To the mums who say “I can’t wait to get to your stage when you get some freedom”…

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Is there a magical age where you don’t have to worry about school age children and suddenly they look after themselves? Year 5? Year 7? Year 12?

If you know please tell me because I think I missed the memo.

There seems to be this idea that child-rearing is really only intense in the baby to pre-school years. That mums need the most support and understanding when they have babies or toddlers or little people who have the ability to pour tins of paint over their own heads.

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I have friends with young kids and I work with women with younger children than mine and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a version of, “I can’t wait to get to your stage where it’s not so full on and you get some freedom.”

What is this freedom they speak of? How have I given the impression that my day involves getting up, singing to bluebirds on an ivy strewn balcony and floating to work in an ironic 50s floral dress confident in the knowledge my work day will not be disrupted by one of children’s sudden urgent needs?

THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN KIDS GROW UP.

Yes, there isn’t the same physical impact on your life, but the mental one takes up a lot of bloody space. Think of all the mischief little ones can get into in your own home, then imagine flinging them out into the complicated big wide world. A world you have little control over. A world that has it’s own set of rules. A world that doesn’t care about your logic or love. It’s scary.

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(Plus, arguing with myself on the above point re: the sleep deprivation from parenting young kids – I may not have broken sleep or have to get up at 5am with a baby anymore, but I have to wait up very late for a teenager who has gone out to a party or concert or Netflix binge with friends. I may pretend to sleep until she comes home. I have tried to fall asleep, but I simply cannot until I hear that front door squeak open. AND if I’m not waiting for that beautiful squeak noise and pretending not to be waiting, I have to pick said teen up sometimes, heading off very late with no bra and in an outfit that inevitably is finished off with inappropriate footwear.)

Apart from the worry of them being OUT THERE while you’re IN HERE, there are appointments that your older children need to go to that you can never schedule for after work. (Thanks orthodontists, dentists and the rest). There’s sport (we want them to be healthy but how the hell do they get to training on a Wednesday afternoon five suburbs away, 55 minutes after school finishes with no connecting buses?). There are school commitments (for them and you). There are part-time jobs that give them an understanding of the real world – but leave them high and dry when it comes to getting home after a late shift.

There’s emotional maintenance that can’t be scheduled for 7.45pm on a Tuesday evening. There are mornings (which I hate to tell you always have a frisson of something-could-go-terribly-wrong-at-any-minute). There’s checking in with them. There’s policing the ravenous, horrid beast commonly known as technology. There’s loving them when they are not loving themselves.

Oh, and there’s always dinner. “What’s for dinner?” never, ever goes away.

From my experience when children grow up, it not like your services are no longer required, they are just required in a different way.

glorious mess letter
Jackie Lunn. Image: Provided

From my vantage point there is no “magical age of parental freedom” – and I’m only 17, 15 and 12 years into this trip.

Something always happens (hello 17-year-old doing her HSC who broke her writing hand this week from playing sport and 12-year-old who forgot books for her first ever high school exam).

Someone is always a frantic text, Facebook message, email, phone call, (who am I kidding?), away with a need. Often an urgent need (well, they did contact you).

If you don’t believe me, just ask my mum.

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