Make way for the GUILT

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 battlezoo 2014 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.

The Opening of a Crisis Nursery

The week has been just a whirlwind and even though everyone’s been saying, “Wow, Easter is so late this year,” I still feel like it snuck up on me. I don’t think I slept much at all last week. There was always something to be working on in the evening. Mostly it was for Jeremiah’s Place, the crisis nursery I’ve been working to bring to Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday, we had a “ribbon-cutting” ceremony and press conference. We did not have the Ribbon-Cutting portion well-planned out…as we were upstaged by a visit in town by the President and Vice-President of the US (the nerve!) so our senator on the board couldn’t be with us. We had a great time, nonetheless.ribbon cutting

It hit me a couple days prior to the event that I really would like my boys to be there. We had decided that we’d have kids cut the ribbon, but I hadn’t done much to get organized. I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate my mom – whom I can say the day before, “So….if I trade you cars, can you pick up my younger two from daycare since you have the older two boys home for Spring Break….and bring them all to Jeremiah’s Place….and pretty much watch them while we’re there as I’ll be distracted by the media contingent….oh and try to have them wear something relatively nice!” She’s a saint…for that’s exactly what she did.

It was so meaningful to have them there with me. I know that at their ages, they were definitely more concerned with the toys they could play with and how many brownies they were allowed to have. For me, it was wonderful to share my dream and what I’ve been working on for so long. Why I stay up on my computer for 3-4 hours after they go to bed. Why I am often off to meetings in the evenings. Why I am sometimes more grumpy with them when I am stressed by the project.

Super Tall Guy was just 3 when I started working on this project. The Little Guy arrived right before my time dedicated to it really exploded. Sometimes I’ve wondered how much of their early childhood I’ve kind of missed out on because of my “volunteer work” in addition to my pay-the-bills work. I know that I’ve been physically gone more than I would like and often mentally and emotionally gone more than I would wish. This is the part where “Mommy guilt” weighs down, the part where it lets you know that no matter what you’re doing, you’ll feel guilty.

And yet, I also try to tell myself that I’m hoping the boys will one day see that putting together a huge project like this can be done if you remain persistent and committed to your dreams. That it’s possible to work together with a team of passionate people and bring a new service to life in a world that needs Hope and needs help in moments of crisis. That they will understand that it requires a lot of work to accomplish your goals. I’m imagining they might be able to look back on this when they’re 20 or 30….but for now, it’s too much about “them” and about “why aren’t you in bed yet so I can snuggle in?” …. “why are you going out again?”….. “why are you on the phone again?”

And really, my passion for this mission stems from being a foster parent. From the moment I heard the definition of a crisis nursery (4 years ago this week) as a “24/7 safe place for kids under the age of 6 when their families are in crisis,” I knew this was the work for me. For in my mind, an image of The First foster kid came to me and his mother who just needed a little support and probably a lot of sleep! And she loved her son, but every time she got stressed out as a parent she turned to drugs and then lost her kids and would work to reunite. I know that what she wanted most was just a break from the all-timing-consuming nature of parenting and a service such as Jeremiah’s Place could have given her that, as well as connections to other resources. Maybe, just maybe with all that support, The First Guy might still be living with his mother.

So, I thought – maybe if my boys see the place, they will understand just a tad more why this mission has consumed me. Maybe if they feel the excitement. Maybe if they cut the ribbon (with kid safety scissors). Maybe, just maybe, they’ll say – hey, mom did something really cool here. But really, what they said was, “Can I have another brownie?”

So I sit here on Easter Sunday, slightly regretting the fact that in my whirlwind of a week I never thought to get the boys matching Easter shirts (for the first year) and thankful that I did buy Easter basket innards much earlier as I was too exhausted last night to do much other than dump things into a basket and wonder where to hide them. But mostly I sit here eager for our first day tomorrow at Jeremiah’s Place. I am hopeful that it will be able to make a real difference in the lives of mothers, who like me, just need a little support and who definitely need a mother like mine who blessed me with a nap today in the warmth of Easter Sunday. Thank you, Mom. And thank you to everyone who has helped work on this dream. And a huge thank you to Super Tall Guy, Mr. Ornery and The Little Guy — you guys inspire me daily and exhaust me continuously. Keep it up! For I love you.