Preschool Sport’s Day and “Missing Out” as a Parent

Last Friday was Thomas’s first Preschool Sport’s Day.

And I couldn’t go. Because I had to work.

Yeah, it made me a bit sad when I had to tell Thomas that no, I couldn’t be there to watch him and his friends.

I’m not in a position to moan really. I’ve read lots and lots of pieces about working parents and the balances and compromises they often must strike. Unlike a lot of families out there, we had a great deal of choice about what to do once Thomas was born. I could have given up work altogether if I had wanted. Equally Ian had the option to become a stay-at-home dad. We could have shared working and childcare (and did, for a while) and I could have gone back for any amount of time right up to full time without having to worry about child care fees crippling us or eating away the entirety of my wage. We are in this situation partly because of hard work, but, yes, we’re also extremely lucky.

So going back to work was very definitely a choice for me, and one that I’m currently entirely happy with. Sure, sometimes I moan about work, but that’s because like anything with responsibility for people, it can be extremely stressful. And at the moment anything at the sharp end of the NHS is definitely at least a bit taxing. But for the most part I love my job, and I really like the mix we’ve managed to achieve in our lives.

But on Friday, not being able to be there for an event that Thomas was very excited about was still a little bit heartbreaking. Friday is the only day of the week that I work in that particular practice. Having already taking three Fridays off in the last seven, I just couldn’t justify another one – on the grounds of needing to fulfill my targets for the business as whole and also out of duty to the patients who I don’t want to keep waiting for weeks on end for an opportunity to get an appointment with me.

And it’s that – the tearing of family responsibility against professional responsibility – that will always be hard. I know I’m far from alone. It’s hard for everyone – men and women, parents or not – because we almost all have additional responsibilities or priorities outside of the professional environment. Sadly there just aren’t enough hours, even with the greatest flexibility in working arrangements, to be able to do it all, all of the time. It’s always a compromise, no matter what.

The upside to this story is that Ian is lucky to have a reasonable amount of flexibility in his work. He’s part of a relatively small team and they recognise the importance of family life, so things like leaving early to do the nursery pick up when I have to work late are not a problem. He was able to work from home for the day and slip out for a couple of hours to be there, to Thomas’s immense pleasure. My heart hurts just a little bit thinking about Thomas being the only child there without a family member to cheer him on.

Of course, once again, I know that we are lucky. For some families there are no choices, and no flexibility. Missing out becomes not something they fear, but something that actually happens, and their child becomes that one.

At least I got to see the photos (of which I will only share a few here, in the interests of not sharing pictures of other children) and hear the first hand account of Thomas setting off to run his own race across the field, and how he “won” the potato-and-spoon race with liberal interpretation of the rules that involved holding the potato on the spoon! You’ve got to love preschoolers!

And there will be a next time. Hopefully next time I won’t have to miss out.

 

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