When My Son Asked Why I Missed His School Event, I Reminded Him That I'm Always There

by Theresa McArleton
Originally Published: 

“Mommy, you weren’t at my Fun Run at school yesterday.”

These were the words my sweet and tender hearted five-year-old said to me this week while we were getting in a little snuggle time before the morning rush began. He looked up at me after he said this and as he was folded in the crook of my arm and his face, dotted with freckles across his nose and cheeks as if they were the constellation map in the sky. I almost said the wrong thing.

I came so very close to saying what we working mamas sometimes do. “I had to work.” But on this morning, I caught myself, steadied my breath and looked into his greenish eyes and told him the truth.

“Mommy needed to be at work and was busy working on a project she really cares about and believes in.”

This is not a statement of working mothers vs. stay at home mothers. We are all in this together in my humble opinion. I am also a very fortunate mama to have a career that allows me incredible flexibility in scheduling. I am not a corporate world mama, a traveling working mama, a doctor mama, a CEO mama. But I am mama who loves her career, who hopes to continue advancing her career, and who even though she will make many a field trip or Fun Run, knows there will be events that are missed.

After I spoke my truth to my kindergartner, I waited for his reaction. He began with questions. “Why did you want to work, Mommy, and not be at my Fun Run?”

I adjusted my arm a bit so he could still rest in it, while I could look at his face better (looking at this face happens to be the best part of my day). Then I spoke more truth to him, “Mommy wanted to be at your Fun Run and at work, but sometimes, I have to make tough decisions and choose one over the other. Some days I come to your school to volunteer and that means I miss out on work time, but other times, mommy wants to do good work and move her community forward. When I cannot be right next to you, do you remember where I am?” My son pointed to his heart and smiled.

“When you were running, Buddy, did you feel mommy racing alongside you like we often do?” He looked at me and smiled shaking his head yes. “Did it make you a little sad that some other mommies and daddies were at the run and your mom and dad were not?” He nodded again.

I told him that I understood that and then I repeated what I often do. I reminded him that just like families are made up of all different types of people, some mommies and daddies can be in lots of places all the time and others have to choose their moments.

I’m not entirely sure just how much he soaked up that morning. After we cuddled and chatted for a bit, we both bounded out of bed and so began our busy morning routine. He was packing his book bag, getting dressed, eating breakfast and brushing teeth and I was doing much of the same and also trying to read work emails before leaving. So what stayed with him is not fully known.

But I know that as he grows, I will continue to be open with him. To let him know that his mommy loves what she does, cares about the work she is doing, and will not always be present at all of his activities. She will however, always be with him in his heart.

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