(I want to preface what I’m about to write with the acknowledgment that I know how very fortunate I have been as a mother who also works full-time outside the home. My daughter’s village is strong and vital, her dad and I work well together as co-parents, and I’ve been able to be present with her when I truly needed to be thanks to flexible and understanding employers and coworkers. My fortune in this regard is not lost on me, and I am deeply grateful.)
Curly Girl is playing soccer this spring with a local rec league. She played for the first time last fall, and even though she does not boast a real competitive streak on the field, she enjoyed it, and her dad and I both believe it’s good for her to learn the good lessons a team sport can teach. Also, it must be said, she really digs her hot pink soccer cleats.
Her dad is her coach and their first game is Saturday. As in day after tomorrow. I will not be there. I’ll be 7 hours away keynoting a retreat in Virginia. An opportunity I’m very thankful for and very excited about…but that will mean missing my baby’s first soccer game.
At the end of the month, I’ll miss another game. This time for my work. And then in mid-May, I’ll miss another, as I’ve been asked to work with a church in northern Indiana that needs help with their youth ministry program.
I’ve left CG behind often for work–as long as she’s been alive, Mommy has traveled for work. She knows I’ll come back. She is taken care of beautifully while I am away. She knows she’s loved and that she is not alone.
But y’all…this stretch of missing soccer games pierces her mama’s heart just enough to make me pause, and think, intentionally, about the choices I’ve made personally and professionally since she has been born. For a moment, I felt the sort of angst that every parent trying to balance care-giving and career feels creeping in. And I wondered for the millionth time if I’m gone too much or if I’ve missed things I don’t know about or…or…I could go on and on.
But then I remembered two things. The first is something my friend Cathe told me several years ago. Our daughters, though 20 years apart in age, share the same birthday, and Cathe and I share being full-time working mothers. Cathe said to me one day, as I worried about something involving CG’s childcare after school and my workload, “She’s having her own adventures, Julie. And you are having yours. And then you can go home to her and she can come home to you, and you can tell each other about those adventures, and share your stories. ”
Because CG’s dad and I are divorced, she spends about half her week away from me. And even though we talk and connect in other ways, I miss her terribly when she’s gone, and so one of the things we do is say, “What did you do this weekend?” And she tells me and I tell her. We share our adventures.
The second thing I remembered happened just last Sunday. I was speaking at a church, something I do every now and then. CG was with me, and so we’d packed a “quiet bag” for her–coloring books, crayons, storybooks, etc. But I noticed during my speaking that she wasn’t using the quiet bag. She was watching me. And she had a notebook and a pen in her lap. And later in the day, she brought that notebook and pen to me, and she said, “Look, Mommy. I took notes.”
And y’all…she had. The child had written down things I’d said. Ideas I’d shared. Accurately. With insight.
I was stunned. Simply astonished.
I’ll miss being at her soccer games. Very much. But the truth is that CG’s mother is one who needs to be fulfilled professionally, who needs to express her life beyond being CG’s mom. And I am convinced, that, for us, this is the only way to be. I believe I teach her best when I am the best person I can be–all the way around–even it means I am teaching her without being physically present. And somehow, my beautiful girl–she gets this. And we are both better for it.
This may not work for all mothers. But it does for us. Which reminds me of something Amy Poehler says, “Good for you. Not for me.” As in, if that works for you, great. It does not for me. I wish we could all–us mothers–say that to each other with more genuine love and support: “Good for you. Not for me.”
I can’t wait to hear about CG’s soccer game. And I can’t wait to tell her about the things I see in Virginia. My guess is that somewhere in the midst of it all, we’ll both learn something.
Good for us.