I completely messed up our dinner plans last night (so really what I’m saying is I didn’t make dinner) because I let a meeting with a friend run long. We ended up ordering pizza but tempers were a little high in our house and it got me thinking. Now that I’m home all the time, I have to learn how to put my family before my other relationships. In my head I believe I do that, but in practice, I fall short. I am such a one-on-one person. I love going for coffee with a friend, or out to dinner with my husband, because I get to look them in the face and really hear what they’re saying. They talk, I talk, we connect, and it is SO fulfilling to me. One-on-one time has always been important to me. It’s just how I’m wired.
So, as I’m slowly learning, there is no more one-on-one when you have kids. There are those magical little pockets of time when we have a babysitter or my husband takes pity on me and lets me go to Target by myself, but mostly the kids are with me. And that should be OK, right? I have kids, my friends have kids, we can hang out together no problem. But it doesn’t always work out that way for me.
Last summer I was at the park feeding the kids lunch when another mom I kind of knew came up to us and started talking. I gave my attention to her completely and we were having a good talk. Until Sam took a bite out of the peanut butter sandwich I had pulled out for CJ. The other mom paused mid-sentence and said, “Oh my gosh, your baby just ate that peanut butter sandwich.” Sam was about ten months old. I looked down at the dinosaur-shaped sandwich I had in my hand and saw it was missing a head. “Oh no!” I exclaimed. “He’s never had peanut butter, I don’t know if he’s allergic!”
“He’s probably fine,” she said reassuringly. “If he’s around it at home and hasn’t had a reaction to it yet, he probably won’t now.” She was right of course, and he was fine, but it shouldn’t have happened at all. Wouldn’t have, if I’d just been paying attention to my kid.
Now that Sam is almost two, I like to say that he’s “at a difficult age.” It’s my favorite excuse these days, and most people go with it, agreeing with me that he’s entering his terrible twos. And I’m not that strict with him. Being home with him, I mostly let him do what he wants—if I didn’t I would spend all day telling him no and trying to put him in time out. But I’m learning I need to tighten the reins a bit.
Recently I was hanging out with a friend and our kids. After we got coffee we walked to this grassy area nearby, surrounded by a kind of turnabout for cars. I let Sam and CJ run around, which was going great until Sam got a little too close to the street. I put my coffee down and ran toward him, but not before a policeman who’d been driving around the circle stopped his car, got out, and said, “Ma’am, is this your kid?”
“Yes,” I replied tentatively. Could I get a ticket for choosing to enjoy coffee with a friend over helicopter parenting my kid?
“Well you need to watch him. He almost ran out into the street.”
“Yes, I’m so sorry,” I said. The policeman nodded at me and got back in his car. I scooped Sam up and trudged back toward my friend, more embarrassed than I’d been in a long time.
Ugh, it was awful. So awful that it’s taken me weeks to admit to it on this blog. That someone else, someone in a position of authority, would think I’m not a good mother? One of my worst SAHM days of all time.
I need to work harder to find a balance in relationships between my friends and my family. Family will always come first, yes, but I yearn for that connection with good friends too. I was so used to having uninterrupted time with friends when I worked full-time. It’s something I’m going to have to give a little on; I know that now. Because when I don’t put my kids first, no matter what the situation, one of us always loses.