Like many parents of one or more human children, I can divide my life into B.C. (before child) and A.C. (after).
B.C., I didn't give a second thought to the cereal commercials. A.C., I understood just how impossibly aspirational such advertisements are.
"This complete breakfast?" While seated? Together? On a weekday? Fully clothed? With no spills/tears/throw-downs?
Same for Mother's Day. The commercially ingrained assumption: One sunny spring morning, I wake up, fresh-faced, around 10 a.m., in a fluffy bed, to my 5-year-old delivering a lovely tray set with scrambled eggs, grapefruit juice, a homemade blueberry muffin, a handmade card, and a flower from the garden, in a vase, also handmade. Also, my hair looks amazing.
After children, you -- or I -- realize I may never again sleep late. Not on a weekend. Not on vacation. Certainly not when sick (at least those TV commercials hit the mark).
But that's OK. At this point, on this Mother's Day, I'd be fine with sneaking back into bed for breakfast. Even if I have to change egg-crusted sheets after. Even if I have to do the dishes after -- or my hair before.
It's the next part of the holiday that confuses me. What comes after breakfast in bed, or even brunch out, or even eggs at an actual table?
Would someone please make a commercial about lunch? Dinner? Drinks, perhaps?
More important, am I supposed to spend the rest of the day with my … family?
Herein lies my current Mother's Day problem: Moms get to celebrate the holiday because they're moms. But some of us would really like to use the holiday to escape the very situation of motherhood.
It feels wrong -- possibly disturbed -- to use the occasion to avoid your own children for a generous span of time. After all, without these people, you wouldn't get the holiday. On the other hand, it's my/our day, right?
Only one way to find out: Ask other, smarter, better moms.
When I ask friends who didn't want me to give out their names, their reactions ranged from "What's Mother's Day?" and "I don't want my daughter reading that I wanted to abandon her" to -- I kid you not -- "Taking the kids to Disney."
These are not the answers I seek.
At work, I pin down my pal Rakia Reynolds, PR/marketing wunderkind and mother of three, ages 7, 9, and 14. She and her family live in Princeton.
"To be honest, I see Mother's Day as a day off," she said. (I think: Yes!) "I usually ask the kids to keep their inside voices at a four, and no fighting, and please don't come to me unless it's an emergency."
She added: "I always think: Can I just have the day alone? Can I just go to a spa? But my kids want to spend the day with me."
So, Rakia divides the day in two. "The first part of the morning is celebrating the women who are my mothers: my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother. I call them. Then we'll have brunch. The latter part of the day is my free time, my wild card. I get a nap -- and I never get to nap. I Netflix and chill. I have four episodes of Luke Cage to watch."
At tykes soccer practice, I pressed my friend Katherine Mahoney, mom to Finn, 5. "Being a mom is the most fulfilling job I've ever had," she started out. "But I would like time to myself … either a massage or dinner at Vedge with another mom friend? Does that seem selfish?"
It does not.
Next, I sought out professionals: Christy Lejeune and Ashley Martin, two moms who founded and edit Wee Wander, a Philly parenting (but mostly mom-ing) blog. I asked them: Is the Mother's Day escape a thing? Is it wrong? Is it feasible?
Said Christy: "I definitely think the knee-jerk instinct for a lot of us is to do the Mother's Day brunch with our own families or our own moms -- the brunch and the breakfast in bed, and maybe the kids make cards or something sweet. I think that's still pretty popular and common because that's still tradition." She paused, "Not to say everybody does that."
So, I asked: Do you guys want to do that?
Ashley replied, "Friends and I were texting the other day, asking: Would it be too rude to tell our husbands that for Mother's Day, we just want to have a drunken brunch with the three of us?"
Apparently, it is too much to ask. Instead, she's requested "a day in the King of Prussia Mall by myself, to buy a present that I want, for myself. To be alone and wander around the mall is a luxury I never get," she said.
Christy chimed in: "Just a day off. Just, like, to go and wander Walnut Street, which I literally never get to do. … I want a flashback to premotherhood days, when nobody's asking for anything, when there are no expectations for those few hours. … A break."
Now we're getting somewhere. But what about … guilt?
"The guilt is funny," Christy agreed. "I guess part of the gift is giving yourself permission to enjoy a little freedom."
My friend Victoria Bruton is a recent Temple grad, caterer, restaurant workers' rights activist -- and mom who raised two girls on her own (now ages 25 and 29) and who recently became a grandmother.
"I don't work on Mother's Day. And I don't eat out. 'Let's get dressed up and take Mom out'? That ain't me. I want to ride roller coasters and scream. Just like when I was in labor."
For the last three years, Victoria has taken herself and a guest to Six Flags Great Adventure for Mother's Day. Last year, she and a friend rode the steel accelerator Kingda Ka -- twice, she said.
This year, she plans to take her daughter who is a mom herself. The next day, Victoria will take her mom to a spa.
"When my girls were little, I worked [waiting tables at] brunch," she said. "I was a single parent. … Now, it's time for things to be done for me."
Turns out, I'm not alone in wanting to be alone for Mother's Day.