My oldest child (Henry) has had a cold for over a week now. He’s a daycare kid, so he pretty much always has something going on. This cold was relatively minor and we thought it had passed completely, but then he developed a low-grade temperature yesterday afternoon. Nothing too concerning, but still the parade of horribles came marching down Main Street: ear infection followed by rapid temperature spike followed by febrile seizure (he’s had one before; super scary shit).
Of course, he seemed fine when he got home that night, slept well, and even said he wanted to go to school this morning to play with his friends. So, I let him go.
I then proceeded to spend the rest of the morning worrying that I made the wrong decision. I sent multiple emails to his teachers asking them to please closely monitor his temperature. I called my husband to ask if he thought I should go pick him up. I read the sections of our pediatrician’s handbook on colds, cough, fever, hand, foot and mouth disease and croup (which he’s already had three times but clearly doesn’t have at the moment). Then, I emailed his teachers again to confirm that they hadn’t been in contact up until now because Henry was fine (yep, he was fine).
Unfortunately, this sort of scenario is not a rare occurrence. I am the Monday morning quarterback for my life and every day is Monday when it comes to my kids.
Even the most minor decision can send me into a tailspin of self doubt. Are those pants too warm? Did Henry have too much screen time today. Should I spend Saturday morning focused on Henry or the babies? Which baby? If I spend more time with Calvin because he cries more, will that just encourage him to keep crying? Should I focus more on Lucy even though she doesn’t seem to need my attention the way Calvin does? Do babies even have enough psychological awareness for any of these questions to be relevant?
Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, said in an interview on NPR that she wanted to buy all mothers a bumper sticker that said “I am the standard.” Fathers, she said, need no such reminder.
I think Ms. Senior is on to something. My husband shows up, does his thing with the kids and doesn’t seem to ever question whether what he’s doing is “right.” He knows that he is being a good dad just by showing up; he believes that he is enough.
On an intellectual level, I know that I am a good mom, even on my bad days. I know that there is rarely a “right” answer to any of my constant questions. But I still can’t stop asking them. Not yet anyway.
Even so, the babies and I have made it through three months now. They are growing and smiling and doing their baby thing. Henry just turned three and is so sweet and funny it makes my heart ache. He tells me he loves me every single night without fail. And he still calls for me before anyone else.
Most days I feel like I’m doing okay at this mom thing. Maybe not bumper sticker material but I’ll take it.