I like to run this one around Mother’s Day every year, because we all need the reminder:
Somehow, I didn’t feel guilty. I was walking down a Manhattan street on my way to dinner with some friends who were attending the same writer’s conference where I was scheduled to speak the next morning, and talking on the phone.
“Tell Chris ‘Good luck’,” I told my husband, who was at our son’s baseball game in our hometown in New Jersey.
I hung up my phone and entered the restaurant, amazed at how I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for missing my son’s baseball game. I figured that I’m there for so many of his activities, so what difference does one missed game make? I praised myself for rising above the Mommy Guilt, and sat down for dinner with my friends.
And then my phone died shortly before dessert. And then I missed the phone call about how Chris pitched the last two innings of his game, shutting down the other team, and helping them come from behind to win by one run. And then I heard that thrilling message at 11 p.m., long after my son’s bedtime.
And then I felt guilty.
It’s as though I’d forgotten all the other things I’d done for my son all week long, all month long, geez, all his life long. Like coaching his soccer team, sewing badges on his Cub Scouts uniform, hosting umpteen playdates and 10 birthday parties, helping him with homework and, oh yeah, darn near giving birth to him in the car en route to the hospital while I shouted at my husband to “Just drive right over the damn taxi!” that was stopped at a red light in front of us.
Nobody can sing Cats in the Cradle to me, darn it! Yet, there’s that guilt thing. And here I thought I’d lost it in the hospital.
Two summers ago, I’d spent 10 days in the oncology ward, five of it on an infusion of chemotherapy for lymphoma, and the other five begging my doctors to let me go home to my kids, to chalk up the unexplained excruciating pain in my chest to my 15-centimeter tumor shrinking so fast, and not to a possible blood clot like they were speculating.
“I just want to go home,” I cried after I’d spoken to my kids, who called nightly to play the piano for me over the phone. When I finally went home, I was often too sick to go to my kids’ swim meets or drive them anywhere for the rest of the summer.
By fall, I was “coaching” soccer pretty much in name only. After I tried to shout instructions to the team at one game, sounding like a goose being strangled, Chris told me, “You looked like a crazy sick woman.”
Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t been there.
And then, I got better. And I got back to coaching – really coaching – and hosting playdates and all that stuff I’d done before I’d become a crazy sick woman. And I realized that, though I’d missed out on some of my kids’ games and events and activities along the way, it was the average of all I’d done for all those years that matters. It wasn’t about one baseball game. It was about our entire relationship. And I had nothing to feel guilty about.
Last weekend, I took the kids down to our community lake before dinner. Though it doesn’t open until Memorial Day, it’s still nice to check out the scenery there.
“Can we jump in, Mom?” Chris asked. I looked at their clothes, thought of the cold water and remembered that we had no towels.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
“Yay!” they shouted, and jumped into the lake.
This Mother’s Day, let’s all rise above the Mommy Guilt and remember that motherhood isn’t about any one event, but the average of them all.