All three of my children are now in full-time school. Under someone else’s watch. Outside of my home and my care for a good portion of the day. I was excited for this moment to come. It’s been 11 and a half years since I started having kids, quit my job and stayed home full-time to be with them. Today, when I dropped off my sweet girl and walked out the school doors, I didn’t feel much. “That was anticlimactic,” I told my husband. Which felt completely wrong. In the span of three minutes I changed from being a stay-at-home, full-time mother to not. With no fanfare or recognition of the tremendous change. The platform of the last whole chunk of my life was removed and I was walking on nothing. I almost put my arms out to get my balance. I got to the car and sat for a moment, and then the tears came.
Those tears were unexpected. I love her enormously – this is not a case of wishing to be rid of a troublesome child – but she was ready, and I was ready. I thought I was ready, at least.
I had my list. Of all I would accomplish today in light of my new, open schedule. How organized and in-control I would feel after such an opportunity. But I was a blubbering mess and knew the list-tackling wasn’t to be. I had to work out these big feelings. And I do that through writing. I had to take stock of the last decade-plus to know how to turn my mind in a new direction and move forward.
So here’s a summary of those years, to help myself grasp the immensity of the occasion:
- Hours and hours of wiping bottoms or the messes made by them.
- Hours and hours of being peppered with machine gun style questions. Rapid fire, not waiting for an answer before the next is delivered.
- Hours and hours of making food for small people, nearly none of which was appreciated (“Mom! I said I wanted peanut butter and raisins!”, “I don’t even like bananas!”, “Ewwww, this looks sooo gross!”), and then cleaning up the mess of the unappreciators.
- Picking up toys and sorting toys and organizing toys and getting rid of outdated toys and buying new toys and repeating.
- Having babies (like actually being pregnant, giving birth to them, nursing them and waking up all night with them – years of this).
- Playing cars and pirates and vikings and lego, then princesses and babies and “family” and doing one thousand puzzles and playing one million board games (I recommend “I Never Forget a Face,” “Animal Upon Animal” and “Secret Squares”).
- Mommy-and-me music and gymnastics and swimming and art classes.
- Grocery shopping with someone (or more than one small person) asking for every third item they see. Including: big carrots instead of little ones, Mango Tango, cookies, ice cream, popsicles, donuts, yogurt, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, M&Ms, gum, sugar cereal, cheese sticks (SO expensive! Come on. It’s still just cheese.), all the toys in Target, DVDs, bikes, iphones, junk from the $1 section, sparkly puppy dog purses, Minecraft t-shirts, and once, randomly but wonderfully, artichokes.
Those are all negatives. Here are some positives, and reasons the transition is a tough one and not just a celebration of freedom:
Hours and hours of snuggling with babies and toddlers and preschoolers, and elementary school kids when they let me (this counteracts a bunch of those negatives at once).
- Getting to watch my children reach new milestones, say their first words, take their first steps, discover the squishy delights of play-doh, build their first lego creations, say their first inadvertent cuss words, complete their first puzzles, eat their first fistfuls of sand, and all the other firsts I was able to experience spending all day with them.
- Play dates that included other moms so as to maintain sanity and enjoy the company of other grown-ups, which fostered some of my most treasured friendships.
- Years of not having a boss.
- Waking up to little voices (even crying or mad ones) instead of alarm clocks.
- Deciding on a whim to go to the zoo. When will I do that alone?
- Going to the park. Often.
- Witnessing the whole deal. How they change and change and change. Watching and seeing and taking in their growth. That’s a big one.
So, it seems it was a good run. It wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t all dreamy. It was just like life: a mix. One part of the entire story of my whole life span. I did my job – well at times, very poorly at others (see: the time I hid in the basement from my toddler son who was making me, literally, crazy). It wasn’t my life’s work, it was a decade’s work. I am not just a stay at home mom. I am a writer and a reader and a bit of a painter. I am a good cook and a bad mathematician and a passionate-if-not-fabulous Zumba dancer. I am an extrovert and an introvert, depending on the moment. I am a mother and I am just another human being. I simply needed to remind myself what the heck just happened. A necessary moment to recalibrate and take a gigantic, deep breath. And cry. I clearly needed to cry.
Now I’m ready for the next phase of the story.
It begins with “And then…”