When You Can't Be There For Everything

by Christine Organ

You missed bedtime last night.

You were working late, or you got stuck in traffic, or you had a volunteer obligation that dragged out later than you’d planned. It doesn’t matter now.

Here’s what does matter: You wanted to be home. You wanted to be with your kids.

I know this, you know this, and most importantly, your kids know this.

But still, you worry and fret. You are pulled in a million different directions at work and at home, with everyone clamoring for your time and attention. So you put your head down and take care of business at work, and you pick your head up and dote on your kids when you are home. You are a great parent.

But still, you worry whether you’re doing enough, whether you’re doing the right things for your family.

So I’m here to tell you that you absolutely, 100%, without a doubt are doing right by your family.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: You love your kids. I know this. You know this. Your children know this.

But you worry that they don’t. You worry that because you can’t be there for everything, because you miss a baseball game here and a piano recital there, that this reflects negatively on you as a parent. That you’re a less loving parent. That you’re a less dedicated parent. That you’re a less providing parent.

And this, my dear, is absolute bullshit. Stop talking to yourself that way.

There are millions of ways to love our children, and that doesn’t mean being there for every single moment of their childhoods. There are a thousand ways to provide for a family and a child, and sometimes that means busting your ass at work to literally bring home the bacon (and pay the mortgage, the electric bill, and the orthodontist). There are countless ways to be a dedicated parent, which is basically putting the needs of our children ahead of our own, and sometimes that means missing a game or a concert.

And let’s be honest, parents are always putting the needs of their children ahead of their own. Most everything we do is motivated by the driving force of love we have for our kids and our desire to make their memories as amazing as possible.

I know you don’t just worry about your children when you miss things — when you work late, when you travel, when you have weekend meetings — you also worry about yourself because you want to be with your family. You like to be with your kids. You are afraid of what you’re missing.

But think of what you’re teaching your children in the process. You’re teaching them that things like food, shelter, and clothing (not to mention baseball cleats and piano lessons) cost money and you need to work for that money. You’re teaching them that life is about trade-offs and hard choices and sacrifices. You’re showing them that you have a life that exists outside of them. You are reminding your kids that the world does not, in fact, revolve around them, as much as they would like to think that it does sometimes. You are not — I repeat, are not — neglecting your children because you have to work late for a night, or two, or three, which means missing something that you normally would have attended.

I see the way you love your children. I see the way you light up when they are in the room. When you come home late after working a 12-, 14-, or 16-hour day, you slip love letters under their bedroom doors or into their lunchboxes. When you travel, you FaceTime with them and give them tours of your hotel room and send them virtual smooches before bed. You give them your undivided attention at the end of the day, including special, personalized tuck-ins at night. You sing to them, and make up stories for them, and do all kinds of unique and creative things that the “always there” parent doesn’t always have the energy to do (because kids are exhausting).

Through your actions — both when you’re here and when you’re away tending to all those other needs and obligations — you are showing your children how to be good, kind, and responsible adults.

Rest assured, you’re doing a good job. A great job.

Even when you can’t be there for everything.