I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads lately.
My youngest child started first grade this year (gulp) and that leaves me home alone for a good seven hours every day. I love it and hate it. I’ve dreamed of this day and dreaded this day. I am still crazy busy with church, kids’ school stuff, errands, housework, social life, hubby’s life and so forth, but I’ll admit that sometimes I am a little bored, in my head, beneath all that dreaded busyness. I am happy and sad. Most days I wish I could bring time to a screeching halt, and other days I wonder when I’ll ever get these insanely loud kids out the door for good. This recent jumble of emotions has left me a little high strung lately, and not a little snappy with the people I love the most (i.e., the insanely loud kids.) I’m sad that they’re growing, and they’re always growing, so I’ve found myself a little bit sad a lot. It’s what every mother on the planet goes through every day, and I really need to get over it.
This past month I’ve started a small tutoring job for just a handful of hours every week. It’s not a lot, but I can’t believe how much those few mornings away change the whole rhythm of my life. The kids are in school while I work, so they don’t even know I’m away, but I can actually feel a new distance between myself and my home. Sounds melodramatic, I know, but every mother reading this understands what I mean.
There is something primal, almost mystical, that ties a woman to her home–not just to her family, but to her actual house. Men (bless them) don’t understand this. My whole sense of self is tied in with the hum of the dishwasher, the ring of the doorbell, the shine of the hardwood floors. The cereal and crackers and canned olives that line my pantry shelves were carefully selected by me–and only me. Nobody else on earth cares one fig what’s for dinner at the Smith house on Tuesday night, but I do. I care a lot. It means something, all this list-making and errand-running and mopping and folding and planning and organizing. After thirteen years of doing it daily–and pointing out what I’ve done to anyone who will listen–I’m still not sure that anybody in my family notices it but me. But that doesn’t make make me love doing it any less. Here in my home, I am Queen Bee. Mistress of the almond-scented handsoap, maker of the patched-up family home evening memories. So now, though I’m gone only a few mornings a week, I already miss that feeling of being a blue-blooded, absolutely-full-time homemaker. And I miss having little ones at home with me. (A Queen Bee needs somebody to boss.)
Oh, the kids are still around plenty; our afternoons and evenings and weekends are crowded and busy, but come Monday morning, the house falls silent. I have tons to do at home; in fact, the to-do list has only grown now that I think I have time to do more. The problem is, I’m not terribly interested in doing all the things I used to ache to do “someday when I have time.” The “time” has finally arrived, but the motivation has left. I guess like everything else, domestic projects lose their luster when they evolve from dream to reality. (I’m now living the “someday” that was supposed to get me to finish my scrapbooks. Yikes! It’s here! Make it go away!)
And yet I love the freedom of hopping in the car and going wherever I want or need to. And I love interacting with people outside my family, hoping that I’m contributing a tiny bit to their lives. But as with any new phase of life, this one brings with it a tidal wave of emotions, because another phase has ended that was destined to end someday, no matter how I tried to stop it.
My family is changing. And so must I.
Which makes me think that my little psuedo-drama boils down to one thing I’ve heard all my life but never really believed: change is hard. I love my life and I know I have it good. I know there are even better things to come. But watching your children–and yourself, really–walk slowly away from the innocence of youth is like tearing an old bandage off a big wound, one little scab at a time. It hurts, just a little bit, over and over and over. But it must be done. It will be done, whether we give our consent or not.
And like everything else that matters at all, I have no control over any of this. Except in how I write about it. And, as always, writing about it makes me feel a little bit better. So thanks for reading.