I’ve been a working mom since my sons were each two weeks old. My sons are almost five and two, respectively, and neither of the jobs I held when they were born offered any paid time off or maternity leave, so as the working parent, I had to go back earlier than I wanted to.
Going back so early meant I missed a lot of “firsts” for both of them. I missed when both said “mama” for the first time. I missed when my oldest rolled over for the first time, and the first time my youngest sang the alphabet.
I come home from work each night, hug them both, and immediately start in on making dinner. I try to keep both boys in the kitchen near me to give my husband a break. We are a one-car, homeschooling family, so they are at home all day together. Our babies are an equal mixture of mine and my husband’s energy levels and strong willed natures, and I can only imagine that handling both of them solo for about ten hours a day is pretty exhausting. Often, keeping them near me means equal parts making dinner, breaking up brotherly squabbles, and cleaning up a random assortment of markers, books, and bird seed (don’t ask).
After dinner it’s time to clean up the kitchen, wrestle the boys into their pajamas, and hoping it’s not another night where they spend the next three hours wailing “I’m not tired!” until their bodies finally give in and they fall asleep.
After I start a load of laundry and run the dishwasher, I’m too tired to do much of anything except fall into bed, wondering if I’m giving my sons a hopeful view of the world, and if they feel loved, supported, and accepted enough by me. And then I wake up and do it all again the next morning.
As a working mom, I get to see my children for approximately four hours a day. The older they get, the more I recognize that time together is a fleeting opportunity, and all too soon they will not be hanging at my feet, begging for hugs, kisses, and whatever I happen to be trying to eat at that moment.
Over the course of my entire life, more time will be spent away from them than with them. So please, don’t assume I want time away from them as a “gift” this holiday season. If anything, I more time with them.
I want things to be taken care of so I can spend more time relaxing with them. I want to be able to cook healthy meals for them without spending all evening in the kitchen. I want to relax and do fun things with them on the weekends.
The comedian Tim Hawkins wrote a funny song to the tune of Green Day’s “Time of your Life” called “Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife.” One of the lines is “happy anniversary, I bought you a treadmill.” While I get the idea that it might not be the most romantic gift of all time, if someone wants a treadmill, I see no reason why buying a treadmill would be considered a faux pas.
Perhaps it’s my minimalist-loving nature, or my frugal mindset coming out, but I prefer gifts to be practical and helpful for my life.
On my list this year?
A double chambered compost bin so I can be minimizing our family’s trash output, while also creating nutrient-rich soil for our garden, which will help us grow even more nutritious fruits and vegetables for our family.
A side-by-side refrigerator to house said healthy food in a more organized and easier to find fashion, so it both does not go bad quickly and also encourages my boys to help themselves to healthy snack options.
An air fryer, to make dinner time healthier, with the added benefit of being a “set it and forget it” appliance that makes dinner for me while I am freed up to spend time with my boys.
Notice that these are all appliances, and they all improve my life over the long-term. I can use them for decades, and they will begin helping me immediately, and continue their assistance until they wear out.
I suppose it is easier for me to want appliances, as my “feminine self care” game is pretty bland. I cut my own hair, paint my own nails about three times a year, and forget to wear mascara approximately ninety-seven percent of my existence. Gifts like perfume, jewelry, and the like don’t hold much meaning for me because I don’t use them, and I guess that makes me odd, if you believe the holiday commercials on television. No judgment if you look forward to buying your favorite special perfume on sale each year, moms! It’s just not me.
What makes me truly happy is spending time with my babies, and I appreciate every appliance, trick, and life hack that maximizes my time with them for as long as they still think I’m cool. They will realize the truth soon enough that I’m just as lame as they come, but as long as they know that their mom spent as much time with them as possible, I will consider my life well spent and my mission accomplished.
So please, stop with the commercials of superfluous things “she wants” this season, or joking that she must want time away from her kids. If you love a working mom, give her a gift that helps her make that work-life balance a reality.
Amanda Kintz is an RN by day, wife and mom by night, and Responsible Lifestyle Coach after everyone goes to sleep. She loves gardening, sustainable living, and playing outside with her boys. Find out how to live a healthy and natural lifestyle on a budget at CrunchyHippieLife.com, and follow her Instagram for inspiration and silly “real life” moments.