If I one day find myself sitting front and center at my child's school assembly and hear rumblings among the parents seated around me that "so-and-so didn't show up because she'd rather be at the gym," I really, really hope I react differently than I did when I read about it online this morning.
When I saw that Kristen Hewitt, a Miami mom and sports broadcast reporter, admitted on Facebook that she opted out of her daughter's honor roll assembly so that she could work out, I had an immediate, visceral reaction: "How selfish."
As a newish mom, I'm very much in the "don't-want-to-miss-a-single-moment" camp with my daughters. I can't imagine a world in which I'd choose to miss one of their special events — I have a hard time letting my husband take our girls to their weekly, half-hour swim classes without me. But I'm also a wreck most days, unshowered, overstressed, and sleep-deprived. On some level, that's how I assumed this whole thing was supposed to work: mothers show up, hell or high water. Anything less, again, is selfish.
Thankfully, I read on to better understand Kristen's reasoning. And I'm glad I did.
I started to feel the guilt creep in as I made this tough decision, but then I remembered me, and how hard Thanksgiving and the week that followed was with my husband traveling. How hard it was to deal with the tantrums that were never-ending. How hard it was to feel 100s of hot flashes as I am transitioning to a new healing protocol. How hard it was to manage my anxiety, the house, the kids, the pets, and work. And how hard it's been to not have one single minute to myself.
Oh, right there with you so far, Kristen. The guilt, the anxiety, the lack of minutes . . .
She continued, explaining that she talked to her daughter about "how proud I was of her, but let her know I have to work a game tonight and needed to take care of myself this morning." Kristen also mentioned that her child's dad and grandmother would be attending in her place.
"Guess what," Kristen said. "She understood, gave me a hug, and thanked me for all I do for her."
"Sometimes as parents we have to make hard decisions and show up for ourselves instead of showing up for our kids."
In addition to getting on the honor roll, Kristen's daughter learned a valuable lesson from her mom, by example, that self-care matters. Taking good care of yourself is something I of course planned to teach my kids, but I didn't quite realize until now how much a disservice I'd be doing to my daughters not to practice what I preach.
So if I ever find myself judging a mom for choosing herself over her family — like several commentors on Facebook ("becoming a mother means sacrificing personal care to support our young children's achievements," wrote one woman) are doing right now I'll do my very best to remember what Kristen wrote:
"Sometimes as parents we have to make hard decisions and show up for ourselves instead of showing up for our kids. And you know what? It's not selfish – it's called self-love."