First, I made sure I relayed this to my husband later. He had mentioned to me more than once regret over not being around more when our girls were little. After I told this little story, he had peace that they only remembered that time of his overworking with fondness, and he hadn’t mucked things up too bad after all. I suppose all parents are their own worst enemy.
This conversation in the car didn’t so much guilt me as it taught me. I wasn’t drowning in regret, but it did rock my thinking. My husband had one day off a week, but that one day he made sure was quality time. That’s what our girls, six and four at the time, remembered.
I had focused on the things I thought were important at the time. Housework, ensuring my five year old knew all her sight words for the week, cooking every night, and building my business that was supposed to financially bring both of us parents home. I had rushed us to dance classes and homeschool co-op’s, but I had not taken as much time just to simply enjoy them being little.
Ok, I’ll look at this from all angles. I understand that things need to be done. If I didn’t clean the house, we would have been covered in our own trash. And reading is fundamental! Ha! Building my future via a small business was a wonderful plan, and activities and classes are important to childhood development. So, what’s the takeaway?
Remember when I said we had learned what was important over the past four years while traveling? See, we made a decision to sell our big house, sell our possessions, trade in the two cars for one vehicle, and travel for work so one parent could stay at home full time. We realized we didn’t need all the square footage. We realized we didn’t need to work more to have more stuff, but we did really enjoy more time. By doing the above, huge life-shift, we discovered what was important to us. Time with one another.
I can’t turn back the clock on the first six years of my oldest daughter’s upbringing, but I can move forward a little wiser. I can understand that young children won’t remember things like the fully-balanced meals every night or what grade they got in their school subjects, but they will remember Oreos and snuggles. Our relationship won’t be built on a foundation of how many days I was home from work with them, but rather the quality of the days we did have. And I’m telling you, as a full time working mom, that’s a huge deal. As mothers, we can often feel guilty for working out of the home, but if my experience teaches you anything, know that sometimes you can be home, but not really be there.
If anything, remember to be there when you’re there. That’s what I do now. As a working mother I don’t focus on quantity of the time with those I love, as much as the quality of the time we have. If you’ve lost a parent, like me, then you’ll understand a grieving child mostly wishes for “just one more day.”
I guess my goal, at this season in life, is to leave a legacy of quality. That the time I shared with my children will be fondly remembered as time well-spent, and while they’ll probably still grieve for one more day, more importantly they will recall fondly the days we had, no matter how many there were.