By Jennifer Calise
“I am going to miss it. It’s her first one and I won’t be there.”
Two years ago, one of my girlfriends from my village—the girls I was raised with—posted on Facebook her heartbreak that because of work she would have to miss her daughter’s first art show. I didn’t have to see her cry or hear her voice to feel the empathy of motherhood. The hurt was real, and one I know all too well.
In just two sentences, she summed up the torture every working mother battles. It is a daily, constant guilt. A humming in the back of the mind whispering, “Who am I failing right now?”
I remember the first thing I missed. It was my son’s kindergarten Christmas show. His dad was there. His grandmother. His cousin. His aunt. But I wasn’t. I am still not over it.
You know who is?
Kids don’t keep score
In fact, he was over it before it happened, during the show and immediately after. And the proof is in the fact that now, just six months later, he doesn’t even remember it.
And that is the exact point.
I do not remember any particular concerts or class parties and if my mother was a volunteer or in attendance. I don’t remember if my mother was there every day or alternating days or what she did on March 13, 1983.
And that is what is so sad: We are torturing ourselves over every little party, every game, every practice or playdate as if it is THE moment that will define our child’s childhood. And our kids won’t remember any of it.
Widen your lens on motherhood
When we focus on missing one day or one event it is like we are someone that is painting the Great Wall of China with a toothbrush-size brush and worried about one stroke.
I only recently realized that motherhood is a big project (and sometimes feels as long as the Great Wall) – we need to probably use broader strokes… and much bigger brushes. Because at the end, when your “Great Wall” is complete, your children will not see the streaks or the strokes – they just see a lifetime of love that stretches for miles.
We need to remember motherhood is not a micro job – it is a macro one.
Children know if they are loved. They know if they are accepted. They do not remember if you came on their field trip to the Philadelphia zoo.
As adults we maybe can remember a handful of days as a child, but mostly we just remember that our parents loved us, not if our sandwiches were shaped in dinosaurs, or how many field trips they attended (hell, I went on dozens of those things and don’t remember one of them!)
The worry over memories
We, mothers, remember our children’s plays, field trips, parties, birthdays, practices and games because they eventually are going to stick more in OUR memories than theirs. If you want to mourn the loss of attending one of the above stated events – go for it, but don’t cry for your children. They are too busy spending $35 on another stuffed animal at the gift shop during that field trip you missed.
Childhood and the memories of the motherhood are a story that builds over time. That “big” picture is a culmination of a lot of little moments but no single one – not a single moment or even a handful of moments is defining anything. So the next time you want to do the Mommy Guilt Math – make sure you add ALL of the thousands of little moments and weigh them against the one or two or even 20 events you missed – and realize despite it all you have built a beautiful wall.
Jennifer Calise is the mother of five and business owner of a New York City-based marketing firm. Her personal website is JenniferCalise.com.