Do you remember the time BEFORE you had kids and secretly criticized your mom friends? Did you ever think thoughts like, “Why can’t she control her kid?” or, “Doesn’t she know that food she’s giving him has additives and artificial sweeteners?” or, “Of course she can make time for herself? Why wouldn’t she?” And, of course, “I’m going to be a much better mom.”
Yeah, me too.
Well, when the kids get older, there are new awesome ways to be a judgmental asshole. My boys are 9 and 11, and I’m over here eating crow all over again.
I used to wonder (I mean...judge) the parents that would just drop their kids off at sports practice and leave. I would think, “Why won’t you stay? These kids are still in elementary school! What else is so important that you would miss out on this time with your kids? Don’t you want to show them the support they crave and the love they need to see is unconditional and unwavering? Don’t you want to delight in the fact they are doing something active? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to be there!!!”
Obviously, I was projecting.
I was putting my personal pain onto other parents in the form of terrible judgy thoughts and quick assumptions of their horrible parenting skills.
And I am ashamed.
Recently, I’ve been thrust into the role of full-time working single mom. The last time I worked full-time was when I was pregnant with my now 11 year old. After my divorce, I had to go back to work. At that time, I was blessed with flexible jobs, or I worked from home, which afforded me a schedule that fit my kids’ needs as well as the time to manage the domestic duties of parenting. Over the last month, I’ve been adjusting to my new life of a full-time jobby job, and it’s been ROUGH.
Honestly, I’m not sure how parents working full-time manage it. Especially single parents. My hat goes off to you if you have mastered this incredible superpower! Drop kids off at school, commute to work, work 8 hours, commute home, take kids to sports, make dinner, clean kitchen, pack lunches, break up boy sibling fights, read to kids, do some work online, go to bed. You see that there is no: go to grocery store, go to bank, open mail, clean house, or even NETFLIX in that time frame! I’ve done some creative rearranging of my schedule, yet things like, “Mom, we need more bread,” or, “Mom, I need X,Y,Z for school tomorrow, can you help me?,” seems like a monumental task.
So, tonight, I dropped my kids off at TaeKwonDo, and went to the grocery store. Yes, I dropped them off at practice and left. I didn’t watch. I didn’t cheer. I didn’t get to see the cool new move my little one learned. I’ve done this multiple times this month...and it stings.
You see, I was in sports in high school; track and cross country to be specific. I was the top female distance runner on our team for 4 years. My mom came to my very first cross country meet and my very last track meet. I don’t think my dad came to any. TWO races in 4 years of 2 sports. That 8 seasons of races with no parent watching or cheering me on. Yeah, you can say I was a little hurt; especially when most other kids had parents that brought the snacks, stayed for the entire track meet, and were there for every race. I had decided very early on that I would NOT be that parent. I would be there. I WOULD BE THERE.
So, like I said, I was projecting. I equated those other parents to my parents. This, obviously, is not very adult like behavior. I was letting my emotional childhood rule my judgements. Now, I have a much better perspective. Those parents were probably thrilled, as I am, to have a safe place for their children to go and play and learn new skills. Those parents are very proud of their children and love them to pieces. Those parents are equally grateful that they can have that time to run to the store, take care of errands, and maybe even just sit with a cup of coffee and stare out the window.
I am one of those parents. A parent who is doing the best she can to provide for her children and soak up the precious moments of their lives. It’s more challenging than I ever imagined. And I know, someone watching me drop my kids off at practice and leave will be judging me. That’s okay. Because in my heart I know that I’m doing what’s right for our family. I also know, one day, she will understand the struggle and the undying love and duty for our children.