Today, that was all it took - one e-mail shattered my morning bringing tears to my eyes.
Nothing tragic happened, no worries. Just the sadness and anguish that comes from the inability to be in several places at one time.
The Diva has accomplished various things throughout the year. For these, she will be recognized at an awards ceremony. We thought that this ceremony would be Monday morning, the last two hours of school. Someone was planning to attend - I would take a half day off work or my parents, who were going to be here by noon anyway, would do their best to get here (2100 miles they are driving) Sunday night so that they could go and cheer for her.
I e-mailed her teacher to ensure that family was able to attend the ceremony. (this was last Friday)
I just received word that yes, family can attend but the ceremony is tomorrow morning, not Monday.
My heart hurt.
Tomorrow morning? But I can't take off tomorrow morning. I have a product that needs to be watched, and I am taking a few days off next pay period to hit the beach etc. I just can't do it. My parents are still west. They won't leave until this afternoon.
This is one of the most difficult aspects of being a single parent - and probably a working parent as well. When livelihood depends upon your working, it is difficult to be there, supporting your kids via your physical presence, as much as you would like. Or as much as I would like.
The Diva understands, for the most part. She knows that I give her as much time as I possibly can. We spend time exploring, reading, chatting, singing, and just being together. She sees that I take her desire to and love for dance seriously and am willing to work to support the school, as well as her, to the extent possible. She knows that I have reduced my work schedule in order to ensure that she is at dance class on time twice a week. She knows that we bend our schedule completely so that she doesn't miss class unless it is absolutely necessary.
(We had to fly west to attend a wedding November before last. She would miss a (just one) rehersal for the Nutcracker. She freaked out. She wanted to miss the wedding, me to leave her here, to fly back in time for rehersal - which was at the same time as the wedding. Missing rehersal was torturous for her. Five seasons, and she has missed less than five rehersals and classes combined. Her doing, not mine)
I have no doubt that she will understand that given all the time that I am taking off next week, I can not be there for her tomorrow. But, it still hurts my heart. Usually, if I can not attend something, I try to send someone - anyone - to provide support. Yet, it doesn't make me feel much better.
I have always known that the stay-at-home parenting role was not for me. Married or not married, it didn't matter. I need the separation. I need an identity of my own professionally. That said, my choice has always been to be a mother and think about my career second. There is that part of me, on days such as this, that is envious of the time that stay-at-home parent's have.
I remember attending a school picnic one evening. Lots of kids and lots of parents. The idea was simply for kids and parents to spend time together and get to know one another. One boy was there with his dad. Throughout the entire event, his dad was on his mobile phone - while they ate, played, etc. I never saw him speak to his son.
At the time, I felt badly for the little boy as his dad was there but he wasn't. I didn't judge the dad as I am the first to admit that it is difficult to be a parent and to ensure that you can support your children emotionally and financially - sometimes the two don't go hand-in-hand. (like right now for me)
I am not sure that there is an answer to the dilemma as to how to do it all - be in two places at one time; support your kids physically and yet maintain a career. Is it better to be there physically but not mentally? Perhaps it is better to skip this and that, but when you are there, to be completely "there?" Perhaps it doesn't matter as it is the intention that is most important, one way or the other?
As for me, I take a deep breath, focus on the time that I give her, and remember that there isn't a "right" answer for me in this situation. The key is simply doing my best.
And remembering that I am amazingly lucky. I have a fabulous kid, a flexible work schedule, and for the most part, I do not miss the special days in her life.