For my youngest child, full-time school starts this month. My children will be at school from 8:30AM to 2:30PM, five days a week. A milestone that is wrought with emotion for this stay at home mom.
Although my youngest is a doll, a pet, a dote – a sweet, easy child – a child that easily goes from the shopping cart to dance class to Grandma’s to preschool, I’ve still be reaching for this goal for a few years. The goal of getting them out of my immediate nest. Not yet for college, but for a life that doesn’t begin and end solely in my home, under my umbrella.
School-aged children have a new level of independence. They’ll have interests outside of my home – activities, friends, a life.
No doubt, it’s earned. I’ve paid for the privilege to have them ready for school. I’ve put in my hours at Gymboree, at the speech therapists, at play dates, at the library, and at the park. There have been many hours of reading to them, of talking to them over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and of Pretty Ponies and Ninja Turtles coloring pages. They’ve been socialized, they’ve been prepared. They are ready, but am I?
I’ve been preparing for this moment for me for a long time. I have thought about potentially returning to a job with set hours, to continuing my writing, to losing a few pounds, to actually making a few of those recipes that I’ve pinned, to returning a little more to me. I’ve thought about it and thought about it. I’ve thought about what I should be doing with all this free-time that I’ll be gaining without them in my immediate care for thirty hours a week. Although it’s enormously exciting, I’m also terrified.
It’s like that moment in Tangled when Rapunzel is suddenly scared. She’s on the boat with Flynn Rider and she’s about to realize her dream. She’s about to see the floating lanterns up close and personal on her birthday. The floating lights that she’s seen locked in her tower every year since her birth. She’s about to realize her dream and she’s terrified as to what happens next. What happens once you achieve your dream?
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.
Flynn Rider rightly isn’t worried about her.
It’s terrifying because these tiny people that’ve relied upon me for so many years are starting to not need me as much. It’s terrifying because as I start to have more time for myself, I realize that I’ve lost a little bit of myself in being labeled primarily as Mommy. I’ve forgotten a little bit about me, about who I am.
I suppose this is a tiny preview as to what it feels like when they leave you for good. When they leave you for middle school, or high school, or college. As you realize that your role will constantly change over the course of their lives. This is the moment when I finally understand why my mother went out and bought my brand of shampoo when I left for college. Why she needed to smell me around the house even though I was gone.
I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, terrified of what is next, desperately reclaiming myself, and hopeful for what lies beyond. I have to remember to be confident like Flynn Rider. That’s the best thing about achieving your dream. I get to go out and find a new one.
— Carissa Howard