Motherhood Moments: Bad Mom, Good Mom

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Last Saturday I left the house for a Mom’s day off.  I was looking forward to a fancy lunch and some time away from my lovely, high energy kids.  Little g is in the stage in her life where the only thing she wants is her mom.  So as I got on my snow boots and coat she noticed, screamed and then brought me her own boots.  I took her back to the couch, to her dad and handed him the boots to put on.  She thought she would be coming with me since she was getting boots on and was content until she saw me walking out the door. Then her cry was loud and persistent.

Her crying seemed to say, “Mom! Wait! Don’t leave without me! Mom! Please! How could you leave me?” She ran toward the door, arms outstretched, begging me to take her along.
In the moment I felt no remorse as I closed the door in her face.  I deserve some time alone, do I not?  She gets so much of my attention, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take a break for a while.  So I left with no guilt.
I went to lunch and enjoyed Sundance’s Author Series where Cheryl Strayed talked about her book Wild.  About an hour and half into the experience I started thinking about the kids, how they were doing, and what they were doing.  Was g still crying? Two and a half hours passed and the author series ended.

I could’ve raced back home right away.  I felt a kind of unspoken pressure that I should be home with the kids.  That’s what I’m used to, that’s what I do everyday. But before I did my logical side kicked in.  My kids were with Mountain Dad, little g should be asleep for her nap, and if there had been some emergency I would’ve gotten a phone call by now.

I reasoned that whatever damage occurred by my abandonment of little g was already done. Instead of rushing home I strapped on my snowboard and took a run down the mountain. I was at Sundance Resort and I love snowboarding. It couldn’t be helped.
When I finally returned home, three and a half hours later little g was asleep and Big E was watching TV with Mountain Dad.

“How long did little g cry?” I asked.

“Only thirty minutes or so,” said Mountain Dad.  “She would walk over to the door and cry ‘mama’ a few times until I could distract her with a toy or something.”

My heart sank.  Thirty minutes? My previous callousness melted away as I imagined my little cherub sobbing for her mother who she assumed had abandoned her forever. Half an hour of heart wrenching sadness is too much for anyone. I felt awful. I know logically that it’s not a bad thing to leave my children for an afternoon and go do something I love, but I still felt a little selfish.

To atone for being a “bad mom” I asked Big E if he wanted to play outside with me.  If you’re like me, you’d get bored playing construction machines with a four-year-old after about five minutes.  If you’re not like me then you’re either an architect, professional sand castle maker or a liar. So for me to offer to play construction machines in the snow with E, and to commit to it for a whole hour really means something.  I considered it my penance for abandoning my baby. After all I was being a “good mom” for my son.

For the next hour Big E and I set about plowing the walkway using two toy front loaders, an excavator and a dump truck.

This is as far as I got before finally pulling out the shovel.  I could’ve gotten the shovel out sooner and just called it a big bulldozer but I didn’t think about it until later. Besides using the toys was part of my penance.  Playing side by side with Big E was my way of feeling like a “good mom” again since little g was still napping and I couldn’t make it up to her.   

When little g woke up she raced over to me calling, “MA MA!” Her exuberant joy at seeing my face was only match by my joy at seeing hers. I picked her up and snuggled her for a minute.  After about sixty seconds she was ready to move on.  I put her back down, she picked up a toy and suddenly all was forgiven.  What had I been worried about? 
Looking back on it, it sounds a little silly that I felt so bad about leaving little g. It also sounds silly that I tried to clear my walkway with a four inch wide plastic scooper, but I did that too. I don’t think leaving little g made me a bad mom, nor do I think playing with Big E made me a good mom. Over all I am a loving, attentive parent, as evidenced by little g’s reaction at my return.
The judgement put on me was completely my own.  Little g probably doesn’t even remember me leaving and Big E probably doesn’t remember me playing with him. I didn’t need the judgement, but I judged myself anyway. It would be great if in the moments where I feel guilty about my mothering abilities, I could just remember that I try my best.  I really do. Sometimes I can’t help but feel like a good or bad mom, even when I’m neither. I’m just me, trying to be the best mom I can be.

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

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