A couple weeks ago I was at the beach with my kids and another family when I got an email from one of my editors. She asked if I wanted to go to Los Angeles to attend the premiere of the new movie Planes and for a big event celebrating Disney's release of the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray DVD set of The Little Mermaid. I started reading the itinerary out loud to my friend -- stay at a fancy Hollywood hotel, walk the red carpet, interview some of the films' cast including Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel). Did I want to go? Of course I did!
Then I read the dates: August 4-6. My son's 10th birthday is August 5. Crap.
I almost responded then and there telling my editor there was no way I could miss my son's birthday. I mean, what kind of mother would do that? Then I thought about it some more, and decided that yes, actually I could ... and I would.
When my son was born a decade ago, I dove right down off the corporate ladder I'd been working so hard to climb. Since then I've turned down countless opportunities that would have advanced my career and recreational activities that I would enjoy to be with him and my daughter as much as possible. And I've done so happily.
But I don't think that being a good mom means it always has to be about them, and frankly I don't want them to think it always should be. I want my kids to know that while I love them more than anything, I have interests, passions, and responsibilities that have nothing to do with them. I want to set an example that making yourself happy isn't always a bad thing.
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And honestly, while birthdays are a big deal, they're just a day; we can and will still celebrate his first double-digit birthday with gusto. The night before I leave we'll have a family party. My husband will take off work on the day of his actual birthday, and they'll spend it doing something fun. I'll leave a special gift for him to open on the big day from me, and I'll call and FaceTime with him to sing him "Happy Birthday." While we both might be a bit sad that day that we're not together, it will be okay.
He's doing a triathlon on the morning I fly out, and that I would not miss. I only accepted the trip after ensuring I could fly out after watching him cross the finish line. Not because triathlons are more important than birthdays, but because that's something that I just can't miss ... or rather won't miss.
We all have to pick our own parenting non-negotiables when it comes to things likes this, and not everyone's are going to be the same. So I'm sure some will think it's outrageous that I'm choosing to go rather than stay and be here with him on his birthday. But I'm okay with it ... mostly. There's still a small twinge of guilt I feel no matter how many times I go over my justification for going, but I think those kind of doubts are an unavoidable part of motherhood. The most important thing though is that he knows that I love him, and of that I have no doubt.
Would you ever leave your child on his or her birthday?
Image via Julie Ryan Evans