Heartfelt and Serious

Laura Kreutzer reflects on what it means to her — as a mother — not to be available for her children:

There is another woman in my 6-year-old daughter’s life.

She writes messages on bumblebee note paper. She has a puppet friend named Millie, who helps my daughter learn the alphabet.

Over the past nine months, she probably has been the single most influential person in Neva’s life outside of her own family. And although I am embarrassed to admit it, I met her for the first time at a parent-teacher conference in early May, roughly a month before the end of the school year.

As a former overachieving nerd girl of the ’80s, it didn’t feel good. In a society that still seems to embrace an image of motherhood that is more June Cleaver and less Murphy Brown, it’s hard to resist the feeling that you’re coming up short if you don’t sacrifice your career at the altar of parenthood….

It all hit home one weekend this spring when I took Neva to a birthday party for one of her classmates. A group of moms stood together chatting about school activities that I didn’t even realize I had missed, and teachers and administrators that I had never met. Suddenly, I felt like I was back in high school. Only this time, instead of failing on the social scene, I was failing at something much bigger and more important. I was getting a D-minus in the mom department.

In my head, I knew it wasn’t entirely true. Unlike my mother, my work involves a demanding travel schedule, and the deadline schedule required by my job can be brutal at times.

Besides, my husband, Clay, is a stay-at-home parent, and is more involved. He volunteers in Neva’s classroom once or twice a month and is one of the few fathers who does so.

Clay says that I worry too much and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. “You’re doing something important for the family,” he told me one day when I asked him if he thought it was strange that I hadn’t met Neva’s teacher….

I realize she’s probably right. It isn’t really that important to Neva that I am involved at all in her school life, especially when she has such inspiring teachers and an actively involved father. I am an integral part of her life in many other ways that are equally, if not more, important, and it’s more of my own hangup that leaves me feeling guilty.

Still, my heart doesn’t rationalize so easily. And if I’m totally honest with myself, I also realize that there were times when I just failed to prioritize.

So next year, I am going to try my best to do a better job planning. I realize I will never be the one leading an internal coup at the PTA. I will probably not be the first call on the emergency-alert phone tree.

However, I am going to try to arrange my schedule so I can try to show up at least a bit more for important school events. I’m also determined that I’m going to meet my daughter’s teacher when school starts, and not when it ends.

And even if I still end up with a less-than-perfect attendance record, I’m going to try to leave the guilt behind.




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  • cw

    I’m from smack in the middle of the Boomer Generation. We were told, in the midst of the childbearing/rearing years, that we could “bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…” In other words, as Supermoms, we were supposed to do and be all. With a few decades now behind me, I know that “being all” can’t be done. We make choices and with each choice are pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages – whichever term you like. Ms. Kreutzer has chosen a demanding career with the advantage of a spouse’s full support. She has also chosen “that I am (not) involved at all in her school life”. Rather, “I am an integral part of her life in many other ways that are equally, if not more, important, and it’s more of my own hangup that leaves me feeling guilty.” There’s not a parent alive that doesn’t have some regrets with regard to our parenting choices. We just have to make sure that with whatever we choose, we’re willing to live with the consequences. But I wonder, is there a difference between guilt and regret?

  • Holly

    It all comes down to what we want our lives to look like.

    Sure, we all do have regrets or at least, wonder what “if.” I’m a stay at home mom, and there are times I wonder what else I could have been.

    At various times thru my life, I have sat with old people. Old people who have children who live close, but who won’t bother to darken their mom’s door or lift a finger to help her. They would rather pay someone (a pittance, of course…) to care for their mom. That seems sad, but I have also realized that “mom” laid the tracks many years before. If we don’t invest in our children, we can’t expect them to be there later when we need them.

    I know we have the right to fulfillment and career; we have a lot to offer the world. It is a tough choice sometimes – and I don’t think there’s a right choice at all times for all women.

    But as relates to the article – I think our involvement matters to our kids – a lot. I think a severe lacking may come back to bite us in ways we can not foresee when our children are young.

  • I left a promising career and even homeschooled. Now I wonder who I am and see how far I need to catch-up in my career. Every choice has its pros and cons. Just make sure you know what’s really important and be there for it. Your child may not care if you know her teacher, but would really be hurt if you missed a special soccer game. Your husband may not care if you do nothing at school, but may feel alienated by the ballet moms and could use some company there… The most important thing is just to know your family and do what matters to them. Only their opinion matters.

  • RJS


    Yes involvement matters – but it is also a matter of degree and attitude. I know of people who couldn’t wait to escape the manipulative grasp of their “involved” “invested” helicopter parent and who carefully maintain distance. Such anecdotes don’t really prove much.

    Every choice has pros and cons, we can’t have it all. The real challenge is making the right choice (or a good choice) in any given situation. Judy makes the point very well. I didn’t give up career or homeshool, and I did miss some things along the way, while I was present for others.

    But the author of the original article hits a key point, and I think this probably holds for most of us, it certainly holds for me: “And if I’m totally honest with myself, I also realize that there were times when I just failed to prioritize.”