I made a conscious decision to skip town last week ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and I didn’t watch much of either convention. This is not a political blog, but let’s just say I am not excited about voting for president this year.
I did, however, watch Chelsea Clinton’s speech introducing her mother. The younger Clinton noted that her mother had been to “Every soccer game, every softball game, every piano recital, every dance recital.”
And I thought, oh no. Here we go again. Here we have someone who is a working (and very newly postpartum!) mom herself rehashing the trope of the perfect mother never missing a soccer game. Not only is it probably not true, it’s harmful to the larger cause of parents trying to integrate work and life.
I’m not the only one who noticed this. Samantha Ettus describes a similar feeling in this essay for Daily Worth. I suppose it is understandable why Chelsea Clinton felt the need to talk about her mother this way. I’m old enough to remember the brouhaha about whether Hillary Clinton should have stayed at home and baked cookies, a major source of political chatter back in 1992. Running for president is not a traditionally feminine activity, and so this trope is about reassuring listeners that the woman who may be our first female commander-in-chief is still maternal and nurturing.
I have no doubt she is. I have no doubt that she raised Chelsea very well and that they built an incredibly tight relationship of the sort many of us would love to create with our daughters. I also have no doubt that they built this tight relationship despite the elder Clinton occasionally missing events in her daughter’s life. How could she not? Even the parent of an only child can be called away for extended family responsibilities, or First Lady duties (in Arkansas or Washington). A parent can have the flu. Or get stuck in traffic. Unless Chelsea Clinton has the ability to be in two places at once, as a parent of multiple children she will inevitably face the moment when her kids have soccer games simultaneously and she will have to miss one!
But that is OK, because you can be an excellent, involved parent and miss soccer games, softball games, piano recitals, dance recitals, and so forth. Setting this up as evidence of good parenting puts added stress on parents who simply won’t be able to meet this definition of never missing anything. Their jobs aren’t flexible or they’re on their own and have to take care of other kids during events. Or maybe they have their own soccer games to attend. Parents can have lives beyond their kids.
Since part of Hillary Clinton’s platform is about addressing issues facing parents, it’s too bad this narrative got such a prime time spot. Here’s hoping that in the future, not only will it be possible for women to run for president, women won’t face absurd expectations about motherhood as well.
In other news: My husband baked cookies with our daughter last night. They are really good. I think I ate half a dozen of them today.
13 thoughts on “It is OK to miss a soccer game”
I remember Scalia making a point of saying that he didn’t do soccer games and piano recitals because he was busy. Alas…
@smh – what’s interesting to me is how some men are starting to get this same (impossible) standard — “My dad never missed a baseball game…” and some such. While it probably isn’t true for them either, the fact that it is held up as a standard is interesting. I think there’s some part of it being the public aspect of parenting that makes it important for people in the narrative too.
Have you watched Parks and Recreation? This post reminds me of the address Leslie Knope have her constituents about being a working parent. I was cheering through it.
Hooray for the cookie bakers in your family!
Thank you. I was cheering Chelsea on, but I cringed during this section of the speech. My parents raised three children, and my father had a very demanding job. My mom carried the bulk of the work at home, and it was a logistical impossibility for one of them to be at every milestone, especially when we all went to boarding school. One of many inherent lessons of my childhood was learning to be self-motivated because there was not a parent present at every event to applaud.
My take away is the child feels like the parent was at every game, recital etc. When a parent is involved and makes most of the games and shows interest in the child’s life, the child feels like the parent was there and part of it. A better phrase would be “my mom was at my games, recitals, etc.” I have been to about 80+% of my kids events and I am sure if you asked them they couldn’t remember an event I wasn’t at. On the other side, kids are also aware when a parent is physically at an event, but is not paying attention. It’s the emotional/psychological connection more than the physical one. I agree the narrative needs to change. I think in general society needs to be less judgmental and more supportive. We have a ways to go, but I think we are moving in that direction.
@Monica- yes, take the “every” out of the sentence and it’s fine. We’ll see if my kids remember what I missed. I’ll be missing someone’s camp end-of-week event this week, because the kids are in different camps, and the events are at the same time. So it goes when one has 4 kids.
Yes, there’s definitely a family size issue here. I could only be at each one of each kid’s events if I had a Time Turner.
great post! #ImWithYou, I did not listen or watch either convention. I have actually ceased listening to C-Span, at least for a little while, because of the current political climate. I still read the news. I am trying to limit my exposure to the insanity, but stay informed on the issues.
I really appreciate you putting it out there that it is OK to miss some things, and that what few ‘events’ we miss are only a small part to the story of our life. Sometimes people have to hear it from others that it is OK. This is why talking to people can be so valuable, we may really believe that some mom’s do it all, but when we talk to them we may find they are struggling with the same exact tasks and schedules we are handling!
I would LOVE to see you do a presentation! do you have any upcoming speaking events in the mid-atlantic? I’m in Baltimore.
Besides making life awful for mothers, this standard is bad for the kids, too. Children, especially as they get older, need to learn to pursue things that THEY care about, even when no one is on the sidelines providing a constant stream of praise. I work with young adults and I will tell you, I wonder if some of them have ever worked hard on anything without Mom or Dad pushing them along. Being a capable adult means working passionately, with or without an audience, and we don’t develop this capacity without practice. Yet another reason I’ve come to loathe this culture of competitive parental “involvement.”
This is such a good post… and comments too!
Meh. You probably would have found fault with anything she said.
I disagree with this post. I thought it commendable for Hilary Clinton to make the effort to attend all her daughter’s games. I also remember one of the women quoted in your book I know how she does it, claiming to always make time to see her son’s games. That was a priority for her and she made it happen. Perhaps it was a priority for Clinton too.