A mom’s blissful birthday, hours alone in the bathroom

After 10 years of motherhood, Mimi Greenwood Knight’s taste in birthday presents from her husband had changed. Instead of the usual gifts or an evening out, what she really desired was some alone time — but not at a spa or hotel, or some other solo getaway. She simply wanted to have her own bathroom all to herself, as she shares in her story “Ode to a Quiet Bathroom,” in our book about multitasking moms. Mimi writes:

This year I’ll turn 40. I’m just waiting for my husband to ask me what I want for my birthday. I’ve got my answer all prepared. It’s probably not what he expects, though.

In the years before kids, he’d have gotten off easy with jewelry or clothes, dinner out and a gift certificate to a day spa. But after 10 years and three kids, my idea of the perfect birthday gift has evolved. What I want this year, what I really want, is four hours alone uninterrupted in my own bathroom. Just peace and quiet and porcelain.

I suppose that makes me a cheap date but, after 10 years of doing whatever I’ve got to do in the bathroom with an audience, four hours of bathroom solitude sounds better than anything he could buy me.

My birthday fantasy looks like this: me loitering in the tub with my eyes closed. Around me are no action figures, no stick-on alphabet letters, no naked Barbies. (Talk about depressing. The last thing I need, when I’m bent over shaving my legs, is a naked Barbie smirking up at me.) I want no little urchins there to offer commentary on my breasts or belly or buttocks or anything else. I don’t want to hear that I’m getting fat but “Don’t worry, Mommy, you look good that way.”

I want to shave my legs without delivering a safety lecture about my razor. I don’t want to share my shaving cream with anyone no matter how much fun it is. I want to fog up the mirror without having to peek around the curtain and answer “What letter is this, Mommy?” I want the curtain to stay shut — not be fanned open every few seconds leaving me to explain once again the mechanics of a shower curtain keeping the water off the floor.

I want the water as hot as I can stand it and not to hear that anyone is taking up all the room. I want all the room. I don’t want to hear, “Oops! Guess I forgot to tinkle before I got in the tub.”

I want to stretch out my legs without it being seen as an invitation for a pony ride. I want to step from the tub without hearing, “Boy, the water goes way down when you get out, Mommy!” And to towel off without having to teach an anatomy lesson titled “Why Mommy looks different than Daddy.”

And while I’m at it, I want to do what I need to on the toilet without spectators. Not to have to remember who tore off the toilet paper for me the last time so I’m sure everyone gets their turn. I want to pick up a magazine, read an article from start to finish, and actually comprehend what I’m reading. I want to close the door and not have little notes slid underneath with my name on them or tiny fingers wiggling up at me.

Then I want to paint my nails — only mine, no one else’s. Not to have the “But, sweetie, nail polish is for girls and mommies.” I want to give myself a pedicure, a facial, and touch up my roots without once stopping to yell: “I’m in the bathroom. No, I can’t come to you. You come to me.”

I don’t really care where my husband takes the kids. I just want four unbroken hours to luxuriate in my own bathroom alone! Maybe I’ll remind him while he’s sitting in the McDonald’s play yard staring at his watch that he’s turning 50 this year and I’m toying with the idea of declaring the remote control off limits to anyone but Daddy for one long, glorious afternoon. Consider the possibilities.