Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel in New York moderated by the always inspiring (and well-dressed) Samantha Ettus, about mommy guilt. Despite the topic–and an audience made up of nearly entirely senior citizens–it actually turned out to be one of the more fun, upbeat panel discussions I’ve been on.
One woman (of actual childbearing age) in the audience raised her hand to ask about the guilt of taking time for herself while her young kids are at home. Fortunately, that’s one thing I’ve never had an issue with. Without grown-up time, I would simply die.
Some of it is not optional–I work, I travel for work, I speak at conferences, I attend client dinners. Some of it is personal. Some of it is indulgent. Some of it is about keeping my relationship with Nate an actual relationship. But all of it is important.
My saving grace as I’ve said ohhhh, about a billion times, are my parents. All four of them are mercifully close by, and don’t hesitate for a moment to snatch the children for a night or a weekend or longer. If my mother-in-law lived closer I’d imagine I could count her in too.
My parents don’t just help with the kids. They don’t just “see” the kids. They help us raise them.
I feel no shame in admitting it.
Although many parents do. Ugh, it’s such a 21st century White American thing, as Marisa Thalberg reminded me on the panel.
It’s not to say I’m without guilt entirely when I wave goodbye for a night or pack their cute little kids-size suitcase full of clean underwear for a weekend. But one thing that keeps me going are the email updates from my parents–the quick descriptions of who’s getting a face painted, who’s dancing on the “stage” at Barnes + Noble, who’s picking fat peas from the garden, who’s eating her seventh pancake, who’s the new Mayor of Central Park, who’s destined for a future in comedy.
My father is on Facebook. My mother is not. My stepfather…well, he still writes on a typewriter.
So we were eating dinner and quizzing the girls, again, about the name of the red Christmas flower on the table. We told them many times; in fact, Thalia seemed to remember it from years ago.
“What is the name of the red flower?” Chris asked.
“BOBBIE”, says Sage. And so it is that the poinsettia is now officially called BOBBIE in our house!
When the email comes through, the first thing I do is cross my fingers and hope for that little paper clip icon, the one that tells me that there’s a photo attached.
There’s something magical about those candid, spontaneous snapshots that show up in my inbox, generally sent from a cell phone mid-activity. It’s like a front row to the joy of childhood seen through a doting grandparent prism. Through the blur, the imperfections, I feel how complete unposed, unplanned the moments are.
I know my kids will never want for love.
It’s hard to feel guilty when I think of it that way.