feminist parenting mommy touch quota 1

As I write this, my children are nearly 100 miles away. That is literally the distance I had to travel to get them to stop touching me.

I drove two hours through Minnesota lake traffic (really a thing) to get away from the two little barnacles who live with me. At this point, you may be thinking, “Really? 100 miles? That seems a little ridiculous.” To which I would reply, “Tell me all about your life without small children.”

Because life with small children is one in which all parents—especially those who serve as the primary caregiver—relinquish all right to any personal space. None of our childbirth classes or those parenting books covered the subject of extreme physical attachment. No one warned me of children’s surprising physical strength or mental tenacity. The classes and books all lulled me into a false sense of security. Once they’re out, that’s it! They’re out! But no. No, they’re not. They never stop touching. Never ever.

Now you be thinking, “Really? Never? That also seems ridiculous.” To which I would reply, “Have a seat.”

7:00 – Listen for the banshee cries of “Mommmmmmyyyy!” from the far reaches of the house. Really, it’s best just to stay awake and listen for it all night, since you don’t sleep anymore anyway. The incoming projectile gives little warning before 40 pounds of potty-training preschooler dive-bombs directly onto your stomach, perfectly sticking her landing. She may smell of wet Pull-Up or dirty teeth, but if any questionable odors are emitting from your sleep-weary self, rest assured that she will promptly bring them to your attention.

7:01 – After a much groggier, crankier initial appearance, the limbs of the larger, elementary-age child will slither into bed and leach onto you, preferably at your most uncomfortable points, including but not limited to a sore neck or full bladder. Don’t try to move. Act like our friend Ms. Mommy Possum and play dead until the large smother cuddler either falls back to sleep (Ha! Just kidding. No one in your house sleeps anymore) or becomes bored.

7:02: – While still strapped onto you like two baby koalas, your new bedmates will express said boredom disturbingly quickly. “Can we read a book?” “Can we play Legos?” “Can we build a fort with these blankets from your bed that you aren’t using anymore?” Despite their obvious agitation at your desire to remain horizontal, neither child will actually move from the bed before you do. Rather, they will need to be coerced with promises of an unhealthy breakfast or books or Legos or blanket forts. And then they will both demand to be carried down the stairs simultaneously in something resembling Mrs. Doubtfire attempting to perform Cirque de Soleil.

And thus my day will continue, beginning with breakfast with at least one person on my lap (usually accompanied by, “Cuse me, Mommy. I tooted on you”), and continuing for the next several hours with various forms of persistent, insistent, constant touching. By the end of the day, my patience will have whittled away until my entire body recoils from any human touch whatsoever. And yet, they persist, repeating my name and tap, tap, tapping my leg, sure that I must have heard them the first five times. “Mommy?” Tap, tap, tap. “Mommy?” Tap, tap, tap.  “Mommy?” Tap, tap, tap.

I have reached my mommy-touch quota. Back away slowly.

Your mommy-touch quota is likely different than mine. Goddess bless you if you can be touched and chatted at incessantly for days—even hours—on end without losing a piece of yourself. But we all hit that point eventually. Whenever yours hits—or, better yet, just before it’s about to—do yourself and your children a favor: drive 100 miles away from them and stay there.

Hit reset on the mommy-touch quota. Give yourself a respite from the dive-bomb cuddling and the ceaseless demands for physical attention and the never-ending repetition of your name. Vent to your tribe and do things that are impossible to accomplish at home. Stay up late to engage in adult conversation. Sleep in without a sneak dive-bombing cuddle attack from a wet Pull Up. Simply exist in your own space as your own person to remember who you are. Stay away long enough to reset your mommy-touch quota. Stay away long enough to miss your children. Then race the 100 miles home to smother and dive-bomb cuddle your favorite little humans until they reach their own touch quotas.

Rachel is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She is a recovering political writer and most recently taught high school English in Baltimore. She is thrilled to now be a full-time mama and writer,...