After a lengthy holiday break, the kids are back at school today. Baby Girl is playing play doh next to me as I write this. The house is eerily quiet, only one kid needing on me today. It feels... different.
Aside from a few shifts at the bookstore, I have basically been with a kid, or several, since the beginning of December, spending more time together than we have since the summer. It's easy to fall into a routine with that. We had a busy holiday, then the relief of it all being over and the relaxing time beginning. That was very nice. Sometimes I whine when I am alone with the kids for an extended period of time. Who doesn't, really? It can be very demanding being the sole carer of a child for days on end, even with a partner.
But today, watching my big kids get on their buses, I feel different. I don't necessarily feel relief, I feel connected to them in a way that maybe I was missing before. I have come to anticipate their needs. I know when they need a snack, or a nap, or when it's time to shut all of the electronics down. I know when we need to have a dance party.
I have always been a reluctant stay at home mom. I will not consider homeschooling, because I know that I would not be good at it. I'm not a patient person and I don't see anyone benefitting from that.
As much as I enjoy the part of my identity that doesn't involve my kids, it's hard to say where the line is anymore. They are part of everything that I do. When they are away from me, they are my phantom limb. I'm always aware of them, where they are and what they might be doing.
I watch my son wait for his bus, alone, down the street. I can barely see him. He's jumping and twisting in the air. I smile.
I clean up the living room mess. Peace and quiet. And I finally feel what I begrudge older mothers for telling me: this will end, enjoy it while you can.
This is a stage in my life, just as it is in theirs. In my guiltier moments, I wonder what they will remember of me as a mother in their formative years. I wonder which words that I say today will stick with them forever. I hope they are positive ones. I hope they are real ones, the ones I meant to say.
I watch them get on their buses, and I have mixed feelings. They are where they should be. But peace and quiet turns out not to be as peaceful as I thought it'd be.
Getting back to the school routine isn't just for the ones going to school. When mommying is what I've done around the clock for the last month, I don't hardly know how to do anything else.
Switching to a 24 hour a day task is exhausting. But switching off of it is bewildering. I'm trying to be open to what the next days and weeks bring me, and I hope I don't squander them. When I look back to the last five years of being a stay at home mom (really? five years?), I wonder where they've gone. I wonder why I'm not better at this. Five years in a job makes you practically an expert. Maybe I am an expert? I certainly don't feel that way most days.
But five years at anything is probably the time where you start to burn out a little. The time when you start considering making a switch. Maybe get promoted? And while it feels like the kids change every second and, therefore, my job changes, it's still the same old same old. I haven't gotten that promotion after all. I've moved to a new building, but the co-workers are still the same and the responsibilities are almost identical to the day I started.
A few of my friends have gone back to work after staying at home for a period of time. My husband will occasionally ask me what's next for me. I kind of laugh. It's hard to look for a new job when you're working 100 hours a week. I don't know what's next for me. It's not in the immediate future, I know that. But it is there, eventually.
Maybe what I'm babbling around is that I really do get it now. Me watching my kids get on the bus is a limited time option. Me wishing the days away does no one any good. I don't really think I'm doing that, but I know that I'm on the grind. I'm moving from one task to the next, getting this kid here and there. I'm almost always in crisis mode. And that's no way to live. It's draining, for one.
I don't know the magical solution. But I'm glad I saw my son twisting and jumping as he waited, alone, for his bus. I'm putting that one in the permanent files. I need to fill the permanent files with memories like this one while I have the time to do so. I see that now. And really, there are so many rich memories. I wonder why we don't pull them out more often, instead seeing our mistakes and perceived ineptitude?
When this season of my life ends, I'd like to be able to pull out those memory files and feel proud of what I did. I guess it's my job right now to make sure that future me is proud of real time me. I really hope she will be.