Being a working mom (and I think it might true for just the mom part) comes with built in guilt. Am I doing a good job with my kids? Am I doing a good job at work? Inevitably, the requirements for both collide. The business trip I mentioned in my last post was one of those times. I needed to go to a conference for my job. It had been planned months in advance and the calendar looked all clear on the family front.
One of my favorite roles as a mom is to encourage my children to explore their interests and talents. My eldest son is very artistic but his school budget doesn’t allow for art classes. He is always busy with schoolwork and his sports teams. There was an art contest run at the state level through his school district that I heard about and wanted him to enter. He was less than enthused. . . I pulled out the mom credentials and told him to do it anyway. The contest’s theme was “what is beautiful.” My son asked if he could use a camera and the FLIP video camera. I said sure. And he went about his business without asking for any help. He put together a video which included pictures of his little sister, his pet parrot, flowers from the yard and interesting shots of items from around the house. It was all set to “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” Some of his photographs which represents what he finds "beautiful" are included below. It was a special peak through the lens of the camera into my son's view of the world.
I thought it was lovely but it was only a minute. I asked him if he wanted to take some time to extend it a bit because I didn’t think it was his best effort. He declined and said he was happy with it. When he turned it in, he came home a little discouraged. He thought some of the entries looked much better than his. And then he said what moms love to hear, “I should have listened to you.” When I saw that the district finalists had been chosen in a school email, I called my son since I thought he might be disappointed. He answered the phone and sounded a bit down. I asked him if he was okay. He said, “Yea.” He paused for a few moments . . .then said in an excited voice (apparently he was pretending to be down and I fell for it). “I won. I have been selected to go the district finals.”
I told him how excited I was for him. Then he said laughing, “See mom, I don’t have to do my best and it’s still better than most people.” Score one for my almost teenager. I have found as a mom that sometimes your intended life lessons boomerang on you and this was one of those times. Then he said, “I can’t wait to have you come to see me get my award.” I asked him when it was and my heart sank . . I was going to be out of town on business. Kids are not always very forgiving about these types of conflicts and I don’t think they should be. But a part of me wished that he understood better how hard it was for me also. I knew I was lucky that he wanted me to be there. We shared our artistic interests although I too find few outlets for mine these days with our busy life. His Dad, on the other hand, was the person he wants to talk to about sports. I told him, Dad will go. He looked at me rolling his eyes, “Really, mom.” I wasn’t doing very well. I ended up promising to go to a movie with just him after I got back. He was mollified but not happy.
Dad attended and the event was great. It gave my son and husband a unique opportunity to bond. My husband was so proud and impressed by our eldest's effort. And my son was pleasantly surprised by his Dad’s enthusiasm. As it turns out, my son’s entry was chose as a state finalist. Which, as he told me when I got back from my trip, now gave me the chance to, “come to that and make it up to me for missing this one.” I gave him a big hug – he still lets me (and I love it). I dodged a bullet this time. But there will be a next . ..
Guilt is part of the working mother’s, and let's face it probably every mother's, reality. Being a mom is a wonderfully challenging role that stretches and grows you in ways you could never anticipate. I do my best to be there for my kid’s important moments. But there will always be times that I can’t and I have to accept that is part of the deal.