Something big happened to me this week. Something…transformational.
No, I didn’t I find out I was pregnant again, or get a new job. We didn’t move across the country, and I didn’t run my first marathon. As life changing as all those things are, this was even bigger. What was it, you may ask?
My youngest child started school.
Not half-day pretend school. Real, full-time school. (Because every mother knows half-day preschool and kindergarten don’t even leave you enough time to go to Costco. Hence, it doesn’t really count.)
Let me spell out for you in really concrete language what this means for me: After 17 years of motherhood, and more than 10 years of half-day preschool/kindergarten Hades, I now have 6 hours a day to myself, 5 days a week.
Are you kidding me?!
I will never again wake up a sleeping baby to take or pick someone up from half-day pretend school.
I will never again schlep a whining, begging, tantrum throwing toddler with me to Target, the grocery store, or lunch with friends. (And purchase random things not on my list just to pacify said toddler.)
And I will never again feel guilty about the screen time my last, lone, bored preschool age child is indulging in while I take a shower or get some cleaning done. (Is my Netflix membership even worth keeping from here on out?)
I know. This is the point in the story when you expect me to say how I’m actually really, really sad about this and I’m going to miss all of those precious moments I’m used to having all. day. long. But this is actually the point in the story when I say, Can someone give me a Hallelujah?
I admit that I thought I was going to be sad when the day arrived. In fact, I shed many tears off and on over the past year just anticipatingthis moment. And yet, as I dropped off my youngest two children at their shared elementary school on the first day, and my first grader was more than excited to have her cool big sister walk her to the classroom instead of me, I felt nothing but a deep and abiding sense of giddiness. Not even a flicker of sadness. Not even a hint of a flicker! And I utterly surprised myself.
After the drop off, I came home to a relatively clean and utterly quiet home and waited. Waited for the tears, for the sadness, for the sense of loss. But it never came. Never ever ever. Not only that, four days in to my glorious daytime solitude of wildly productive productivity, I’m realizing I don’t even miss my children when they are gone. Am I completely heartless or what?
But here’s the thing. I didn’t send them off to boarding school. Every weekday around 2:30 after I’ve had several hours to myself to get my head together and take care of all kinds of business (or simply stare blissfully into space with no one to break my meditative reverie), they come home again. And to top it off, today they will come home to stay for the weekend! What is there to be sad about, pray tell?
The fact of the matter is, I love my children fiercely and have dedicated the better part of the last 17 years of my life for their betterment and happiness (and have more than a few years of mothering young children still ahead). I made the decision long ago before any of my children were even born to stay home with them while they were young, and after spending many of those years feeling short on time and money, deprived of sleep and a social life, and more than a little frazzled, I did it. I MADE IT!
So now, at age 43 with 6 hours a day to myself, I kind of feel like a kid in a candy store. Maybe I will go back to school. Maybe I will start volunteering for a cause that is important to me. Maybe I will just dig into all the silly little personal projects I’ve been putting off for the last 17 years like organizing my recipes. Maybe I will get my brain and my body back.
Yes, my children are growing up and needing me less. They are moving upward and outward into a world and a life of their own creation. And I suppose I can drum up some feelings of wistfulness about this, but really? I just want to scream from the housetops, Can someone give me a Hallelujah?
QUESTION: Who is with me? Who thinks I’m heartless? If all your children went to full-time school this year, how did you react?
My experience is very different, but I don’t think you’re heartless. The differences in our situations have a lot to do with our different responses. I only have one child, so his infant/toddler/preschool year went by way too fast, and I am grieving the loss of those years and will miss him greatly when he’s in school fulltime. Given that you’ve been a mother for 17 years, I assume that you have several children, so you’ve had ample time to experience the early years and are probably ready for a change by now, which is totally understandable.
Thanks for the validation, Claire. You are absolutely right! My response is definitely based on my history, and I am indeed ready for a change. My sister has one child as well and feels much like you with every stage change.
I am in the thick of the crazy right now, with two at school but two at home (except preschool – since it coincides with naptime, I feel like I SHOULD feel like I’m getting plenty of “me time,” but so far it’s been a mad catch-up of stuff that’s falling through the cracks. So I appreciate this post, to know that the day WILL come, and that maybe I won’t even have to feel guilty, looking forward to it!!
I’m not in your situation just yet…my oldest started 1st grade, so it’s my first time having one kid in school all day (!), and then I have a preschooler and baby at home. I haven’t stopped thinking about what it will be like when all 3 are in school all day…will I feel less needed? How will I spend those 6 hours every day? And to be honest, I think I will feel exactly as you do! Hallelujah! In the meantime, I’m trying to really soak up the good moments with the little ones so that I can reach that point with no regrets :).
Well said. My youngest is doing the silly kindergarten thing this year. And though I HAVE and will on Monday shed some tears, it is more for the sentimental passing of time than anything. I too have devoted a lot of years to the day ins and day outs of child rearing (almost 16 years now, will be 17 by next year when he starts 1st grade), and like you, I am looking forward to having a little more time to pursue things. You aren’t heartless, you are a fiercely passionate mother who has interests in other pursuits too. Nothing wrong with that! Will you have time this year for lunch with me?
Thanks for your thoughts Allison! I totally feel your joy!
For 5 years I stayed home with my little baby(ies), and only had the night hours and naptimes for a “break” to get all my housework, grocery shopping and cooking done. 2 years ago, we moved to Germany, and preschool is subsidized and simply wonderful, so I had both my boys enroll at ages 3 and 5. It was a flexible schedule, so they could technically go as early as 7:30, and be picked up as late as 4:30! Mostly, I had them attend from 9-2 pm, but it was so nice that I could choose if, when and for how long on any given day.
It totally transformed my life! For the first time since becoming a mom, I was free to go for a hike in the morning, or meet a friend for lunch, or go shopping in peace, or keep them with me and go to the zoo. I even took a 3 day “girls trip” to Italy. It was a marvelous year!
Now I have a baby again at home, and 1st grade here is from 8-11:30. So, I am, back to my “break” being the 10-11:30 morning nap, and the couple of hours after bedtime. But that one year break was AMAZING recovery time for me. It made my 3rd pregnancy go much more smoothly, because I could take better care of myself.
Since having a new baby, I am on my toes again, but after that taste of freedom, I enjoy the young baby stage a lot more, knowing that these years of exhaustion and repeatedly cleaning around the highchair, are actually short. That time when I have a super clean house will come again, and I can savor this fleeting and precious baby time, knowing what is ahead.
Here’s your hallelujah! I’m sure I will feel the same way! I want in on that lunch with Tiffany!
My kids start next week, and my youngest will start preschool….even with that I’m singing Hallelujah! I can hardly wait!!!
Tenneal Howard says
I love it! I’m a better mom when I get a break during the day. I’m refreshed and ready for them!!
Koni Smith says
Hallelujah! When are we having lunch? 🙂
I think it’s fantastic! I echo the sentiment that I look forward to that day as well. I love your portrayal of the half day school schedule. It’s really tough to juggle pickups/drop offs and nap times! I have a first & 3rd grader, preschooler & 11 month old. I cherish the time I get to spend with my little ones, but I long for uninterrupted solitude or project time! Playing taxi driver (no buses here, but a little too far to walk & make it to school by 7:30) and hauling little ones in and out of the car in various states of sleep or I-woke-up-before-was-ready has made me consider homeschooling on more than 1 occasion!
Thank you so much for writing this, Alyson!
This school year I have one that started HS, one started MS, one started Kindergarten, and a toddler at home. I had such a hard time deciding if I should send my #3 to Kindergarten, but she is in afternoon K so the 2 little ones play in the morning, and when the toddler goes down for a nap, the Kindergartener gets on the bus and I have 2 whole hours to do anything or nothing! It is awesome! I can get a few things done and still have some rest/down time, and I’m ready to go for when they all come home in the afternoon and need food and homework help and whatever else. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself (or what I will do with myself once the youngest is in school all day) or that I would feel lost since I’ve been mothering all day every day for the last 14 years. But I don’t feel so worried about that now, and this article helps reassure me that I can enjoy this season of my life and also when they are all gone all day.
I have an 8 year old, a 6 year old, a 3 year old, and a newborn baby (not even a month old!). I don’t want to wish the baby years away, but sometimes I notice the other moms that are about 5 years further down the motherhood path than me and I think to myself, “Wow! That looks nice!” The truth is, when I’m up in the middle of the night with my baby or my three year old is having a tantrum or the six year old wets the bed I can remind myself in those moments that little kids really do grow up and out of their phases and stages. So even though I’m in the baby, preschooler, toddler phase of motherhood and I really do want to live up the great moments and memories of this phase–I can look forward to life in five or six years from now too!
I felt like I had written this article. I relate whole heartily. My youngest just went to full day and my oldest is a jr in high school. My list of to-dos has only gotten bigger and grander and for the first time I feel like I might actually be able to accomplish those things.
When I came home from first school that first day I didn’t cry and I felt kind of bad for a moment. Then I got to work doing exactly what I wanted and that felt amazing. When they walked in the door that afternoon I loved seeing them and I felt much more loving and energized.
Thanks for the validation and support.
I felt exactly like you did when I sent my last child to all day kindergarten. I had six kids in nine years and while love my children dearly, those where HARD years! I feel like I’ve paid my dues and now it’s time for ME to focus on my own personal goals more, and enjoy some peace and quiet (in a clean house too!). There are still many hours of parenting left in the day since my oldest kids are often up past 10:00 but I feel more centered and able to handle the challenges better by having more time for myself each day.
Rachel Winter says
I loved it!!
I still have a 6 and 4-year old at home with me (we typically homeschool them until age 8) but I KNOW that when my little guy goes to school, at last, I will be right there with you in rejoicing! I cherish my children and have dedicated the last 15 years all to them, but I will be ready to become more of an individual.
Hallelujah sister! And Amen! I’m right there with you. As an introvert, I know I’m a better mother when I get time alone.
When I saw other moms getting tearful as their kids went off to full-day school, I was just excited for my kids. When I told my mother that I didn’t understand why other moms were so sad, she said (in her very practice German-immigrant way), “I never was sad when you guys started school. I mean, what did you think was going to happen? Kids grow up and we don’t want them to stay little forever. We want them to progress the way they’re supposed to. So it’s celebration when they’re ready for the next school year.” Such wisdom. Enjoy your time alone!!
Allyson Reynolds says
So fun to get this comment in my inbox this morning! I wrote this article four years ago so my youngest actually just started 5th grade, next up is in 9th, then I have a senior, and my oldest is gearing up for her junior year of college!! And back to school and still just as awesome as ever-haha!
Kari Baxter says
I think I wrote this article — every word! I’m the same age as you. My oldest is 17 – 17 years of mothering. My youngest started all day kindergarten this year. Yesterday I posted a gif on my Facebook page of a woman jumping for joy and spraying champagne everywhere. I was sad when I dropped my son off, but I’ve been enjoying every moment of productivity and a clean house since. I’m sure some of my friends are mortified that I’m so ecstatic, but like you said… they’re all back at 2:30. Ha ha! I love finally having uninterrupted time to myself. It’s heaven.
Great article. Hallelujah from me. One day, hopefully in four years barring any unplanned circumstances, I’ll be singing the same song. My oldest is in his last year of high school and my “baby” is 14 months, so he and my 3 yr old keep me company for now.
Loved Katrina’s mother’s statement 🙂
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