From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Down and Out

Thursday meant Mother’s Day Out. My three preschoolers would go to the church where blessed babysitters ministered to harried mothers like me, in need of errand-running—free from strollers, whining and endless trips to the potty.

After putting my two oldest children on the school bus, I calculated an hour to change diapers, wash faces, comb hair and dress the other three. At last they were ready, and I secured the baby in his carrier.

“Okay, let’s go,” I called. Walking past the kitchen, I spotted my three-year-old on the table elbow deep—both elbows—in the economy-size grape jelly jar. Groaning, I set the baby down, snatched my son off the table, held him over the sink and sprayed him off.

As I picked up the carrier and herded everyone down the hallway, I tossed a rueful glance at my reflection in a large mirror. Who was that woman? Dressed in a baggy sweatsuit, hair pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, no lipstick, no earrings. Before preschoolers, I wouldn’t have considered going out in public looking like that. I shrugged and wiped grape jelly off my cheek.

On theway to church, the sour smell of spit-up assaulted my nose. Before preschoolers, I wore the fragrance, “White Shoulders.” Now I smelled like parmesan cheese.

In the parking lot, I unloaded the kids, and with the baby carrier hanging on my left arm and the five-year-old hanging on my sweatshirt, I took my three-year-old’s hand and trudged up the church stairs. Quite a workout. Before preschoolers, I exercised in a gym.

As the children ran to their respective rooms, I glanced at my watch—9:00 A.M. I had till 3:00 P.M. to accomplish my long list. I gave a gusty sigh. With all I had to do, Mother’s Day Out seemed more like Mother’s Minute Out.

But as I turned to leave, I noticed a colorful gift bag on a table by the door . . . with my name attached. Curious, I peeked inside and discovered a white mug with tiny yellow rosebuds scattered around the middle. Printed on the rim was a little duck.

The note read: To a wonderful mother who deserves some time to herself. Go home, enjoy a cup of tea with your favorite magazine. Today is your day.

Without warning, tears welled and slid down my cheeks. Someone understood. Even though being a mother was what I always wanted to be, it was still hard, often thankless, work. An anonymous person reminded me that, although I wore many hats—wife, mother, daughter, friend—underneath was a woman with needs as well.

I looked again at my list—nothing there that couldn’t wait. Orange-spice tea and a Southern Living magazine on the front porch were suddenly my priorities.

Perhaps, from now on, Thursday would be this mother’s day off.

Linda C. Apple

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