Recently, driving home from my boys social basketball, I informed my eldest that I couldn’t make it to watch his U10s basketball game on the weekend as I was working and unable to leave this time to watch.  He plays on a Saturday, and when he plays in the stadium close to my work, I duck out on my meal break and watch his game while I can. I rarely get weekends off and often miss watching all of his games.

He said, brightly ” That’s ok mum, I’m used to it.’ And then carried on playing in the backseat with his brother.

I was smashed. To bits. Crying silently in the passenger seat of the car, so Master 8 did not know that his words, meant to make me feel better about not being there, had destroyed me and broken my heart. Hubby didn’t know what to say, except “He didn’t mean it like that.” Which was, of course, true.

I shift work (few nurses don’t) which means working those unsociable hours and I work full-time so I often miss out on stuff.

Which means that as Hubby works Monday to Friday, the parenting presence often falls to him. As does the social aspect.

It means that because my response to my friends is often “Sorry, but I am working.” they often assume without even asking that I cannot come to something or help out with their kids or similar as I will be working. It feels like I am not even considered as an option. Which is probably true!

When my kids assume I will be working and therefore absent for their events, so who can blame my friends for thinking the same? Hell, they probably get sick of asking to be told 8/10 times – “Sorry.”

As a family we have always aimed for Quality rather than Quantity when it comes to time with each other. We make what we do together count. And that may mean having a pyjama day when we can, but it also means we don’t devote a day to housework when we could be outside with each other.

And working full-time and shift work is not a luxury for me, nor anything I can easily change without a drastic change to our finances.Which would mean losing the house etc…. You know, so I get more time with our kids, but there would be no basketball to actually go and watch. Besides I love what I do and I’m good at it.

Anyway, for some reason it has really been bugging me lately, and I feel frustrated and teary about it at the moment. It doesn’t feel like mummy guilt, and when talking to hubby, he says it doesn’t come across as mummy guilt either. Or at least, no more guilty than either of us feel when we feel we aren’t enough. He hates that it is mums that are called Working Mums, and he never gets called a Working Dad.

And besides, I can hardly attribute my feelings with my friends as ‘Mummy Guilt.’ Maybe it  is ‘I am a shithouse friend guilt.’ or something!

I know that quitting work will not help the situation, and I know that my kids and husband have great, strong relationships with each other and me, with a strong streak of independence through all of it. We spend time with each other because we want to, not because we have to. We approach everything as a team effort, and expect everyone to pull as much weight as they can.

I also know that this feeling is about me, not my boys, nor my friends. Master 8’s comment is an insight into his independence, and his development. He is separate from me, as an individual, and he knows that I want to be there, because when I am there, I am present. I actively watch his game/ act/ singing, whatever, and can talk to him later about specific things that happened. I do not chat or read a book, catching only snippets of the action. That is not because I am some smug, awesome mum (far from it – you need to read more of my blog to see all of the times I was ‘not quite good enough’ and far from awesome). It is because I may not be there for the whole game, only a portion, so I don’t want to waste a moment.

This is not about judgement or commenting on others. I am highlighting that because I am often absent, when I am present, I am very present. I don’t have the luxury of always being there, so when I am, and while he still wants me to be a part of his life, I hang on to it and immerse myself in it.

Because very soon, too soon, he will not need me there to watch at all.

My kids, like millions of others, have 2 working parents. And are not suffering for it at all. But when people say to me,” Oh you simply have to volunteer for canteen or helping out in the classroom, it’s just so important for your kids” I want to scream. Millions of kids do just fine with parents who never set foot in the school except to go to a Parent Teacher Interview or drop off a form to the office. And my husband has never had it said to him.

I know people who are doing it so much tougher than we are and I wonder if they feel the inexorable force of being torn. Of logically knowing what needs to be done, and the desperate, emotional urge to walk out of work, collect the kids and spend the day with them.

I feel guilt that I cannot be more reliable for my friends. That we cannot schedule something regularly, or that my kids get to go to something that they’ve organised, but I don’t.

I have a huge amount of  gratefulness and pride in the relationship that Hubby provides – with the boys and with me. He makes it possible for them to attend these things, and actively participates where he can. We are most certainly a team in this thing called life, picking up each others slack when we can, and catching each other on the swings and roundabouts.

And I hope my friends know that I will be there. Whenever I can. Sometimes they might need to wade through the ‘Sorrys’ till I can give a ‘Sure I can’. And if need be, I will drop everything and come.

So while I work through whatever this is at the moment, I will be grateful for my resilient and independent not-so-little boys and my wonderful husband. And eventually I will get over myself, and be back to the regularly scheduled programming!

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Follow up:
Since starting work on this post a couple of weeks ago, I have worked through some of what was going on for me and I feel like it was frustration at my limitations.
Frustration at not being ‘Enough.” At wanting to do and be More and being unable to.

I want to be that mum that never misses a thing and is part of almost every memory the boys have and I want to be the friend that is always available, and always included.

And I want to be the wife that can Do It All.

Bake, wash, iron, sew, work, earn, dance, walk (my knee is a major cause of my frustrations at the moment).

None of which is realistic or even achievable. Or even good for me. I need to be gentler to myself. So I am practising this.
I love and adore my boys and although I will never give up trying to do better for them, I know that I have come a long way as well, and those milestones should not be forgotten.

I love and adore my friends and although I cannot always be there and often do things differently to the way they do things, I love them for being different to me.

I love and adore my husband and he loves and adores me. We are a team, and together we share the workload.

I love myself. I am a good person, I do my best, and sometimes ‘Good Enough’ is exactly that. I do not need to be all things to all people.

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