The other day I was sorting through the kids’ paperwork after school and came across a permission slip for a field trip for Claire. I signed it, and then was putting it on my calendar when Claire came over to me. I asked her about what she thought she was going to do on the field trip, and she told me. Then she turned and looked at me with hopeful eyes and asked, “Can you chaperone my field trip, mama?”
I sighed. There was no way I could take off. “I can’t, baby,” I said. I tried to keep my voice even. “I have to work full time now and can’t go on field trips anymore. Before, when Dad was alive, it was different, but now that I have to work every day, I can’t do things like go on field trips. I’m sorry.”
I looked at her expression, which was hard to read. “I know it’s hard,” I said, “But I really appreciate that you are flexible and understanding that our circumstances are different now.”
“That’s okay, mom,” she said with no real hint of disappointment in her voice. “Lots of other families have two parents who both work and they can’t do field trips either. It’s no big deal.”
I looked at her face. She didn’t seem upset. I was thankful for her patience, but mostly, I was thankful that she had so many examples of families with two working parents. I’m different than the other parents because I’m a widowed single mom, yes, but I’m the same because I’m a working mom.
Later on that week, I was getting the kids ready for school, and realized it was Austin’s “open house” morning. Open house is a day when parents come in to the second grade classroom and see the students’ work. Austin’s open house always falls on a Thursday, which is a day my dad can’t come and I teach first period and can’t attend either. That morning, Austin asked me if I was coming to his open house.
“No baby,” I said. “I have to work and Grandpa Tom has to walk Tommy to his allergy shots. I’m so sorry we can’t make it. I feel bad that we both can’t come. Would you like me to try and change one of our schedules so that you can have one of your grown-ups there for open house?”
“It’s okay,” he said with no hint of frustration. “Henry’s mom always looks at my stuff. So there’s a grown-up there for me.”
Henry’s mom is my friend Elyssa, and she’s around a lot of the day and is able to do things like go to open house and chair the lice committee (yes, that’s a thing!) She also takes my son home from school at least once a week. What she may not realize is how important her time is with Austin at open house. It’s ten minutes, really, but it allows me to feel like my kid is seen. And it allows me to always miss open house without a ton of guilt.
It made me think of all the articles I’ve read about how we need both working parents and stay-at-home parents to help our kids grow and thrive. I just hadn’t thought about how important it would be to my own life as a single mom. So what I want to say to everyone in my community is this:
Parents who work every day – you help me. You help show my kids that a full-time working mom is something that’s the most normal thing in the world.
Parents who stay home – you help me. You help parent my kids when I’m not there, and your texts and photos help me be there with them.
Parents who surround my kids and tell them that we are all just doing the very best we can – you help me. You help show my kids that there are a thousand choices we have to make every day, some because we choose to and some because we don’t have any other option.
So I guess this blog post has turned into a public thank-you to all of the people out there showing my kids love through their actions and their life choices. You know what I think my kids have figured out?
They are loved. They are part of a dynamic community. And we’re all just doing the best that we can.