If Mom Is OK, Child Is OK

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Image via It Builds Character

Today is my son Austin's fourth birthday. I won't see him—I will be at work. Tonight, I will be without him as well, since Mondays are sleepover night at his dad's.

If Mom's OK, baby is OK.

Our pediatrician said those words to me as I sat in his office, holding Austin's sister, Abby, only days old. She had jaundice, was dropping weight, and was not latching.

While the doctor was talking about difficult choices for feeding my daughter, and even though I don't have any babies these days, that statement has become a mantra for a lot of decisions along the way.

If Mom's OK, baby is OK. If Mom's OK, child is OK.

As parents, we are hard on ourselves, and there is a lot of pressure and noise around us. It is easy to forget that it is OK—and important—for us to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our kids the way we need to.

When I was home full time with two kids under 2, with very little support, it reminded me that it was OK for me to take a few hours away and let a babysitter step in.

It helped when I felt waves of guilt for putting my kids in daycare part time while I started working.

When we moved forward with a divorce, breaking apart my children's home, I repeated it to myself daily.

If Mom's OK, child is OK.

For all of those situations, it has been true. Each of those decisions, big and small, has made me a better mom in the time that I am with my kids. I am happier, more confident, and more present.

{ MORE: What Do You Tell Your Child About Their New Special Sibling? }

Sometimes it is still difficult, especially as decisions compound. A single mom now, I have to work more demanding jobs, which means more time away from my kids. It means that on days like today, my son's birthday, we will be apart.

We do what we have to do. While days like this are a little heartbreaking, they are still only individual moments in a long life together.

I will miss him fiercely today, but he will laugh with friends at daycare and celebrate with a crown and treats. He will enjoy his night with his dad, and we will talk on FaceTime.

Tomorrow night when I get to pick him up, he will do what he does every day: Yell my name with a smile, sprint over to me so I can pick him up, and collapse into a snuggle. In that moment each day, I know I am OK. And so is he.

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If Mom Is OK, Child Is OK

Tracy Jensen is a writer, marketer, mother, fundraiser, marathoner, and music lover. A working, single mom of two kids ages six and five, she is notorious for doing things the hard way. In addition to writing for EverydayFamily, she survives suburban exile by blogging about life’s foibles at It Builds Character. She can be found at night ignoring the dishes and playing on Twitter. ... More

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2 comments

  1. miriam says:

    How are you a single mom when the dad is still around?

    • Tracy Jensen says:

      I consider myself to be a single parent. They are with me the majority of the time, and on a day-to-day basis, I do it on my own. When my daughter gets sick in the middle of the night, there is no one else at the house if I need to run out for supplies, nor is there anyone to hold my hand when the tough decisions arise.

      I consider myself (and my kids) to be very lucky that my kids’ father is in their life because that is not always the case, but I don’t think that makes me less of a single parent. How would you define it?

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