I know that most people dread Monday mornings….the back to work routine… the end of rest and relaxation. But I secretly don’t mind Mondays because they signal the end to harried weekends. It’s almost impossible to have any semblance of “relaxation” on the weekend – there’s always one more fight to call truce for, one more cup of water to get (come on, 3-year-old, reach the sink already, would ya?), one more spill to wipe up. But Monday? Monday morning I get to sit down at my grown-up desk, reach for a cup of coffee (that is still warm), and think about….ah….ADULT stuff (as well as wonder if I packed the quarter for milk in the lunch box, if Super Tall Guy is behaving at school, if I remembered to pay the day care bill….fleeting, fleeting worries…back to work).
Sometimes, I even feel just a tad bit guilty for liking Monday mornings when everyone else is moaning. But that’s only because it’s clear that as a parent, you will feel guilty about almost absolutely every single decision you make and even ones that you didn’t really make.
My latest parent guilt trip took off last week. For the first time, I had to go away for a business trip (and was actually looking forward to a quiet evening alone in a hotel room!). I kept the upcoming 36 hour getaway low key early in the week and the boys said goodbye pretty easily Thursday morning (though Mr. Ornery slept through the kiss I planted on his forehead). By Thursday night, however, I was talking with Super Tall Guy at an hour past his bedtime and listening to his weeping, sobbing cries of “I need you here, Mommy?….Why did you leave me?…..There is no meeting more important than me, Mommy.” (You know it’s a tear-jerker when it’s weeping, sobbing crying!). Of course, he was in the excellent hands of my sister and mother, and yet I felt pretty bad about leaving him and for “burdening” my family with the care of my three rambunctious temperamental boys (though I confess, the king-size bed was pretty sweet without my usual 90-pound son encroaching upon my space!).
And this came on the heels of my wallowing guilt for Super Tall’s two-weeks of nonstop saliva-spitting throat pain after his tonsillectomy. So I’m feeling a bit fragile in the parenting department right about now.
The problem with parenting is that you feel guilty no matter what. I yelled at my kids too much today. I put them in daycare rather than having Mary Poppins nanny at home. I work rather than be a stay-at-home mom (even though I’m single and have to be the bread-winner!). I fed them McDonald’s two days in a row. I put the blue lid on the green sippy cup. I forgot the water bottle for the soccer game. I rocked him to sleep. I didn’t rock him to sleep. I left the chocolate bar within reach. I told him a thousand times not to touch the hot pan – he still touched it. I snapped at the three-year-old for wetting his pants….and at the five-year-old for wetting his pants. I bought a Nerf gun. I let him sleep over at a friend’s house when he was already tired. I only read one book before bed. I thought the 32 stickers on the belly were cute…until we tried to take them off.
I missed church today….again. I didn’t have the energy to battle Super Tall Guy and his argument that he’s practically at church all week by attending a Christian school. Instead we had a “quiet” morning of indoor soccer goalie practice (nothing shattered) and then headed to the zoo. It was a perfect sunny day and I sat watching them scurry through the mole rat maze. Peace. And I didn’t even play with my phone – I just rested in the moment. A mother bouncing a ten-month old sat next to me and we struck up that typical “hey, your baby is cute and boys are WAAAAY different than girls” parenting conversation. She confessed that they had also missed church despite having gotten dressed and ready….but just didn’t get there. I shared that I had also given in and decided I could be a less-stressed, more patient mother by enjoying just a bit of time with them this morning as well. Before parting, she said, “Thank you for the affirmation. Sometimes I feel so guilty.”
Sometimes we have to remember that we are being the best parent that we can be in the moment that we have. I know that so many times I want to have done better. So many times I wish there was a rewind button, even if only 5 minutes back, to have a chance to do it over and do it “right” this time. But often I have to remember that there usually isn’t a “right” way to do it. There are so many factors at play – what I’m bring to the situation, what the kid is bringing and the context that we’re in.
Sometimes, I’m a “good enough” parent. I’ll never be a perfect parent. There is no perfect person….no perfect kid. But the fact that I care enough to think about it – that I care enough to experience guilt (on a pretty regular basis) – that it matters to me….that’s what makes me a pretty good parent. The willingness to try my best despite suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” of parenting – that’s what matters. There will always be guilt. There will always be a next time. May we continue to encourage each other to be the best we can be in the moment…and practice forgiveness.