Thinking of the moms who can’t make it

by Janelle Hanchett



I can’t make it.

You tell us about it, teacher, how it’s a blast. How we should come. How we’ll love it. I need no convincing. I love pumpkin patches. I love the fall. Before the words have fully left your mouth I check…nope. Working that day.

I can’t not show up to work. Maybe I can get a sub. No, not really. I teach college. You can’t really just get a sub, or “call in sick.”

You’re still talking about how wonderful it is. The picture you paint makes my gut hurt and face smile. I see my kindergartener on the train ride, scaling the haystack, picking out the perfect pumpkin. I tell myself “We’ll go as a family. We always do.”

I tell myself it will be just as good. My heart sinks just the same.

I see her there with other parents. I see them with their phones, taking pictures. Maybe my kid will be in the frame, in the background. Along the sidelines of the frame, near yours who sits front and center.

I wonder if she’ll wish her mom were there. Let’s be honest, there’s no way she’ll even notice. She’ll be having a great time, as she should.

I know that, yet I kinda wan to quit anyway.

In the 4th grade classroom they’re going to the Maidu museum. Oh, it’s amazing! The other moms coo.

Damn! Wednesday. I teach that day too. He’s almost 10. He wouldn’t let me hug him the other day before school. He’s getting so big. Oh, lord I want to go. To not miss out. I think of the twinkle in his eye if I could tell him “Hey! I’m going with you on the field trip!”

He’s not too big for that.


I was never the kid who’s mom worked in the classroom, drove the kids on field trips, manned the carpool. My mom was busy making a living to keep us alive. I didn’t feel deprived. I didn’t feel resentful. I was elated to see her at the end of the day. Period.

And she was always there. Our dinners were heaven around the little table. I’d crawl into her bed when I needed it. She never said “no.”

On the weekends she took us on impromptu camping trips and to the beach and made us hot dogs in the fog while the ocean roared behind us and I knew it was right in the world because she was there.

She was always there.

No, not always. Not at school.

But everywhere else she circled me like sunlight.

And I knew it. I felt it, no matter where I was.


I tell myself it’s the same with my kids. I know in my heart it’s true. I don’t remember a single incident of sitting at school wondering “WHERE’S MY MOM?” I was just glad we were on the damn field trip I the first place.

The mom who can’t come. The mom who isn’t on the trip. The mom who works.

Sometimes I can come now. I have a little more flexibility.

Some don’t.

Some can’t come at all, ever.

I see you.

I hear you.

I know what it feels like to be the mom showing up in work clothes 20 minutes late to Back-to-School night, scanning the list of meetings and events and assemblies and this and that and “You should come” and “Volunteer please” and every one at 9am 10am 3pm and the sinking reality of you aren’t going.

You talk to your child, pick the most important. You can make it to one, I’m sure. The boss will give you the time off. Maybe you’ll just lie. The pumpkin patch is not a business priority. Odd.


I don’t want to go to all. Screw that. I’ll leave that to the helicopters. But I’d like to make it to a few, and volunteer a few times. I’d like that, you know?


A million questions theories scenarios reasons feelings but fuck all that.

I just want to talk about the 45 seconds when you realize you can’t make it to the pumpkin patch field trip and wonder for a second what the hell you’re doing and what she’ll think or won’t think and how your mom was there or not and how it was and is and will be okay, even when it’s kind of not.

You and me. We can’t make it together.

You and me. We’ll make it together.

And so will they.


they’re fine. we’re crazy. it’s all as it should be.



Join me for my last writing workshop of 2015.

There are only 5 spots left. We’ll have a hell of a time getting to know each other.

Let’s do this.







32 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | September 4, 2015
  • janelle

    my mom was a stay at home mom and she never came on fieldtrips. and im glad she didnt come!

  • Jennifer

    You got me with this one, Janelle. Boom. Right in the heart. So hard to balance it all: work, PTA, homework, sports, cleaning the MF’ing house, laundry.

  • Fatima Naylor

    Geez… seriously. I’m that mom. Thank you for putting it into words.

  • Carissa

    My mom never came on school activities – she was a working single parent. I never even thought about her joining. Now that I’m a mom, I do feel guilt that I cannot attend. But when I make arrangements to participate, I don’t enjoy it, and I feel guilty about work. My kids will live, and be just fine. It’s so incredibly difficult to balance it all. I remind myself that as long as my kids still get the nighttime snuggles, and fun stuff on the weekends, its fine. it’s fine. I keep telling myself. Right there with you sister.

  • WillowTreeWade

    It’s funny, my parents never did any of these school things and I was always really relieved. I always felt bad for the kids whose parents supervised field trips. I should make it clear that I do actually like my parents, I even mostly did back then. I just didn’t like the mixing of home and school.

  • Diane

    Damn it, I’m at work and you made me cry,why do you have to be so good. Thank you for saying what many Mom’s never can put into words.

  • Anne

    Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • carrie

    So much of this is me. Starting back to work with 3 kids, one of them 9 months old. And I want to work, but I hate missing so much. Like taking my daughter to school on the first day. And it is so funny, because I don’t ever remember my parents being there on MY first days of school (or ANY field trip, for that matter). We feel we need to join in, be there for every “event”, but there will be hundreds. We can’t be at every one….so I tell myself!

  • Jill

    meh. My mom went on all that stuff. She was room mom, girl scout leader, chaperone, PTA volunteer, etc. I can’t tell you how much I eventually came to resent it. It was like she didn’t trust me or give me any space. I envied the kids whose moms showed up in work clothes and didn’t bug them all the time.

  • Jennifer C

    I am a kindergarten teacher. And I also have my very own son. I am never at his school since I am busy taking care of my own little precious class of children. I never judge the moms who can’t come and volunteer for everything, since I am also one of them. I go on a field trip each year and send in things like hand sanitizer. Because that is what I can do. My son is shocked that there are moms that don’t work outside the home. Not insulting anyone, that is just what he knows. I appreciate the parents who can/want to help and understand those who can’t.

  • Lisa L.

    I read this at work just after looking at pictures of my daughter having fun at Fairytale Town with my parents, and nearly burst into tears. Spot on.

  • Mallory

    I always remember feeling bad for the kids whose moms came on field trips. Those suckers had their parents babysitting while the rest of us got to run free.

    That said, I’m sure I’ll feel the seemingly inevitable guilt when working gets in the way of participating in my daughter’s future classroom activities.


  • Marie

    I cried.

  • Cath

    I always enjoy your blog, but it sounds as though someone else wrote this one. It doesn’t sound like your voice – not your writing style.

  • Brandi

    My mom also worked, but she always used her vacations to do a field trip or come to our sports games. (We couldn’t afford real vacations anyway). I think as long as you are showing your kids your dedication in other ways, the school presence doesn’t matter. I don’t remember other mothers in school much either when I was young. Obviously, times are different now–but it doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s just another way to beat ourselves up. Just don’t do it.

  • Ashlie

    All that any of us can do is make the most out of the time that we do have with them. Working parents, stay-at-home parents whose minds are still going in a million different directions… it doesn’t matter. I think we all fight this battle.

    I stay home and am pretty active at school, but I also have a three year old at home. I can’t come to everything or DO everything and I’m okay with that. My kids are okay with that.

    Some of the other moms and I have a good thing worked out, we photograph all the kids during parties and field trips and text them out to one another. All I want is to see the joy on their faces, see them having fun with their friends. Whether I can be there or not.

    You’re doing good, Janelle. We all are. <3

  • Kate

    Totally, totally, totally. I recall sitting in my first parent info night thinking “who the hell can go on day trips and make it to talent shows at 2pm???” And feeling so angry, jealous and guilty when I realized there actually are Moms that can go!!

    After 3 kids and 5 years into school I think I’ve found a balance – I play sick now and then, or I “work from home”, or I get off early sometimes. I’m so grateful I have flexible hours, but yet I still feel guilty when I just have to say “no, I can’t make it”.

    I say damn the guilt. Every single one of us is just doing our best.

  • Amy

    You get it right every time- you are my favorite blogger!

  • Dana

    “Circled me like sunlight.” That is such a beautiful image and sentiment Janelle. Your mom sounds wonderful. I just want you to know as a mom who is fortunate to have the flexibility to attend some of those school trips, I am attentive and full of love for all the children there. Even when you’re not as school with them, you’re still in their hearts.

  • Corby

    Feeling relieved that my inner monologues has friends. It’s good to find your tribe.

  • Mary

    Janelle, I remember when you brought Georgia on Rocket’s field trip to Impssible Acres. You were so relaxed handling your boy and your baby. Everyone was impressed, Rocket was so happy and George was her best adorable self. You were, and are, an awesome Mom! Thanks for the picture. Your beautiful children are getting so grown up!

  • Maureen Wanket

    This is brilliant. I hate being asked to do things like I don’t work for a living. I get more pissed off about it than you seem to, though. Thank you for writing this.

  • Rachael

    Yep, all that. Let’s agree not to get started on parent coffee mornings in school hours – so you can’t even get to know the other parents (although I already feel kind of hostile towards any parent that hasn’t twigged daytime meets don’t work for a lot of people). xx

  • Jen

    I’m a mom of two, work part time, and volunteer as the volunteer coordinator. Please don’t hate being asked to help. We try to communicate all opportunities to all families – during the day, take home projects, after school decorating, even weekend social events knowing not everyone has the same availavbility and sometimes, you MIGHT be able to be mystery reader during the day. You might be able to be a room parent that doesn’t need to come in the classroom. You might be able to play DJ or sell popcorn or monitor the hallways at the Family social night. You might be able to come in before school to decorate a door for teacher appreciation week. There are countless ways to be involved that don’t involve you taking time off of work, or maybe one thing is so appealing you DO want to take time off.

    • Kim

      JHC, that is a LOT of activities, none of which has to do with the three Rs. Who has time for that? Even a SAHM of multiples still has to cook & clean! (No snark, I’m serious). Things like this make me dread when my kids hit elementary school.

  • Liz Schwab

    I am a teacher, too, which means I miss my own kids’ stuff all the time. It also means I work hard to let my working families know they are helping when they send me an extra box of ziplock baggies, staple book orders at night or just send me their kid ready to learn. Sometimes with where they are in life, sending me their kid is all they can do. And that’s OK. But thanks for reminding me to tell them – and their sweet kiddos – that they are doing it, they are enough. You don’t have to show up for daytime events to show love or be loved.

  • Sam Pereira

    “Circled me like sunlight” has to be the most beautiful phrase/image. I actually gasped a little.

  • Sarahviz

    I have always been a full-time working mom out of the house. I will never ever forget the time a stay-at-home mom came up to me at an event, pointed her finger at me and said, “You. You get to go on that zoo field trip. I volunteer in the classroom every week but they let the WORKING MOMS do all the good stuff.” First, I wanted to punch her. But then second, I wanted to cry and say to her, “Do you know how much I’d LOVE to be in my child’s classroom volunteering? But I can’t. So shove it, bitch.”

  • Ellen

    I just want to thank you for writing. Your posts feel like a lifeline some days.

  • Constance

    “Circled me like sunshine” – just beautiful! I’m a working mom who could sometimes make it. I grew up with a stay at home mom who could make it, but I didn’t want her to, so she didn’t – and we were both OK with it. It’s all ok – we all just keep doing our best. **ck the judges (I know, I just can’t)!

  • Kelly @

    ‘She circled me like sunlight’…way to make a new mama cry!

  • Amy

    <3 Straight to my heart. Thank you.