I'm Not Sure How It's Possible To Make It To EVERY Game, So I No Longer Feel Guilty About It

by Jen Moog
Parents and their three sons in a group hug after a baseball game
martinedoucet / iStock

We’ve all heard professional athletes gush about how amazing their moms are by saying, “My mom is the best. She never missed a [fill in the blank: soccer game/hockey game/tennis match, etc.]. Maybe some people hear this and find it endearing.

Not me. My first thought is: Really? How is this possible? How on earth did she manage that?

I can only assume these moms did not work, or have any other children, or ever get sick, or have hobbies, friends, or even a dentist appointment every now and again.

This “never missed a game” idea sounds lovely I suppose, in theory. But is this really the yardstick by which we measure great parenting? I have three children, all of whom are actively involved in multiple sports and other activities. Even with my wonderful and capable hands-on husband, there are still only two of us. As (somewhat obviously) predicted when we had baby No. 3, we are officially outnumbered.

Most of the conversations we have heading into each weekend are about organizing the logistics of the half-dozen (at least) activities we need to cart our children to in the upcoming 48 hours. I can’t imagine coordinating a “spontaneous” trip of the Real Housewives to the Tahiti, or whatever random place they go, could be more difficult. And that’s just the weekend.

I recently stopped working full-time which means I can often handle the lion’s share of the shuttling during the week, but I still need to rely heavily on my husband as well as friends and neighbors. There is no way I could possibly manage it alone, and short of some type of time machine, there is also no way I could watch every event.

When I was working, I was incredibly fortunate to work for a company that prioritized work-life balance so I had a good amount of flexibility. I worked hard during those pre-kid years to establish a reputation for getting the job done and done well. Then, once I had children, flexibility was an option because there was less focus on where I got the work done but how. But not all jobs are like that. Some people work hourly jobs or do shift work. Some are in careers where flexibility isn’t a guarantee. It’s hard to imagine a call like this: “Sorry, Mr. Smith but I need to reschedule your gall bladder surgery. Penelope has a tennis match today.”

Mom guilt is pervasive for most of us, but this I felt pretty good about. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked for us. I felt lucky not to have to miss out on very much. To be clear, my mom guilt manifested in other ways. My kids don’t eat healthy enough, they spend too much time on devices, and I have the patience of whatever is the opposite of a saint. But flexibility? That one I could usually put in the W column!

However, looking back, I now realize I wasn’t as good as I believed. True, I thought I was balancing it all, hardly ever missing my kids’ sporting events, school concerts, and classroom parties. However, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t always 100% engaged. With smartphones, laptops and Wi-Fi everywhere, we are now expected to always be on call. I may have left work, but the work didn’t leave me. I recall baseball games spent pacing back and forth behind the bleachers on a conference call when I would hear cheering, only to realize happily (and sadly) those cheers were for a play by my son I had missed. Granted, I could say I was there, but was I really there?

No parent likes the idea of their kid looking to the stands and possibly thinking no one is there specifically for them. That said, with most of the sports teams our kids participate in, the parents have become their own team of sorts. We are thrilled for every kid as they succeed and feel heartache when they stumble. I know that, if my husband or I can’t be there, any one of these wonderful moms and dads will cheer our child on, genuinely excited for their triumphs and saddened by their disappointments.

Sports teach our kids a lot. They learn the importance of teamwork, hard work, dedication, and often disappointment. They learn how to be leaders on and off the field, as well as how to be a good sport, whether they win or lose. In organized team sports, they work together to achieve a goal and learn from their mistakes — lessons that will serve them far beyond childhood. I am so grateful for the role sports play in our kids’ lives, as well as our family’s, even if they happily monopolize most of our weekends.

And as parents, we have many responsibilities as well. Our job is to teach our children how to be good, kind people. To make sure they are safe and, God willing, healthy. I want my kids to know we will always have their back. I pray they will be happy, but I can’t guarantee that, especially considering most days I am enemy No. 1 because I have the nerve to ask them to put on their pajamas at bedtime or the Wi-Fi doesn’t work. But nowhere in the job description does it say “attending every single sporting event” is a requirement.

I read an article once outlining the absolute best thing you can say to your kid after a game, win or lose. Six words: “I love to watch you play.” It’s not our job to critique their performance or berate them if they made a mistake — let their coaches do the coaching. These six, simple words say it all, and I now say this to my kids all the time. And it’s true: I do love watching them play, and I want to be there cheering them on as often as I possibly can. Unfortunately, I just can’t promise that it will be every time they play.