Recently, I had to explain to my 7 yo son what is a CASA (Court –Appointed Special Advocate) and what they do (act as the voice of abuse and neglected children in Juvenile Court). He didn’t get it. The look on his face said “why would a parent not take care of their own child?” I finally changed the subject, and he moved on. A really, good question, and one that baffles many of us who feel we are taking proper care of our children. But I challenge you to ask yourself “Am I taking care of my kids?” Most of us are not at risk of having DFCS insert themselves into our lives, but we still should periodically ask ourselves “Is what I’m doing REALLY for the best?”
That means different things to different people (obviously!), but what is not obvious is whether or not what we’re doing is the best thing. Since we’ve moved to Nashville and I’ve reverted back to being a stay-at-home mom, the kids have lots of memories they share, frequently accompanied by the phrase “Mom, that was when you weren’t around!” Gut punch! (Having a working mother works for a lot of women and a lot of families. This isn’t an attack on working mothers. It’s a reflection on how it worked/didn’t work for my family.)
An innocent phrase except for the frequency in which they use it, and the hint of pain in their voices. Reluctantly, I extracted more from the girls, 17 and 11. It all seemed to start when I started law school. I worked part-time and went to school at night, but free time was spent studying. For the last two years of school, I worked full-time and there were days I didn’t see any of the children since I left before they arose, and come home after bedtime. I remember the stress and of missing a lot. My youngest was 13 months old and I don’t remember much about his toddler/preschool years. A big regret.
Prior to law school I was involved in every aspect of the children’s lives. I tried to continue with that pattern with disastrous results. After the first semester, I had to shift priorities and the family had to move down the priority list for a time. The girls speak of feeling lost, lonely and the family closeness disintegrating. I also remember turmoil stemming from my sudden departure from daily family life. Not many family trips, family meals, special functions or in general family times. Much, much lost time. But, nothing good comes without sacrifice, sometimes great sacrifice.
My two older children have sacrificed the most in that they were teenagers and needed Mom. Yes, Dad was there, and brings his own gifts and talents to the table, but being “Mom” isn’t one of them! But, I hope I can make up for that by easing their transition into adulthood with some of the perks and benefits that come from having a lawyer mom.
I’ve asked both girls which they would rather have “money and no mommy”, or “mommy and no money?” Both say a unanimous “mommy and no money.” Even with this I still think it was in our best interests for me to become a lawyer. When it does pay off, the takeaway lesson will be success comes with hard work and sacrifice. You can preach at them, talk to them, send them to conferences, but it’s not going to stick until they live it and experience it.
I hope that when my success finally comes, they remember the sacrifices as necessary evils, and take that lesson forward; not fear pain and sacrifice in their own lives and push through to their goals. On the surface it may look like my leaving my family for a time was not for the best. And there will be some that will always judge me for that, but I’m at the age and stage of my life where I really don’t care. I care about my family, and how what I do and say affects them.
My oldest son, who is a freshman in college, has already benefitted, as we aren’t seeing “freshmanitis” in him. He is buckling down, as he knows good grades, and success takes effort and hard work. So far his grades are good, and he’s doing well on the football team.
We have another going to college next year and I pray she also takes those lessons to heart. And I believe she has, as she’s not allowing the usual high school drama distract her from her goal of going to dance school in New York. Grades are good, too and NO BOYFRIEND!
It appears they haven’t been damaged, too much. But, looking deeper, I know they will come to fully understand that the sacrifice was worth it, and me taking the time to better myself and my future ensures a better future for them, and in the end, what I did was for the best. I am, was and will always “do what is best for my kids!”