The working mom guilt kicked in when I realized that my work schedule overlapped with almost every one of my fifth-grader’s soccer games.
Partly, it’s the league’s fault. All of the games are played on weekday afternoons or early evenings. This is so not conducive to working parents’ schedules. On the other hand, this leaves Saturdays and Sundays free from school soccer commitments.
I broke the news to my daughter early on.
“Sweetie, I don’t think I am going to make it to many of your soccer games this season.”
Her response totally surprised me.
“It’s okay. I think I play better when no one is there watching me.”
All those hours wasted watching soccer and basketball games! All that time sitting through practices! Here I was thinking my presence supported and encouraged her. While in reality, maybe it pressured or distracted her.
My dad, who is 83, has mentioned to me that his parents never went to any of his basketball games. And he was actually a pretty good baller – he was a star on the St. Mary’s High School (Perth Amboy) basketball team in 1947. His team made it to the Group B Non-Public boys basketball state championship game where they lost 47-43 to St. Joseph's (West New York).
Certainly it was a different era, but I highly doubt that my grandparents felt guilty about missing his games. They probably didn’t give it a second thought.
Flash forward to today. We put some very high expectations on ourselves to attend every game, every practice and not miss a play. God forbid your child scores a goal and you weren’t there to see it. It’s a lot of pressure, not to mention time out of my day to live up to these expectations.
My daughter’s recent comment shed new light on the situation for me. Her suggestion that it’s okay - even preferable - for me to miss some games may be advice we should all heed. Just let them play, with no expectations, no pressure and no post-game critique on what they could’ve or should’ve done in the game. Perhaps if we back off a bit, miss a few games, not put so much pressure on excelling, it will happen on its own. At the very least, they may play the game for the sake of the game and not for our benefit.
Sometimes the expectation of being our child’s number one spectator can’t be met – such as when work gets in the way. And sometimes, it turns out that the expectations were skewed to begin with. Dare I suggest that we miss a few games? I know it’s a foreign concept for many, including me, but may be something we should give serious consideration.