After 13 years of parenting little people, I no longer have a lunch buddy, a grocery buddy, or a pound on the door while I go to the bathroom buddy. For 6 hours. Every. Single. Weekday.
Starting this week, my kids are all in school fulltime.
I’ve had wild emotional mood swings about this.
Last year when I chose to only put Wanda in half-day kindergarten, it had a little to do with money, but mostly it was about – I wasn’t ready yet. She was ready. SO SO ready. But I couldn’t bear to let go of my last little friend for that many hours each day.
I knew I’d miss her, miss my role as a fulltime stay-at-home mom.
Motherhood is my favorite thing. Gratitude is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel about being a mom.
But it is brutal sometimes. And it is not cessant. Even a little bit.
Halfway through the school year last year, I started to get excited. Wanda was overripe for full day school at that point and I found myself daydreaming about all the things I’d accomplish when I had more uninterrupted time.
I could write a novel worth publishing. I could go back to school and become a doctor or an astronaut. I could even find out what it feels like to finish a thought before being interrupted.
I’ve been a casual on-again/off-again writer and blogger for ten years, periodically taking on too much freelance work. Then I would scale way back when I realized I was incapable of being a great working mom of young kids.
My blog has gone through periods of large readership, but things are quiet around here these days. I just haven’t had the time and focus to give it.
As I contemplated my new free time and all the ways I could fill it, I started to get really excited. I was ready. I could do this. I was simply moving into a new chapter of my life and I might love it.
Then a couple of weeks ago I went online to pay school fees.
And there was a box by Wanda’s name.
For lunch money.
I was overcome with sadness. It was sadness that she would be eating lunch with someone other than me. Sadness that a hugely important phase of my life was ending. My identity for the past 13 years was gone. I grieved.
So I didn’t know what to expect this week as the kids headed off to school.
Would I be sad? Would I be lonely? Would I be bored?
I doubted I’d be bored. I’d spent the entire summer (whenever I wasn’t having emergency surgery) making a business plan for all the writing and marketing I was going to do this year. But maybe I’d be depressed or lacking in motivation to follow through. That scared me.
The morning of the first day of school, Wanda was eating breakfast while I read. She called my name.
I looked up to see a concerned expression on her face.
“What’s wrong, Wanda?”
She eyed me with pity.
“When I leave for school today, the only one you’ll have to talk to is Cortana.”
(We’re a Windows Phone family. Cortana is my personal digital assistant. Like Siri’s big sister.)
To her, that was a horrible prospect. Me, sitting alone at a table, my head in my hands, repeatedly saying, “Cortona, tell me a joke.”
I walked her to school. I had a nice walk home. I showered in silence.
Then I got in the car to run an errand and this feeling welled up inside my chest, a feeling I hadn’t been expecting.
Total, pure, bubbling JOY.
I can do this. In my worry and sadness about turning in my full time stay-at-home mom badge, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would be getting another badge back. KATHRYN. I was overcome with this feeling of reclaiming a part of myself that I willingly surrendered many years ago.
I am autonomous.
I am free.
I am simply Kathryn for six whole hours each day.
And I love it.
I have gotten so much done in the past three days. I can’t even believe it.
Lately I’ve been talking to my doctor about the possibility that I might have ADD. My thoughts have been so scattered and I’ve had such a hard time finishing tasks and following through.
My kids just started school fulltime and I realized – maybe I don’t have ADD. Maybe I just have children.
I think my explosion of productivity can be explained this way – In the past, when I’ve had an hour to work on a blog post, what I’ve really had is:
5 minutes to work on a blog post
6 minutes to have my hair styled like a princess
3 minutes to work on a blog post
5 minutes to notice the pirate booty on the floor and pick it up before it got ground into the carpet
10 minutes to work on a blog post
15 minutes to kiss the invisible owie and find the band-aids because IT JUST FEELS LIKE BLOOOOD
3 minutes to work on a blog post
And then 13 minutes to figure out how the Octonauts were possibly going to rescue the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a
Now, when I have an hour to work on a blog post, I have AN HOUR TO WORK ON A BLOG POST.
And I miss my kids. But that just makes it more fun to see when they get home each afternoon. Missing them is not the worst thing in the world. I’m genuinely delighted to see them when they come home.
Enjoying this phase of life doesn’t take away from how much I adored being home and raising my kids full time. Some of my most precious memories were made during those times and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Today as I drove home from volunteering at the school, I saw a mother with her toddler, standing by the construction site. They were holding hands and engrossed in the digger truck action. I felt a twinge in my chest and thought, “I don’t do that anymore.”
But I like this time too. I’m coming to believe that there are seasons enough in our lives for all the good things we want to do. We just need to look for the beauty in the one we’re in and be present so we can make the most of it.