Is it really selfish? - FamilyEducation

Is it really selfish?

June 20,2008
Friday summer nights are special. There’s a local outdoor area that hosts an amazing concert series. Families come out en masse and either grab a patio table at one of the various restaurants, or bring a picnic. Kids run in circles, play in the fountain and dance like crazy to the killer tunes (each rockin’ song bringing another hour of blissful, uninterrupted sleep!). Tonight is gonna be another great night, and K-Man is hooking up with three (count ‘em, three!) of his favorite girlfriends (saving his all-time favorite for a one-on-one playdate Saturday night).

In an unusual twist on planning K-Man's social calendar, I took the lead to set up tonight’s festivities. And, in doing so, I emailed the mom of one of his little friends to confirm their participation. She emailed back, “Sounds great. V wasn't feeling well yesterday, but since I'm overwhelmed, I selfishly sent her to school today. If she's in good shape when I pick her up, we'll see you there!”

At first I didn’t think anything of this and simply looked forward to seeing Mom and V at dinner/the concert. But, then I read it again. It’s not selfish that she sent her kid to school today. “Not feeling well” is very different from “V had a 103-degree fever, but I decided I needed a day to spa and pamper myself so screw her and the other kids in her class.” Hell, the fact is that may be exactly why V isn’t feeling well – because some other mom (or dad) sent HER (or his) kid to school a couple of days earlier.

The “parent guilt” factor is so thick and runs so deep. We beat the crap out of ourselves when we don’t need to. Here’s this totally great, talented mom who has always done nothing but right by her daughter, and she feels like she has to justify her decisions with the fact that she’s “overwhelmed” and belittle her “selfish” condition. It’s not right and it’s not fair.

It’s that damn life balance thing again. It’s the great struggle. And, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a way to juggle all the balls thrown our way, while simultaneously jumping over, around and ducking under all the obstacles. Just when you think you’ve got it wired – something like gas prices spiking up around $5.00/gallon throws you (and your budget) out of whack. This is the very reason why it’s so difficult to hold on to perspective once it’s found.

One of the big results in all of this is that we’ve become a society of impatient, short-tempered, on-the-edge, self-hating monsters! (Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. Elmo, after all, is a monster and he’s a good thing.) What I mean is that the daily pressures take their toll and make us feel “selfish” even when we’re not. It just ain’t fair!

I wish I knew the answer for overcoming the pressures and the overwhelming feelings that continue to haunt me – and K-Man’s friend’s mom (and just about every other parent I know). I mean, I know this isn’t just a San Francisco Bay Area thing. I know it’s stupid expensive to live here, but I also know that those of you who live in more economically friendly towns feel the same pressures and feelings. What’s the answer?

I don’t know. But, for starters, I know that it’s important to make sure you make enough plans to spend time with the family doing things like taking advantage of free summer night concerts. And, maybe it’s high time that we (okay mostly I) stop trying to hang on to our (my) perspective. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to lose our perspective over and over. Maybe, just maybe…that’s what makes us appreciate it so much when it’s finally found? I’ve actually never though of it like that. That’s something to think about. Or maybe it’s just the heat frying my brain.

I guess the bottom line is that it’s hard enough “out there.” Let’s stop beating ourselves to s**t when we don’t have to.