“You know what you need mommy?” my seven year old asked me one morning while I was pouring his Cheerios into a bowl shaped like a bulldog.
Any parent knows that when you get an opener like that the conversation could go in any direction imaginable.
“What,” I asked him, “What do I need?”
“You need one of those necklaces that have our initials on them. You know the ones with the letters for each kid’s name?”
“Yes, I know those necklaces.”
“You should get one of those. All the moms at my school have them. You need to get one,” he told me between bites.
“Ok,” I said confused, “why do I need to get one?”
“So you can be like the other moms,” he replied happily.
It’s interesting that a simple conversation with your child over cereal and cartoons can make you question yourself as a mother, but that’s what sometimes happens. I grappled with Jackson’s statement for days… suggesting I could do something to be just like the other moms means that he recognizes I’m not like them now. It means he sees me as something different and when you’re little, all you really want is to be just like everybody else.
What he sees is that I’m not like the other moms at school because I work… a lot. I very rarely get to drop him off at school or pick him up. Because of that, I make a special effort to volunteer in his classroom every other week. But that isn’t right either because even though I sit in the teeny tiny chair cutting papers and stuffing the homework folder like the other volunteers, I’m not in jeans or yoga pants. I’m in high heels and a white blazer that I should have known better than to wear on the day they’re making teepees out of brown modeling clay… another mom is sure to point this out to me.
I keep thinking that extra projects are going to make up the difference. Like throwing the big fundraiser, or being on the board at preschool or taking off an afternoon to cover soccer practice will win me brownie points with my boys but it doesn’t. My children are little and their memory stretches only as far as yesterday. They don’t care about the business trip, or the book deadline or my staff at the office who count on me to pull my weight. They care that their friend’s moms went on the museum field trip and I didn’t because I was flying to Chicago for work.
I recognize that their attitudes will shift and grow over time. I believe that the very thing that makes me so different now, the company I run, is one of the things that will make me cool when they’re older. I believe this because I was raised by a working mother, and my pattern of thinking followed a similar trajectory. I hope I’m creating something they’ll be proud of. I hope I’m giving them an example of the power of following your dreams and the value of entrepreneurship.
But in the meantime, I have to choose my battles. Like all working moms I have to do the best I can with the time I have and I have to bend a little even if it only makes sense in the mind of a seven year old. When he told me last year he only liked my sandwiches I started getting up early each day to make sure I was the only one who ever made their lunch. When he said he wanted to start running with me I bought him shoes and went on the slowest mile long jog the world has ever known. And when he told me I should get a necklace like the other moms, I got one.
I’m not always going to make the field trip, and I will very rarely be at school drop off. But some simple things I can do if for no other reason than I want him to know that mommy is listening. I’m not like the other moms but I do try and will continue to try and be the best mom I know how to be, even if I don’t always wear the right outfit on craft day.
*Big thanks to Samantha Levine at Auburn Jewelry for my gorgeous “mommy necklace”