- Posted August 1, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Confessions from imperfect parents
They're growing up and I'm missing it
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
They’re growing up and I’m missing it. Their friends are having play dates and taking swim lessons and spending weekends at the beach, while my children are waking up at 7am to be hurried into the car, of dropped off at “camp.” (Lets be honest, “camp” is just a nice way of saying daycare in the summer.) Sometimes my son wakes up in a pee soaked bed and I pretend not to notice because giving him a shower will take 5 precious minutes I just don’t have. Five extra minutes will make me late for work. Every morning while I open granola bars and pass them to the backseat I feel a familiar pang of guilt reminding me that a good mother would have made them scrambled eggs and toast. A good mother would have the time and the money to structure their day in a way that fosters healthy growth and development. Maybe we would meet a friend for playtime at the museum and lunch? That’s what I would do if I were a good mother. The same script plays in my head every morning “it’s just temporary, we just need to get though this week…this month…the summer…this school year” and then “They won’t wait for you. Their childhood is now and they are not getting what they need…you aren’t giving them what they need. They need you, and you’re not there.”
I always wanted to be a stay at home mom. Working full time while my kids burned the hours in a daycare was on my list of things that “I will never do.” I had worked in daycares. I have seen the sunken eyes and pale skin of a tiny person exhausted by the demands of the day he just isn’t yet ready to endure. “Why have kids if you don’t want to raise them?” I often judgmentally wondered to myself, “can’t you see how much they need you?” I had other “never will dos” and “will dos” rigidly etched onto my brain, a guide I’d created to build the perfect childhood for my born and unborn babies. For the most part, I was able to stick to the plan for the first couple of years. Aside from being a little too broke in the very beginning to afford an SUV or a Gymboree membership, my early mommy years were just as I hoped they would be. Soon, my husband made more money and mommy life got even better. My kids went to part-time preschool spent the afternoons riding their trikes in the street of a nice quiet neighborhood. A neighborhood filled with kids and other stay at home moms. They helped me shop for organic groceries that I would bring home to make a dinner from scratch. I taught them to swim in our pool, taught my daughter to read and my son to count. Life was going according to plan for the kids and me. My mommy life was perfect. In all of this perfection, I failed to notice that for my (then) husband, things weren’t so perfect. When our babies were just 2 and 4, he decided he’d had enough. He asked for a divorce and moved into an apartment in the city. Suddenly I found myself jobless, alone with two small children in a big beautiful house with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard. This was not how things were supposed to go.
The years that followed were a blur or exhaustion, anxiety, and guilt. I moved those children 3 times in 2 years. Slowly I was building a career that would give us pieces of our lives back, but it was a hard time for all of us. Tears would run down my cheeks each time I watched my daughter bravely march into a new school and again at the end of the day when my son would squeal and run to me after a 9 hour stretch at daycare. Their resilience was absolutely dumbfounding. They adapted to each change with a strength that I will never fully understand. Playtime with neighborhood friends was few and far between. Our dinners now were mostly drive through, in the car, on the way home just in time to get in bed only to start all over again in the morning. There were days I pumped one or the other full of Tylenol so that the tail end of a fever wouldn’t be detected at school. Certainly a far cry from homemade chicken noodle soup, ice cream, and movie marathon that the same fever would require just the year before.
Our journey has not ended yet, but now we’ve settled, the ride is less bumpy, and now the guilt really starts. The first years on our own I did whatever I needed to just to get us through. Now I need to build a life…for all of us. I finally earn enough money to live in a nice neighborhood and send my kids to good schools. We have a routine and we all feel like we’re on solid ground. The guilt keeps coming because this is ground I never wanted them to stand on. I wanted them to have a daddy that comes home and wrestles with them or takes them out for donuts to give their mommy a break. I wanted them to walk home from school to find their mom in the house and snacks on the counter. I wanted read to the class on Friday afternoons and volunteer to host Girl Scout meeting. I didn’t want to have my face buried in my iPhone while pretending to watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I didn’t want be a stranger to the other moms at school, and I didn’t want to throw chicken nuggets at them when I just didn’t have it in me to make dinner. What I don’t yet know is whether I am morning my loss or theirs. I know I have to make peace with my choices, with our fate, and with the childhood that they will experience, but I’m not there yet.