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  • Writer's pictureDonné Restom

'I chose to spend Mother's Day away from my family. This is what happened'

What did I really want for Mother's Day? 24 hours. Alone.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot.

I hadn't really thought much about Mother's Day. We were planning on driving up the North Coast to spend the weekend with my parents when it hit me.

Friday night, my partner and I were lying in bed, ready to turn the lights out when suddenly, I couldn't breathe. One minute we were talking about what to pack and the next I was curled up in the foetal position, tears were pouring down my face and I was hyperventilating. My fingers, gripped tightly around my shins were white from the pressure and partner was trying to touch me, telling me to "breathe, baby, breathe."

I'd had a panic attack, that was all. A full blown panic attack at the thought of a weekend away with my family.

That's normal, right?

When my breathing returned my partner asked me what it was I needed.

"To be alone," I whispered. "I just really need 24 hours. Alone."

Let me make something clear here

I don't have beef with my family. My partner travels a lot for work, I pick up the load when he's not around, but I love the hell out of him. And my son, my son is the apple of my eye. I love him with more of my heart than I knew I had.

I love spending time with my family.

I'm also an introvert. I need to be alone to recharge - and I was thoroughly wiped out. I needed to sleep for more than four hours at a stretch and most importantly, I needed to do the things I like to do, like write and play music. Things that were impossible with my family around.

So on Saturday afternoon I packed my bags and went to the apartment my parents usually live in (they were up the north coast, remember?).

A little bit of bliss

That afternoon was heaven. I wrote, I played music, I ate Indian food PACKED with chilli, watched a long and involved movie that had no animation or superheros at all, and was in bed, asleep at 9pm.

You're jealous already, right?

Then, I slept for almost 12 hours despite my stupid body waking me at the usual 3am and 5am time slots when my child is usually climbing into our bed, and kicking me in the head to wake me up, respectively.

Happy Mother's Day to me

It was quiet when I got up. Almost too quiet.

Though I wanted to feel joy and release, I couldn't help but notice a falling sensation in my gut. It was mild though and I pushed it away with a large morning coffee and a catch up with my best mummy friends on Messenger - I had already told them where I was and what I was doing.

"Don, as ever, you are following your bliss instead of just bitching like me," said one.

"The bit I'm jonesing most is the going to bed ... alone ... and waking up ... alone," mused another.

When I weighed up the rituals and responsibilities my friends were taking on, on a day that was meant to be FOR THEM, I was reassured that yes, I'd done the right thing. I'd followed my bliss.

I was finally, blissfully alone.

The Facetime call that broke me

At 10:30am they called. My three-year-old's face beamed into the phone and yelled 'Happy Mother's Day Mummy!" He followed up his well wishes with a barrage of questions that would do a detective proud:

"Where are you? What are you doing? Why? Why do you need a holiday? Can we come on the holiday? Why? When will you be back? Are you coming home? When? Why? Why? Why?"

And that's when I pinpointed it. The sinking feeling I had woken up with was guilt.

Mummy guilt, I had it bad.

By 'following my bliss' and taking time alone, was I refusing my family the joy of having a day to show their love and appreciation of me?

Because Mother's Day is as much about the family as it is about the mother, isn't it? It's fun to give flowers and gifts and hug and love and spoil someone. To take silly photos and post them on Instagram with heart emojis and comments that say, "We love you mummy!"

Is that what it's all about?

I hated myself for it, but I missed them. I missed my little family and the stress and the kicking and the lack of sleep. But dammit, I sure as hell wasn' going to let that ruin my day.

So, guilt and all, I pulled up my socks and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in a tiny bookstore without feeling rushed. I painted my toenails and drank tea while the rain hammered down and wrote the kind of stories I don't get paid to write, and yearn to find the time for. And at the end of all that I called my family and asked them:

"So, you guys wanna have dinner together at the pub?"

"Yes," the pair of them answered. "We're already on our way."

Would I do it all over again?

Probably not, to be honest.

I'd rather save my weekends alone for the non-mother's day days.


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