It almost seems too strong a word. Grief. But I can’t think of any other way to describe how I felt for the entire first term of this year with both girls now at school.
For the first two days of term, I was all excited, springing around the house talking about how I was going to write a book. How exciting that all was. How much time I’d have now that I didn’t have any children at home for eight hours during the day. I pictured myself in our spare room, sitting at a white desk with a cute little plant in a pot and a container of pens. A wire rubbish bin with screwed up A4 pages. Coffee rings on a notebook. Framed quotes for inspiration.
I googled white desks. How can I possibly write a book if I don’t have a beautiful, dedicated writing space?
I’ve mentioned in one of my last posts examples of the other stupid things I did to procrastinate while I worked out that writing a book is hard work. Who’d have thought?
So I spent the next few weeks being stopped by how hard it was going to be. And wondering whether, when your kids go to school, you are allowed to write a book. Wouldn’t that be like Anthony getting up each morning and saying, ‘Ah, I think I’ll sit down and play the guitar all day again today. That was fun yesterday.’
Isn’t writing a hobby for me? Something I love doing?
But don’t they recommend doing something you love for your own sanity?
But all day? I don’t think they mean all day.
So then I tried to get my head around treating it as a job. Calling it work. Telling myself that one day I might have entertained or enlightened (or enraged…) someone with what I’ve written, even if it’s just our girls and not eager customers at a book launch. Perhaps it could be paid work if I won a writing competition, don’t worry yet about publishing a book.
And I spent so much time wondering and worrying and thinking all of that during Term 1, that Easter and the school holidays arrived and I hadn’t written a word. And it’s only now, in the pure joy of having Elsie and Maeve around me for two whole weeks that I can say I think I know what happened.
I spent most of Term 1 grieving.
Grieving that the house was empty and quiet.
Missing the chatty little shadow at my feet, at the sewing machine, at the clothes line, sitting on the kitchen bench.
It felt like my job of raising kids was over.
That I didn’t get long enough with them.
It felt like I was handing them over to the school and the teachers and the other kids. That I put them on the bus at 8am after spending half an hour with them, then get them home, tired, at 4pm. And that for the next couple of hours after that we rush through homework or readers or baths or dinner or bedtime stories and I’m on my own again.
And it’ll be that way for the next 13 years. Then they’ll leave home all together.
And all of those thoughts caused intense sadness. I reckon now that it lasted for the whole term.
I refilled my cup over the holidays with small things. Because we know that the small things, when we look back one day, will be the big things. Wise, huh?
In March we got two beautiful inches of rain.
In the holidays we collected pine cones:
in the baskets on our bikes and took them home to decorate with buttons and felt and glitter.
We went to the Halls Gap Zoo:
and St Arnaud’s own Bible Museum and Butterfly Garden, where the girls watched butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.
And after all that, I gave myself a talking to. It’s okay to feel sad, I said, that you only get to enjoy the children you birthed for 3.5hrs each day now. On the bright side, you get them on weekends and in the school holidays. You’ve done your best teaching and raising and providing what you could, I told myself – now they need to go beyond our family to learn and function in a wider context, to form relationships and learn that we are all different and all the same. Get over yourself, I said.
So this term, it’s more writing and less moping. More thinking about the girls, and less about myself.
How about you – did you struggle when your youngest went to school? How did you cope? And do you love Maya’s quote as much as me?