Mother's Day

Sometimes a vacuum *is* self-care.
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In Defense Of The Practical Gift For Mother’s Day

For some of us, luxury self-care looks like not having to worry about the laundry tomorrow.

The way Mother’s Day is portrayed in media and on Twitter feeds and in Instagram memes has changed from when our own mothers were getting wilted carnations and scrambled eggs crunchy with shells in bed. People are recognizing (half the time, anyway) that moms are, generally, losing their minds trying to do it all and be it all for a bunch of little people, and they deserve more than a handmade card and a new toaster. The prevailing notion is that they need a weekend away, a luxurious set of Egyptian cotton sheets, a box full of Lush products, and an entire afternoon alone to soak in the tub — anything but a gift that reminds them they are A) a mom and B) someone who doesn’t get a chance to relax all that much.

But, honestly, there are few things that stress me out than trying to relax or implement self-care. It’s not that I’m some hyper-productive person who can’t sit on the couch with a book and veg out for hours or that I don’t look forward to a long walk with a podcast. It’s that there seem to be so many rules about relaxing and self-care. I see them all the time. Moms shouldn’t consider a drive alone to the grocery store as self-care, they shouldn’t see catching up on the laundry with a podcast as relaxing, they shouldn’t take a long hot shower in lieu of “actual” rest — the list goes on.

Boxing self-care into very specific parameters — What if I don’t like sheet masks? What if my bathtub is uncomfortable? — doesn’t help anyone. And for a lot of moms (I mean me), my heightened stress isn’t because I’m not getting enough time in the bath. It’s because I have to dig in a laundry basket for socks for my 6-year-old every morning as we run late for school because I didn’t have time to finish the laundry. It’s because my kitchen floor is sticky from the spilled milk and the watermelon and bananas thrown to the floor are left to mummify while I’m on a Zoom call when I’m already exhausted. It’s because I have to hand-wash all of my kids’ sippy cups because my dishwasher is having issues and leaving build-up in all of their tiny plastic straws.

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And this is why I live in defense of the practical Mother’s Day gift.

Look, I love a pretty, beautiful gift as much as anyone else. My husband very sweetly keeps a running list in his phone of things I’ve pointed out to him in stores or tagged him in on Instagram so he can always surprise me. Flowy skirts from Lauren Conrad, delicate Etsy jewelry, fun presents like a Polaroid camera or a mug featuring Stranger Things’ Steve Harrington — I’m always excited to receive something that is meant just for me.

My husband will appreciate a new weed-eater, too, and will also absolutely forget to fill the water reservoir in the Keurig after he makes his own coffee, but my life right now isn’t just for me either.

But I’m also excited to receive a gift that is going to make the work of homemaking and childrearing a little bit easier. A cordless vacuum that also mops so I can go to bed without panicking about ants finding a feast on my kitchen floor! A washing machine with a removable agitator so I can wash our giant duvet without going to a dry cleaners and adding another errand on my list! A Keurig that will make me iced coffee in like 10 seconds so I’m not late to school pick-up! A weed-eater so I can get rid of all the ivy in our backyard and don’t have to worry about my children finding a snake as they play! (Therefore giving me more time to read while they play independently and safely, do you see the circle I’m making?)

Sure, these aren’t just gifts for me. My husband uses them, too. He does loads of laundry and empties the dishwasher and packs lunches and pulls crib sheets over the corners of impossibly thick and sturdy crib mattresses, too. But even in the most 50/50 marriages, there is always going to be one person who’s doing a little more than the other with a certain task. He is the one who buys new Tupperware for our 6-year-old’s lunchbox because he’s the one who knows the old ones are falling apart. (I don’t pack my kid’s lunch.) And I’m the one who knows how quickly dog hair sticks to spilled cereal milk on the floor if it isn’t vacuumed up right away.

My husband will appreciate a new weed-eater, too, and will also absolutely forget to fill the water reservoir in the Keurig after he makes his own coffee, but my life right now isn’t just for me either. Even on the days I want to relax with a book for an hour, that doesn’t mean the kids suddenly stop needing clothes or that the grass doesn’t need cutting. And if I find it just as relaxing to do all of my chores with an audiobook in my head, setting up Future Sam for a good, relaxing morning, why not? For my own personal mental health and wellbeing, my self-care often looks like taking care of my family.

And in that case, a vacuum for Mother’s Day is totally warranted — and the height of self-care decadence for this mom.

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