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So You Think I'm a Bad Mom for Not Playing With My Kids at the Pool

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I heard you as you headed back to your blanket with your young daughter. Of course I did. You made sure to say it loud enough for me to hear. Because you were talking about me.

"It's a shame that some parents just sit on their blankets and miss out on playing with their kids at the pool. It's sad."

I wanted to tell you to f*ck off. But I didn't. I figured there must be a good reason for you to be judging me and thinking the worst of my parenting. Maybe you struggle with feeling inadequate in your parenting (we all do), so you project that onto others. Maybe you were tired after being up most of the night... or you could have been salty after having to deal with tantrums from your kid all morning. Maybe you were hangry.

Or maybe you're just a judgmental b*tch. It was hard to tell in that one small snippet you shared as you spoke condescendingly toward me with your passive-aggressive comment.

You don't deserve an explanation, honestly, but I'd like to share a few reasons why I was sitting on my blanket next to the pool, rather than in the water playing with my kids, so that you might consider these for future opportunities and refrain from judging other parents.

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1. I paid my dues in freezing cold swimming pools. Years and years of playing and spending hours in the pool when I didn't really want to because I was cold or tired or waterlogged. But I did it because I wanted to spend time with my kids, specifically at an age when physical play is particularly important in their development. I splashed and dunked and dove for toys. We had handstand contests, races, and competitions to see who could hold their breath the longest. I went off the diving board and down the water slide with them. I caught them jumping into the pool. Over and over and over. I've spent countless hours over the years playing with my kids and not missing out on those opportunities, but you chose to assume that what you saw of me in those few minutes on my blanket was indicative of how I've spent the last 7,884,000 minutes. You were wrong.

2. This is actually only the second time in their lives I've spent more time out of the water than in it with them. But that possibility didn't cross your mind. You assumed that I usually sit on a blanket and "miss out" on time with my kids.

3. Did you, by chance, happen to notice that my swimming suit was wet? It was... because I just got back to my blanket about 15 minutes before you saw me there. I was out in the water with my kids for a little while. But that wasn't part of your assessment. You already had me pegged for a Bad Mom Who Doesn't Play With Her Kids like you do.

4. My kids aren't 3 and 5 years old, wanting and needing my attention all the time. They're 13 and 15. Maybe you remember being a teenager? I'm guessing you didn't necessarily want your mom with you constantly so she wasn't "missing out" on any moments. Although I'm still an involved parent, I do like to give my kids some space. The teen years are a pretty important transition from relying on and spending the majority of the time with parents to doing a bit more away from them. It's what's happened to basically every teen in the history of the world. But you didn't consider that. You just assumed I'm in the exact same position that you're in... parenting a preschooler.

But, it's worth mentioning -- whether it was in the pool, the backyard, the playground, or anywhere else, I made a conscious decision to not play with my kids All. The. Time. They needed to learn to play on their own, too. They needed to know they could do things and have fun on their own. Even at the pool.

5. My kids took a friend to the pool this time. They were out in the water having fun, goofing around, and talking. They told me later they spent time discussing science, family, and religion, among other things. (How cool is it that they were sorting through some pretty hefty topics while floating around in the pool??) I'm guessing the last thing they wanted was me hovering over them or interjecting in their conversations. Did you stop to think that maybe I was consciously not out there with my kids for their actual benefit and development? No, you didn't. You just assumed the worst -- that I'm a Bad Mom... because I wasn't doing things the way you were.

You assumed that I was an uninvolved, selfish mom who only cared about her alone time with a book or on her phone. You thought I was neglecting my kids and the opportunity to spend fun time at the pool playing with them.

You were wrong. So, step back with your judgment. You don't know what's going on here. Doing things differently than you doesn't make me wrong, bad, or ill-equipped as a parent. And, to be honest, at a different point in time, I was doing exactly what you were doing today... and maybe, in 10 years when your daughter is the same age as my kids, you might be doing things like I am now.

How about this:

You do what works for you and your family; I'll do what works for my kids and me. If we seem to have the same ideas about parenting, great. If we don't, OK. If we do things in different ways, let's just leave it at that: different. Not bad, not worse, not a shame. Just different.

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