My son came racing over to me through the crowded lobby of his Lower School, kids clad in uniforms milling about as I stood waiting for him at the end of his school day. He bounded over to me like an oversized Labrador puppy, his excited, eager face looking up at me. And by “looking up,” I mean, well, a tiny bit up. He’s only a couple inches shorter than me now at age almost eleven.
“Mom, I know you’re supposed to be away this weekend, but I got picked to read in chapel!”
“You did?” I said, surprised.
“Yeah, I’m reading The Good News!”
I’d been looking forward to the Mom 2.0 Conference in Pasadena, CA for months, ever since the mom bloggers I met at the TODAY Parenting Team event told me I couldn’t miss it. I knew the conference would be hugely helpful to my “career,” if you could call it that. I often refer to it as the non-profit I started 11 years ago. I’ve been a freelance writer for the past decade (and longer) while raising my kids. Recently, I created and now host a podcast called “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” in which I interview writers about their work. And I’m writing a memoir about finding love again at 40.
I couldn’t wait to roam the plush carpeted halls of the posh Langham Hotel, with hundreds of women just like me. Expressive, passionate, open, trusting, entrepreneurial, supportive, funny. I was excited for the reams of panels, although completely bummed to be missing the keynote by Kristen Bell because I couldn’t leave New York City in time. But mostly, I was excited to make connections. There’s no real value I can put on that, but it’s something I long for and crave. Sure, I see friends at home, but a whole conference to chat and trade notes with other moms doing what I do? Priceless.
But there I was. In the lobby at my son’s school finding out that on Friday morning, when I could’ve been having a private session with a podcast expert and pouring coffee next to famous mom authors, my son would be up on stage in front of the entire Lower School giving a report on the community’s good deeds. It’s hard to get picked for that chapel role. How could I miss it?!
I debated and debated. I hated to miss the conference, selfishly, but also felt guilty telling my husband that the one-on-one time we’d planned to venture across the country for the whole weekend was now going to be replaced with yet another school function. As my second husband, he’s such an incredible stepdad to my four kids that I want to reward him by going to LA, his favorite place, whenever possible. His attendance alone at my son’s flag football game on Sunday morning, huddling in the freezing cold with me on Randall’s Island, battling vicious winds, was enough for me to spend this coming weekend kissing his feet. How could I take away what he was looking forward to as well when he constantly gives so much to the kids and me?
My son was begging me to stay, but that’s not why I decided to cancel the trip. It was really because I realized that I go through so much with him — with all my kids. I spend every day working hard to make sure he turns into a good person for life and reaches his potential, that he’s kind and empathetic, hardworking and virtuous. But after so many tough times when I need to discipline him for things like his table manners, screen time and homework, how could I miss one of his moments to shine?! I want to be there, not only for him but also for me.
As a mom, there aren’t a lot of wins. There aren’t a lot of moments in the day-to-day that you get to sit back and bask in the glow of pride, watching your child achieve something on his own. After five years of watching other Lower School Students read The Good News, when it was finally his time to present, just one month before he left the Lower School to start Middle School, how could I not be in the audience, clapping and cheering. I just couldn’t miss it.
As much as I want to be at Mom 2.0, my job is being Mom 1.0 to my kids. The only one they have. And that’s my first choice. Supporting them, encouraging them, helping them grow. I might miss the opportunity to foster new relationships and even help my podcast and writing career along, but I can’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime performance by my son while he’s still young enough to look up at me. Maybe my decision will make him look up to me, too. Work and my independent pursuits are important, but for me at least, nothing is more important than family and being there for the wins, not just the losses.
Mom 2.0 attendees, save me a seat for next year!