Mountain View Mommy: Sand, Trucks and Testosterone

February 9, 2007

Avoiding Regrets

Filed under: Thinking — by mvmommy @ 9:49 pm

A question I have daily is how do I avoid ‘parenting regrets’? You know, the ‘I should have’s’. For example, I should have:

* spent more time playing with my kids when they were younger
* thought less of getting in ‘me’ time, and more of ‘them’ time.
* worried less about dinner and more about the tower they were building
* let them go into the sandbox for 5 minutes before their nap despite the fact it would then take 10 minutes to clean off the sand from them before putting them to bed

Every day I seem to grapple with this question. Am I giving enough? Will I look back on this time and think I didn’t spend enough time with them? Will I kick myself for checking my email when I could have been racing cars for the 1000th time?

I don’t know how to answer this. I think I will have regrets. It doesn’t matter that I stay at home with them and have no daycare, nanny, or babysitter (other than occasionally family). It doesn’t matter that we don’t go out much on our own, without our kids. It doesn’t matter that I do play with them a lot, and we go on adventures and field-trips too. I am not sure that I can ever give enough, so that I will not regret any minute I don’t spend playing with my kids.

I know there will come a time, and probably in the near future, when they won’t want to play with mom anymore. When I won’t hear.. “Mommy, come play with me” every time I try to do something other than give them my undivided attention. And it is those moments I already feel guilty about. It’s those moments I miss already, and I haven’t even lost them yet!

However, on the other hand, how do you EXIST as a parent if you don’t have moments to yourself where you can completely checkout?

I admit, I do sneak off to the den to check my email when I think my kids aren’t paying attention. And yes, I am sometimes not listening when Andrew is talking to me, because I had my mind on something else. I confess, that Dora the Explorer goes on occasionally when I don’t have something important to do, but instead because I just wanted 30 minutes to take for myself and call a girlfriend.

And what about the non-frivolous moments? Those times in the day when I am loading the dishwasher, making dinner, or going to the grocery store. Since they are important tasks being done on behalf of the family… do they count as beneficial? Does that mean I will regret that time less, than the moments when I was hiding in the shower for one extra minute of warm water?

I rationalize these by saying, everyone needs a break. And that my family needs me to do some things – outside of playing with my kids – in order for it to function. In fact, making dinner & grocery shopping can be important learning experiences. And I do believe all of this is true. But when I know that these years go fast, and these moments are priceless….. should my breaks & obsessive need to have the house running smoothly wait until they are 5 and in kindergarten? Ridiculous? Maybe.

I love my kids beyond anything I could have imagined loving… and I don’t want to miss anything. And yet, on the other hand, I can’t just let go 100% and be a kid all day long every day. In fact, I find it hard to spend so much time at home with the kids and NOT think about all the things I should be doing to keep it clean, and efficient. Thus, the guilt. How do you know when you are balancing it right?

Sometimes I wish that being a parent came with a boss. One that didn’t interfere, but would quarterly give you a review of the job you are doing – that way you knew where your strengths and weakness lie. They could give you great tips that would help you improve, and you could work on it before your next review. Improvement eases the guilt… less guilt means less regrets… and you could settle into old age knowing you didn’t miss a beat with your kids. All is right with the world.

Now, how do I find that boss? (No, Nathan, you can’t volunteer.)


1 Comment »

  1. There is no “right” way to balance it all. Every parent muddles thru the best we can with the best of intentions. We did not enter parenthood to be tormented and miserable by the experience. Enjoy as much as possible, knowing the stuff you regret later may not even be something your kids even noticed happened. Sometimes we heap the guilt all over ourselves when our kids aren’t even watching!

    We’re trying to absolve guilt…one mommy at a time. Today it was you!

    Comment by Devra — February 10, 2007 @ 2:43 am |Reply

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