“So what do you want for Mother’s Day?” Kennard asked me in early May.
We were on the verge of having a newborn, so my options were limited. But he was doing his best.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “what do I want?” I’m not especially fond of flowers or jewelry, and going to a restaurant with two kids (and possibly a newborn) is usually more trouble than it’s worth. If I asked for candy, I’d have to spend all my time keeping the kids out of it and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it in peace.
I ended up spending several days pondering his question. After a while, it took on an almost metaphysical significance. What did I really want? What would make me happy? After some deep soul searching, here’s what I came up with: I want better job benefits.
After all, taking care of the kids all day is definitely a job, and all of the jobs I’ve had in the past had pretty good benefits — except this one. I do have the occasional day off, and I do get medical insurance (through my husband). But compared to what I had when I was an engineer, it’s a pretty pathetic list. It’s certainly nothing that would help to retain valued employees or attract leading candidates from top universities. How does my family expect to keep me from quitting and going someplace else if they don’t offer me the proper incentives? Mother’s Day seems like the perfect time to recognize my years of service and reward me with additional benefits. I know exactly which ones I want.
* Maternity leave. Until I got pregnant this time around, I hadn’t quite appreciated that, as a stay-home mom, there would be no such thing as a maternity leave. I wouldn’t get a couple of weeks off before delivery to gestate in peace, and a couple of months off afterwards to obsess over the new baby. Apparently the Family Leave Act does not mean that you get to leave your family for 12 weeks and be guaranteed a return to your former status with no hard feelings.
And anyway, it’s not that I actually want to leave Riley and Ben; it’s just that I don’t want to have to take care of them. It seems to me that when a woman is hugely pregnant or has just delivered a child, she should be absolved of all other responsibilities for awhile. I want to lie in bed and have them come snuggle with me every now and again while a Temporary Mom from an agency handles all the diaper changes and baths and lunches and orthodontist appointments.
* Sick days. In real jobs, you are given a certain number of sick days. It’s very nice to have such days when you’re sick, and I’d certainly settle for a few more of those. But what I really miss is the thing where you can phone in and pretend to be sick and then stay in bed reading all day. In my current job, if I roll over in bed in the morning and look at Kennard and say, “Ummm, I’m feeling a little bit sick?” he says “Yeah, right,” and tromps off to work anyway. The sad fact is that it’s really hard to fake illness in person. So I have no hope of getting a sick day unless I’m actually barfing or something, and where’s the fun in that?
* Business trips. I want to be sent away on several business trips each year, where I stay — alone — in lovely expensive hotels with crisp sheets and soft towels. Hotels where the staff’s job description is based largely on making ME happy. Where the TV swivels and those nice hotel people bring eggs benedict to my door and will add six slices of bacon to the plate if I ask. Where they bring a big pot of coffee and it’s all for me.
The destination doesn’t matter; my intention is not to sight-see, it’s to stay inside my beautiful maid-serviced hotel room. I’d sleep late (where “late” means “past 6 am”), read the hotel’s information packet, and possibly order an in-room massage (something I’ve never done in my life, but hey — I could handle it). It would be especially wonderful if there were some reason for me to get dressed up in my important-looking business clothes and speak intelligently with someone about something, but that would just be a bonus.
* Week-long child-free vacations. I want to go on a long vacation with my husband, without my kids. True, Kennard and I have been lucky enough to get away for the occasional weekend, owing to our very nice mothers-in-law who take the kids for a couple of days. But it always seems to me that by the time we’re starting to remember how to be on vacation, it’s time to come home. Sometimes we haven’t even gotten around to having hot sex. We’ve been so busy bouncing around like a couple of golden retrievers who got out of their yards that we’ve forgotten to think about doing the wild thing until it’s, like, 10 p.m. and by then we’re way too sleepy. We really need at least a full week to get all our bouncing done, in bed and out.
So I put all this in writing and presented it to my husband. He read it thoughtfully, and after he finished, he put his arm around me.
“Ok,” he said, “What do you want other than that.”