. “There is no “me” in mommy,” she said. Maybe there’s not. But, there is a “my.” And for now, I’m taking my time.
About this writer
- Melissa Face lives in Virginia with her husband, son and dog. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. E-mail Melissa at email@example.com.