Yes, it's a real thing.
It's hard to explain the relentless intensity of having young children if you haven't done it. It's wonderful, beautiful, magical and all of that—it truly is—but it's a lot. Like, a lot. It's a bit like running an ultramarathon through the most beautiful landscape you can imagine. There's no question that it's amazing, but it's really, really hard. And sometimes there are storms or big hills or obstacles or twisted ankles or some other thing that makes it even more challenging for a while.
Unfortunately, a lot of moms feel like they're running that marathon alone. Some actually are. Some have partners who don't pull their weight. But even with an equal partner, the early years tend to be mom-heavy, and it takes a toll.
In fact, that toll is so great that it's not unusual for moms to fantasize about being hospitalized—not with anything serious, just something that requires a short stay—simply to get a genuine break.
In a thread on X (formerly Twitter), a mom named Emily shared this truth: "[I don't know] if the lack of community care in our culture is more evident than when moms casually say they daydream about being hospitalized for something only moderately serious so that they are forced to not have any responsibilities for like 3 days."
In a follow-up tweet, she added, "And other moms are like 'yeah totally' while childfree Gen Z girls’ mouths hang open in horror."
Other moms corroborated, not only with the fantasy but the reality of getting a hospital break:
"And can confirm: I have the fondest memories of my appendicitis that almost burst 3 weeks after my third was born bc I emergency had to go get it taken out and I mean I let my neighbor take my toddlers and I let my husband give the baby formula, and I slept until I was actually rested. Under the knife, but still. It was really nice," wrote one mom.
"I got mastitis when my first was 4 months old. I had to have surgery, but my hospital room had a nice view, my mom came to see me, the baby was with me but other people mostly took care of her, bliss," shared another.
Some people tried to blame lackadaisical husbands and fathers for moms feeling overwhelmed, but as Emily pointed out, it's not always enough to have a supportive spouse. That's why she pointed to "lack of community care" in her original post.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to raise a mother. Without the proverbial village, we end up bearing too much of the weight of childrearing ourselves. We're not just running the ultramarathon—we're also carrying the water, bandaging the blisters, moving fallen trees out of the way, washing the sweat out of our clothes—and we're doing it all without any rest.
Why don't moms just take a vacation instead of daydreaming about hospitalization? It's not that simple. Many people don't have the means for a getaway, but even if they do, there's a certain level of "mom guilt" that comes with purposefully leaving your young children. Vacations usually require planning and decision-making as well, and decision fatigue is one of the most exhausting parts of parenting.
Strange as it may seem, the reason hospitalization is attractive is that it's forced—if you're in the hospital, you have to be there, so there's no guilt about choosing to leave. It involves no decision-making—someone else is calling the all shots. You literally have no responsibilities in the hospital except resting—no one needs anything from you. And unlike when you're on vacation, most people who are caring for your kids when you're in the hospital aren't going to constantly contact you to ask you questions. They'll leave you to let you rest.
Paula Fitzgibbons shares that had three kids under the age of 3 in 11 months (two by adoption and one by birth). Her husband, despite being very involved and supportive, had a 1.5 hour commute for work, so the lion's share of childcare—"delightful utter chaos" as she refers to it—fell on her shoulders. At one point, she ended up in the ER with atrial fibrillation, and due to family medical history was kept in the hospital for a few days for tests and monitoring.
"When people came to visit me or called to see how I was, I responded that I was enjoying my time at 'the spa,' and though I missed my family, I was soaking it all in," she tells Upworthy. "My husband understood. Other mothers understood. The medical staff did not know what to make of my cheerful demeanor, but there I was, lying in bed reading and sleeping for four straight days with zero guilt. What a gift for a new mom."
When you have young children, your concept of what's relaxing shifts. I recall almost falling asleep during one of my first dental cleanings after having kids. That chair was so comfy and no one needed anything from me—I didn't even care what they were doing to my teeth. It felt like heaven to lie down and rest without any demands being made of me other than "Open a little wider, please."
Obviously, being hospitalized isn't ideal for a whole host of reasons, but the desire is real. There aren't a lot of simple solutions to the issue of moms needing a real break—not just an hour or two, but a few days—but maybe if society were structured in such a way that we had smaller, more frequent respites and spread the work of parenting across the community, we wouldn't feel as much of a desire to be hospitalized simply to be able to be able to rejuvenate.
This article originally appeared on 9.7.23