Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Do we do this to ourselves?

I know I am not alone in my guilty over the choices I make as a mother who works outside the home. (Lord knows all mothers have guilt.) What I cannot figure out is am I creating this guilt for myself? And if not, where is it coming from? Let me explain:

When Sweet Pea was in daycare, or pre-school, there were a few events, maybe 2 or 3 a year that parents were asked to attend during the day. And because our kids went to a full-time daycare/preschool, most, if not all, the children who went there had parents that work. So most of the center-run, or sponsored activities, took place after work.

But when you enter the elementary school years, this is not the case. I am finding there are many, MANY things parents are asked to attend at the most inconvenient times for working parents. There are parties. There are field trips. There are plays. There are “peek weeks” for EVERY “special” class, i.e. P.E., art, music. And of course these class times are smack in the middle of the morning. Granted they only last an half hour but when you have to commute 40 minutes to work and you only work PT this does not leave you with much face time in the office – not to mention work time.

It’s not only the logistics of how to get there that make it so hard, but the emotional stress it adds to an already chaotic life and schedule. It can be so overwhelming. It’s just another item on a long list of reasons why it so hard to be a great mom and a great employee.

I love that our school has all this parent involvement. I really do. But what are working parents supposed to do? Not go? This would never fly with my child – and rightfully so. It doesn’t fly with me either. I want to be there. But how many times in one month can you really tell you boss that you won’t be in until 11 AM, and you leave at 2:30? Again, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

Last month, when I had to go Sweet Pea’s P.E. class for peek week, I was planning to lie and tell my boss I had a doctor’s appointment. Somehow in my mind this felt like a more acceptable excuse for being late to work. Why, I have no idea. In the end, I decided the truth was better. I know I am so ethical like that. No actually, I am not. It simply hit me. Was it WRONG to want to go to my child’s school event? Could any rational person really think this was the wrong choice? I didn’t think so either. But it helped that I knew my boss would understand. I have a great boss. She does not have kids but somehow she totally gets it. But I have had bosses that don’t. I know a lot of people who have bosses that don’t.

And what about the Dads? Hey, I mean, if I was afraid to tell my boss what I was doing, I would think there are many a men out there who might have also have a hard time telling their boss they need to miss that important meeting because, “Well I’d really love to attend my child’s kindergarten music class.” Yeah, I'm sure that will go over well.

And it’s only going to get worse. With eventually two kids in elementary school, (I am getting heart palpitation just thinking about it), I’ll never make it to work.

But you know what? I’ve decided I am no longer going to simply add this to my list of reasons why I’m either a terrible parent or a terrible employee (depending on the day). It’s important to me and my kid to be there, at least to as many as possible. This is my priority. I will never look back and wished I worked that one day (or ten as the case may be). I know some of it doesn’t sound all that important. But it is. To be a part of their day, if only for one day, or one part of one day, is something I will always remember. And they will remember me being there. (And they sure as heck would remember me not being there). And until someone has an issue with it, I have decided I will NOT feel guilty about making this choice.

Except that I will. Why do we do this to ourselves?


Nataly said...

Hi, Wendy -- I just found your blog (thanks for leaving a comment on the WIM blog) and really enjoy reading it. This entry in particular struck a chord. My daughter is still in daycare full-time, but a close friend has her in elementary school and she is always running out of work trying to make some meeting or activity or trip. She has voiced some of the concerns you have and I'm already anticipating having to make these choices in a year, and feel guilty either about not being there, if I can't, or not getting enough work done.

I feel guilty a lot. I know it's not productive, but I just do. I guess it's part of who we are, as mothers, as working mothers, and I've met very few who are at total peace with the choices they make. It's not easy.

wendy said...

Thanks Nataly! I just recently found your website and blog as well and really enjoy reading it. I started my blog, fairly recently, primarily as an outlet to get out some of the stress and anxiety associated with being a working mom. I've just recently started to tell people about it and so it was really exciting for me to hear from you.

It is certainly nice to know we are not alone in our guilt. I agree it is part of who we are. And who knows, maybe it makes us better at what we do, even if it doesn't feel like that day to day. It certainly make us examine our choices more closely.

I look forward to reading more of your blog!

Anjali said...

This drives Brian absolutely mad, too. There were so many things that he had to stress about getting to with the kids' schools (they were father/child things, plays, etc.). If schools are going to put stuff during the day, they need to warn parents at the beginning of the school year for the whole calendar year. That way you can at least pick and choose what you can and can't attend.