Parks. Playgrounds. Zoos. Museums. Mommy and Me classes. Day camps. Workshops. No matter what your kid’s age or interest, there is a veritably endless list of the things you can do to get them out of the house and socializing.
But there’s just one problem: I’m not a big fan of any of those things. And that’s kind of an understatement.
I try. Really I do. But I’m a hardcore homebody, and the things that most people seem to love are exercises in anxiety and stress for me. Once in a while, I’ll take my kids to a fun public activity (and by “fun” I mean they have a good time; I pretend to enjoy myself while watching each minute tick by, agonizingly slowly). For the most part, though, those are activities we do only on weekends, when both my husband and I can be there, or as a reward on a special occasion, like a really good grade on a test.
As with almost any other parenting decision I make, this comes with a hefty helping of mom guilt. The other day, while twiddling my thumbs through the story-hour-that-feels-like-three at the library, another mom chatted me up. “Don’t you just love coming here?” she chirped, with an enthusiasm I usually reserve for clearance sales or desserts. “Wednesdays are so fun for Jackson and me. First we go to the playground for a little while so he can run off some energy after breakfast. Then there’s toddler music class at 10, then we go to that burger place with the incredible ball pit for lunch. And then we come here, and after this, it’s ‘Wild and Wacky Wednesday’ at the petting zoo. Admission is half price!”
“That sounds awesome!” my mouth said, while my brain screamed, “That sounds torturous!” But then I tacked some truth onto the end: “Jackson is a lucky boy.”
And he is, which is why I get the gnawing feeling of inadequacy in the pit of my stomach every time I run into someone like Jackson’s mom. Why can’t YOU be that excited and engaged? my nagging inner voice demands to know (and then berates me because I don’t buy organic bananas).
But I have to be fair with myself. I have four children; Jackson’s mom has, well, Jackson. Nothing is ever as easy as going to one place. They all want to do something, and they all want to do something different. That bleeds into the area of time management: I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to devote to schlepping kids to different activities and providing meals and helping with homework and making sure my toilet doesn’t grow biohazardous organisms. And I’m not even going to get started on the price of paying four admission fees or tuition rates. I’d have to take out a second mortgage, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to do that already just to cover our steadily mounting grocery bill (even without organic bananas).
My kids may not be growing up with a mother who adores taking them out and about to every enrichment opportunity that pops up on the community calendar. But they’re growing up with a mother who teaches them how to make pancakes, and lets them use the last of the glue and a ridiculous amount of detergent to make “goop,” and accompanies them on neighborhood nature walks, stooping alongside them to more closely examine an anthill. The experiences they have at home, and the memories we make there, are no less valid or meaningful—just different. And when we do go to a museum or play miniature golf, it’s a memorable occasion—not just a typical Wednesday.
Some people like fishing. Some people like knitting. Some people like going without underwear. Just as there are all kinds of people in the world, there are all kinds of parents. In this case, those who like social activities and those who like to stay closer to home—and that’s OK. Because it doesn’t matter what we do: We’re going to feel guilty about it anyway.