I have been working crazy hours the last few months trying to wrap up this project at work. The majority of the parenting responsibility has fallen on my husband Lee. Lee has been a God send when it comes to raising TB (Toddler Brennan). Lee and Brennan’s relationship has grown so much in the past few months, that I actually get jealous some times. I was the favorite, but now it’s all about Daddy (who by the way TB refers to as Lee). I started to feel sorry for some of what I called my “parenting shortfalls” and have taken some corrective measures.
It’s Quality not Quantity Time
When we were growing up, my mom worked three jobs and was rarely home. The only time we were guaranteed to spend some family time together was on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. We cherished those times until our teenage years, when date nights and social lives intercepted. I remember people asking my mom how she raises such smart, inquisitive and well-rounded children and she would say, “I don’t worry about the quantity of time spent, but the quality.” She focused on letting us know that she loved us and cared about the young individuals we were growing into. She let us know that when she was there, we had her undivided attention. She asked us questions to determine where we were emotionally. One of my favorite times was TGIF (Thank Goodness Its Friday) time. We would order pizza and watch TGIF line-up on prime time television. We were a family. I remember that it was the quality, not the quantity that helped shape me.
Be Still and Be Present
I used to come home from work and think about what I had to do the next day because I couldn’t process that I had too much work and too little time. I would come home and say hi to Brennan, Lee and then get involved in other things (making lists, selling Avon, being Vice President of Public Relations for Toastmasters, working on a certification class, cleaning, washing clothes, talking on the phone or watching TV). I didn’t really focus my full attention on Brennan because I became distracted by everything. I learned to Be Still and Be Present. I came home and spent time with Brennan by reading his favorite books, watching Sprout and talking about his day. I wanted him to know that he was more important than anything I could have going on in my life. So I stopped and became ever present. I go to work later so that I can spend time waking up with him and getting him dressed. I rush home sometimes so that I can give him a bath before bed time. I scrub him down and watch him build blocks along the tub. I make sure to spend as much time with him on the weekends going to the store, visiting family and friends or going to community events. I even make it a point to take him to Chuck-e-Cheese once a month to make sure that he knows that I am around. We eat pizza, salad and play games. He laughs, runs and has a ball being with me. He says, “Mommy, I love you more” and I relish in his words remembering to always be still and be present with him.
Guilt be Gone
I used to pride myself on being a first-time mom and all the wonderful things that I would do to make sure that I had a “normal” life. I would buy Brennan’s clothes and shoes in advance of him needing them. I shop mostly sale items and eBay, but I loved the fact that I would never let my son wake up and not have shoes that fit or clothes that were too small. His room is filled with clothes with tags on it and boxes of Jordan’s and suits in closet. (Yes, he’s only 2). Last week as I was reminded that it was picture day at daycare. I searched for the perfect outfit for him to wear. I found his dark denim washed jeans and pulled out a brand new Ralph Lauren polo shirt. He was going to look sharp tomorrow for his pictures. I couldn’t find a pair of shoes to save my life. (Brennan now likes to hide his shoes in various spots and Lee was no help when it came to finding them.) I found a pair of casual shoes to wear with his outfit, but they didn’t fit. They were too small. I sent him to day care with shoes that didn’t fit with a pair of beat-up tennis shoes in his book bag to be changed right after pictures. I was embarrassed by my actions and my heart hurt so much. How could I let this happen? How could I not remember my oath to make sure that my son had shoes that he could fit and clothes that weren’t too small. I cried. I felt like a failure. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was doing too much and ignoring my son’s basic needs. I went out the next day and bought him two pair of shoes and more clothes. When Lee saw this, he told me that I was suffering extreme guilt and I needed to get over it. He said that we all make mistakes and that I can’t blame myself for this. I realized he was right. I needed the guilt to be gone. I needed to remember that I am not perfect and I will make mistakes, but forgetting to be on my game all the time does not a “perfect parent” make. When I came home that night and asked Brennan how his day went, he didn’t mention his shoes not fitting. He smiled and said, “Elmo mommy, Nina and Star on Sprout.” Guilt be gone.
So, if you’re feeling overworked and under appreciated, remember that being a parent is the most rewarding job you can do. Don’t fret over the quantity of time spent, focus on the quality. Remember that when you are home with your children that you are still and present in the moment with them. Don’t worry about the dishes, the clothes or cleaning. Focus on them and give them the best of you. Finally, remember that when all else fails, you’re still a great parent. Tell that guilt to be gone. You will have more important bridges to cross later on.