And Then

Well.

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  • Picking up toys and sorting toys and organizing toys and getting rid of outdated toys and buying new toys and repeating.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.

Done.

Now I’m ready for the next phase of the story.

It begins with “And then…”

8 Replies to “And Then”

  1. Thank you, Jenea–a lot! You have just made me feel less crazy. I was so looking forward to school starting, to being able to determine my own priorities and manage my own time, if only three mornings a week while my little one’s in preschool. And what do I do on the first day of freedom? Blubber in the car, feel lost and somehow guilty no matter how I spend that time, and try unsuccessfully to communicate to my husband why what was supposed to be so wonderful now feels unnerving and sad and directionless. I look forward to hearing what your “and then” looks like (and to figuring out mine!) Great writing–again! I love all the details, like the cheese sticks and the sparkly puppy dog purses. All those specifics make me feel like I’m really not the only one living this motherhood thing, like we speak the same language. Beautifully done!

    1. Thank you, Aimee! Hearing you say this makes ME feel less crazy. It’s like the times when I so badly wanted a moment to myself, and then Marc, on a whim, would say, “Why don’t you go get some time alone?” (albeit usually because I was being awful to everyone around me) and then I would freak out. Paralysis would set it. Just what you are saying – do I go read?, do I go shopping?, do I get some errands run while I can? or no, that would be silly, I should ENJOY myself, but what does that even MEAN anymore? It’s the transition from one thing to another. Especially this big of a transition. It requires getting your bearings, which takes more than a split second. Sometimes a long while. We can help each other ease into it together. 🙂

  2. Hi Jenea,
    My life has been spinning out of control for the past few years (I won’t big you down with all of the details), so I haven’t been able to enjoy your blog like I did when you first started. Losing both of my grandmas (my mom’s mom and your great-aunt Ginny) exactly six months apart has given me a fresh appreciation to actively “Carpe Diem” every day. Some days that means allowing myself to stay on my pajamas all day, watch as much Downton Abbey as I feel like watching that day, and not feeling guilty to say, ” wherever you would like to call for take out” when being asked AGAIN what my plan for dinner was. Some days I decide to let Rachel dictate the day’s activities (now that she is home all day again). I guess I’m on the polar opposite point in life as to where you are starting now. One thing that I will do is allow myself time to sit and enjoy reading your blog again! Thanks for all that you do to inspire the rest of us!

    1. Oh Tammi. Man, life sounds challenging these days. You could give me some wisdom on your end of things. I’m so very sorry for your losses, and for whatever else has been making life rough recently. But so glad you feel inspired to seize the day! I, too, have spent many hours watching Downton Abbey – that would count in my book as part of enjoying life. 🙂 Thanks for the encouraging words. I hope you feel inspired to look at what your “And then…” might be in this phase of life. There is still more story to write. And let me know what you decide – I need guidance for the years down the road!

  3. So so so much to say about this. I’ve been on the other side of the fence for 5 years now. The side with all.the.time.in.the.world. I was so afraid to climb over the fence, I literally sat on a chair for 40 days in near silence to prepare myself for the descent. What I know now, that I didn’t understand then, is that my motherhood experience is far from over.

    On the other side of the fence there is a huge field, with a bunch of paths that twist and wind back into each other and cross over again. In this field there are huge trees to climb where you can glimpse into the fields near by. The land is so fertile, it almost feels like mud. I’ve been bogged down over here a few times. Once I got stuck in front of a school for two whole years. That was rough, but I got out and am back on the path I started on. I love this field!

    I hear from some other moms, those down the hill a bit, that there is a GIANT fence that you reach when your kids go to high school. A wall, really. It seems insurmountable at first, but apparently there’s a rope ladder. The ladder is all wobbly because teenagers are in charge of keeping it steady, but it’s still climbable and when you get to the top you have to LEAP off of it into a whole.new.valley.

    I’ll let you know how it goes when I get there. For now, I’m enjoying this field.

    1. Oh boy. Girl, give me some wisdom. I’m gonna need the heads up. The wall sounds…unpleasant. But I guess I just have to take it as it comes; I guess we all do. Thanks for being one of my just-up-the-road people who can tell me what to expect.

  4. Oh sweet cousin.
    I sure do love you and your introspective nature. Thanks for sharing, and for processing through this life shift. You are a fantastic momma, and I hope to one day get to walk in your footsteps with as much grace & honesty as you have.

    1. Well that was awfully nice. 🙂 Thank you for those kind, sweet words, cousin-of-mine.

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