I’d like to introduce you to a friend. I think you may know her already, or at least you think you do. She’s The Mom Who Is Never Here.
You’ve never met, but you know her. She’s the one who doesn’t make it to the zoo field trip, and gamely tries to run a conference call in the lobby during the school play. It’s her child who is looking hopeful every time the classroom door opens during the Mother’s Day tea.
She’s the one who had to listen to the middle school band concert on her cell phone when she got stuck on the Maricopa during rush hour. She’s the one who couldn’t make it to the Scout meeting to pin the rank badge on her son because she works every Monday night.
She’s the one you whisper about when she shows up late, if she manages to show up at all. She’s the one you’re referring to when you look around the ballet class and talk about women who don’t care enough about their children to be, well, Here.
She’s the one who, when she finally was able to go on a camping trip, you greeted with the comment, “I didn’t know that kid had a mother.”
She’s the one you’re talking to when you mutter, “You shouldn’t have a lifestyle that requires you to work so much.” To that she might say, “It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a college fund and a grocery bill,” and she would holler it out the window as she’s backing her 15-year-old van out of the too-tiny garage as she races to take the other kids to activities she can’t make it to on her way to that job.
She’s not going to say much more than that, because even though she can’t be Here, she’s not going to go There. Not with you, anyway, or not until you’re writing the check for her electric bill.
It should go without saying but it obviously doesn’t, so I will remind you that she wants to be Here. She wanted to see when her son narrated the school play. She was devastated when her fourth-grade daughter won the all-school spelling bee, beating even the eighth-graders, and she wasn’t able to make it.
It broke her heart when her boss committed her to finishing a project at the last minute, causing her to miss yet another band performance and her son blurted out, “Have you made it to any of these shows?”
Oh, yes: she wants to be Here. She wants to have the luxury of deciding to be a homeroom mom. She wants so much to not have to decide between making this month’s rent and this year’s Christmas pageant.
And it’s not because she doesn’t want to wince every time someone sniffs, “I guess it’s just about setting the right priorities,” as she stumbles up the bleachers in the ninth inning at another softball game.
No: when she does manage to be Here, no matter how briefly, it’s because she has managed to heroically move mountains, slow the earth’s rotation and tear a hole in the time-space continuum, all because she wants to be Here with her kids, while it matters, before it’s neither here nor there that she was.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.