Yes, I’ve been there too. That day when your child is showing off their artwork, performing in a concert, or reading their short story during school hours – and you can’t be there. So many of us have experienced that feeling of dread and disappointment, served with a heaping side of guilt.
Maybe you have two children that have events at the same time. Perhaps your school doesn’t allow siblings and you have no childcare for your younger child. You might have to work and can’t escape for an hour. Or maybe you have elder care responsibilities. Whatever the case may be, no parent chooses to miss their child’s event at school. But sometimes it happens.
On those days when you feel like the worst possible mom, remember you’re not alone.
Remember that you’re doing so many things to insure your child’s and your family’s health, happiness, and financial security. And remember that the kids feel your love in so many other ways.
I know it’s hard. Just this week, I sent my first grade daughter off to school crying because I could not accompany on her school trip. I had a work meeting, plus I had my son’s final music concert that same morning (and we can talk about why so many school activities have to happen during the workday another time). I was lucky if I could even make the concert. The trip was off the table. “But you NEVER come on my trips,” my daughter wailed. No, no I don’t. Because I choose to be present for other school activities when I can, like the annual carnival and student performances. I simply cannot attend every event.
We all have to make choices every day, and sometimes some of those choices are hard and not within our control. After almost a decade of making those hard choices, I’ve come to learn a few things. First, the kids survive. They know they are loved even if you don’t show up for everything.
It’s good for kids to learn that even with disappointments, relationships can remain strong and grow.
Second, there are some really great moms out there who will take pictures and videos for you when you can’t be there. It takes a village, so choose wisely who is in your village. My mom (and dad!) friends have been there for me – and my children – on more than one occasion, indirectly teaching my children about friendship and support.
And despite everything you’ve heard, feeling guilty does not make you a better mother.
Lose the guilt. We all do the best we can, every damn day, so choose to embrace your successes (kids got to school on time with clean clothes? Celebrate it!), and let the rest go. Feeling guilty only reinforces negative emotion, and instead we want our kids to know they are loved fiercely, even if we are not in the front row cheering them on every single time.
Show up whenever you can. Let your kids know you want to be there. Let them help you decide what is the most important event, in their opinion, that you attend. Remind them that they are loved, and that sometimes you have to show that love by going to work or taking care of a sibling.
It’s not easy. I know, I’ve been there. And my kids have survived. Yours will, too. Stay strong!