First kid? I was there. I was so there. All the damn time. I missed nothing. Nada. I was at every single school play, baseball game, soccer match, muffins with mom, piano recital, and lunch date. I was always present — always — and it didn’t matter what I had to do to be present. I would juggle schedules, juggle toddlers, juggle meal times, juggle nap times, juggle my own damn sanity, just to be there. Why? Because modern parenting told me I had to be.
What kind of mother is not there for all of her kid’s activities? And I do mean all. Haven’t showered in three days? Doesn’t matter; you need to be there. Haven eaten today? Who cares — you have to go. Missing a work deadline, fighting an illness, neglecting your husband and your own needs? Whatever. All of that doesn’t matter because your kids come first. Period. It’s not negotiable. Right?
And then I had three more kids, and a big old dose of reality set in. Now it was no longer logistically or physically possible to be at all of their crap all of the time. So I wasn’t. And guess what? Their world didn’t collapse. They were still able to play their game or their instrument, do their backflips, karate chops, or dance routines, and swing their bats without mom and dad in the audience.
Did I beat myself up about it? Hell yeah, I did, and for many years. Turns out, those were years of wasted guilt, fueled by the lie I had been telling myself that not being there for every single thing meant I was failing as a parent.
Did you hear that? You’re not failing as a parent by not being able to be your kid’s permanent audience. Life happens, other kids happen, work happens, and not being there is an unavoidable consequence of all those things.
Still, do you think you should be able to overcome all those obstacles for the sake of your kids? Wrong. It’s a lie that you need to be a martyr for your children. The last thing your kids need is an exhausted and resentful mom who is so busy filling up her kids’ buckets, hers has gone bone dry.
I’ve missed plenty of things, more than I care to count, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. First, I’ve made it clear to my kids that the reason for their mom or dad not being there isn’t that we didn’t want to be there. Of course we want to be there! I also want a maid, a chef, a jacuzzi tub, and a personal trainer — but there are things in life beyond our reach. With a large family, multiple commitments, and kids who play and do different things, I’m going to miss stuff. It’s simply unavoidable. Kids get that. They’re smarter than you think.
So if you can’t be there for everything, who can? This is where the village comes in — you know the one we always talk about and espouse. The “it takes a village” mentality is wonderful, but only if you actually take part in being the village and reciprocating in it as well. Saying it is one thing, but being the village is another.
When I began realizing I had too many balls in the air and needed a village, I got honest with myself and with other moms in my village and bravely asked for help. It looks something like this: “Hey, I can’t make it to the soccer game today. Can you take my son?” Guess what, they always say yes. People inherently want to help each other; you just have to ask. And then next week, make it your turn. “Hey, if there’s something you need to do and you have to miss the game, I’ll take your son. And I’ll make sure to cheer for your kid and bring a snack, and we’ll stop for ice cream after the game.” I’ve done that for years now, and I have never, ever had a mom say “no thanks” to that offer. Not once.
Every single mom I know needs a break at one point. And if that break happens to come, or be necessary to take, during a kid’s event and that means mom has to miss being there? Well, it’s not the time to point fingers at her, shame her for being a “not there” mom, or place one ounce of guilt upon her. It’s the time for you to step up and be her village, because I can guarantee you, you’re gonna need someone to step up and be your village one day.