Kindergarten Blues

There are little moments in your kids’ lives you don’t want to miss. First steps, first time losing a tooth, riding a bike, and many other firsts. Working moms can often miss these little moments. Is missing these moments as important as we think they are?

I don’t remember my own kindergarten roundup, not even sure if that was a thing back in the 80s. That being said, I was dead set on going to my son’s this year. Unfortunately, they did not announce the date until my schedule was out. As a nurse, we have 6-week schedules and often need to know what days we need off, 6-12 weeks in advance. Since I’m in clinic, switching my schedule isn’t possible. The roundup was an open house that was from 3:30 until 6 pm. After discharging my last patient, I ran out of work, drove through rush hour traffic and called my husband to request that he send my son out the door to run towards the school. We live nearby and I knew every minute counted. We arrived 15 minutes before the event closed. There was another mom there in high heels and a dress looking equally as frazzled and out of breath as I did. We both hurried our kindergartners through the stations, hoping our kids wouldn’t miss out on any important information or activities. As I patiently listened to my sweet boy explain in detail to the lunch lady his favorite foods, I saw the other mom out of the corner of my also trying to remain calm during her child’s story to the art teacher. I wonder if she felt as defeated as I did or if she felt successful. Was she able to spin this instance into a positive “I can have it all” moment? Or did she equally feel ashamed that she put her job before her child (again) and almost missed this opportunity?

I think the emotions are even higher because I went back to work after my 3-month maternity leave. I swayed between part and full time but I still always felt like I was juggling both work and family. Now my last baby is going to school. I chose not to give 100% of my time to be home during the first 5 years of both my children’s lives. This is the only time in their entire lives that their schedule is wide open to be with you and you are the coolest person they know. The typical death bed response is “I wish I would have spent more time with my family.” Quitting nursing completely would have put me out of work for 8 years so that I could be home with both my kids during the paramount ages. I’m not sure I could have gone back into nursing after that long of a hiatus. Furthermore, I would feel a sense of relief going to work on days when everyone was cranky and the house was destroyed. After the brief relief, I would then feel a flood of regret for wanting to ditch my kids and go to work.

Looking back on kindergarten roundup I feel confident that he won’t remember the “landmark moments” as much as I will. The moments he’ll remember is when I”m being present when we are together, paying attention to him while playing, cheering him on during sports, and finding empathy when he doesn’t deserve it. I hope I can change the narrative in my head from “I’m failing at both my career and motherhood” to “I’m crushing it!”

For now, I’m in the cruise control years. Both kids in grade school, no signs of puberty and no need for daycare. Optimizing our time as much as possible so we can be there for the big and little things will be our main priority.

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