Today my daughter threw up on the bus. Seven times. On a six-hour ride shared with her schoolmates, on a long anticipated field trip to New York City. Yes, I was that mother who sent her on the trip.
The day started off on the right foot. It was the day of the big school trip that had been planned all year, and we had fun packing last night. At breakfast, her stomach hurt and she didn’t eat much breakfast. I chalked it up to trip anxiety. We talked about the trip and I said it would be something she would never forget. I had no idea that this would be an understatement.
I dropped her off at school and was excited for her 3 days in New York. A little later, I got a text from her saying her stomach really hurt. ‘I’ll come get you,’ I told her. ‘Get off the bus.’ I’m fine, she replied.
And then the texts started coming. It hurts, I feel awful. Mommy, I need you. [There’s a clue in that one. I’m not mommy at any other time, than when she needs TLC.] I’m not feeling well. Then, silence. And 10 minutes later, a happier text. I just threw up and feel much better! One of the chaperon moms – a much better mom than this one – had the foresight to bring barf bags with her. And they were well used. Over and over. The texts, the pain of knowing my baby is in pain, and the indecision. Do I jump in the car and go to New York to get her, or do we wait it out?
As the hours dragged by, the guilt grew. Should I go get her? Why didn’t I volunteer to chaperone, or follow the bus down like other moms? Is she truly sick? Why didn’t I know it this morning? What if she infects the other 50 kids on the bus?
Thankfully, by the time the bus arrived in New York, the worst was over. But the guilt remained.
A quick look at Twitter found that I have lots of company in #momguilt. “My daughter just gave her doll a kiss and said, I have to go to work” lamented one mom. Another expressed guilt at staying home with a sick child and missing work. Others expressed guilt at going out for lunch, using the TV as a babysitter, reading a book and not playing with her son.
We should take heart to discover there is a #dadguilt handle as well. The 130-character entries almost always involved sports and beers with the guys. So theoretically there is a shared parenting guilt, but at least in my informal poll, the moms are hardest on ourselves. All the experts say it’s time to let the guilt go. But it’s part of my DNA. I’ve been feeling guilty since I was pregnant and ate too much Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Too much sugar, not enough vegetables. As my kids grew, so did the things I felt I could have, should have done differently. Guilt, Guilt, Guilt. The helicopter parent is now the bulldozer mom, pushing obstacles out of the way of their kids, and still the guilt remains.
So tonight I wrestle with letting my guilt go, or letting myself get going literally and hustling to New York to get my not-sufferings-as-much child, so I can alleviate my own suffering.