This past weekend, my husband and I attended a family wedding without our kids in tow. Even now that our kids are older, this sort of thing is a rare occurrence for us. Our oldest, a middle schooler, would be fine if he stayed home alone without us. But our youngest still requires babysitting, and to arrange that — plus juggle our busy AF schedule — can be a real headache.
Yet it’s so much easier than when my kids were younger. Back then, even if we found a babysitter, having someone other than us do the bedtime routine would usually result in a total shitshow. Our kids would usually stay up way too late (if they even fell asleep without us), and then they’d be be cranky beasts for the next few days after that. Not to mention, sometimes our budget just did not allow for us to pay a sitter.
And forget about when they were breastfeeding babies, literally attached to my body 24/7. Getting away for the evening was usually a total non-option for me. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to task someone else with their care because I knew they would be clingy, difficult to console and would refuse a bottle.
I was reminded of how much things have changed for me about an hour into the wedding when I bumped into my husband’s cousin. I’d noticed that his sister — who has a toddler — wasn’t at the wedding. This cousin and his sister are at almost all family events, and although I knew how hard it was to get away when you have a little one, her absence was notable.
“Tell your sister I send love,” I said.
Then her brother said, sort of apologetically. “You know, it’s so hard to get away with the baby and everything.”
I immediately went on a little rant about how no one needs to apologize and how I totally understand and would have done the same. I don’t think he really felt he needed to explain it further to me. He was just exchanging pleasantries, to be honest. And I think he knew how very accepting I would be about something like this.
But the exchange got me a little worked up, because why is it a societal norm that these sorts of things have to be explained at all?
NO ONE SHOULD EVER, EVER HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHY A PARENT OF YOUNG KIDS CAN’T ATTEND AN EVENT. I’m serious. Like ever.
Basically, from birth to about age 5 (or later, honestly, because all kids are different and because babysitting can be hard as hell to secure), there should be literally no assumptions about whether a parent can attend a big event like a wedding or anything where kids aren’t welcome, or that might be difficult to attend.
And even if kids are invited, if the event is at night and will mess up bedtime, or if the event is far away and it would be a nightmare to travel to, you still shouldn’t assume that a parent should be able to make it.
Look, I understand that sometimes these things are important, but I think you can trust that if it’s a really important thing — a birth/death type thing, or whatnot — the parent is going to use their judgment and do their very best to get there. No parent is trying to be an asshole here.
And I agree that we sometimes have to step out of our comfort zones and do things like take the cranky kids out at bedtime. But honestly, it’s only a parent’s place to decide when those times are.
That’s what really gets me about things like this. It’s the judgment from others. It’s the assumption that someone other than the parent should know when the appropriate time is for a parent to make the sacrifice and show up somewhere that’s hard for them to get to.
I think older folks sometimes forget how all-consuming raising young children is. They forget how literally every minute requires your attention. They forget how goddamn busy we are (and NO, we are not exaggerating).
Many of us don’t have babysitters at our beck and call. Many of us can’t afford them, even if we did. Many of us are balancing work and housework and childcare — sometimes all at the same time.
So no, Brenda, it’s not that freaking easy for us to get away for a few hours. It just isn’t. Unless you are in our lives every damn minute, you don’t get to decide what we can and cannot do. FULL STOP.
So, I hereby declare that moms of little ones get a free pass when it comes to attending events outside the home, even family events. They don’t have to go unless they are able. No one is allowed to asked them why they can’t attend, and they certainly don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Let me tell you what should happen when you find out a parent of a young kid can’t make it to a wedding, a holiday event, a family potluck, or anything else. You say: “Well, of course she can’t come. She has a little kid, after all.”
That’s it. Case closed.
See how easy that was?