I held my little four-year-old boy’s hand tightly last week, as we walked through the bright red doors of the school and into the brick administration building.
He was so excited to be going to prep experience day. He told me we had to hurry up that morning so that we were not late for ‘big school practice day’.
As we stepped into the open quadrangle he stopped dead and stared jaw open from under his bucket hat at the huge space before him and the ‘big’ children playing in front of him.
That is when it hit both of us – the realisation this was our life now. He was leaving me.
For four years I have been in constant internal turmoil about how much I should work. Should it be three days or four? Or should it be four days over five days or four full-length days? Or three shorter days over four days?
I now realise all of this debate was possible because I had the luxury of being able to keep this wonderful little human being at home with me whenever I felt like it. From 2014 that luxury is over forever.
On the 28th of January at four years and eight months of age my little fella will join the education system five days a week and do so for the next 13 years of our lives.
My choice of when and how much I should work so that I can spend time with him has been eliminated. Almost irrelevant.
I am more gutted by this than I expected, after all I did choose to work throughout the four years.
Obviously I am grateful for the quality public education system my son can now be part of and for the new opportunities this will create for him. But truthfully, perhaps selfishly, I am sad our days of having the choice to be home together are over.
To some people I understand this will sound ridiculous. In your head you will be thinking, “seriously how could this chick have not realised this was going to happen?” And I agree that is true.
I didn’t realise because he was my first baby. I didn’t realise because I was so busy with life. I didn’t realise because I did not know just how lucky I was to be able to have him at home with me.
It has made me re-think how much I should work now with my little girls still at home. It appears I have finally realised the power of the choice that is available to me.
It is a confusing time and perhaps it never gets any easier than this. I know there is no right answer that suits everyone. It is a very personal and individual decision.
But like everything in life, it is when a choice is taken away from you that you suddenly realise how powerful it really was.
I know for the next three months before school starts I will be cherishing every moment.
Good luck my gorgeous big school boy. We love you to the moon and back.
Fiona was Communications Director to the Prime Minister until the 2013 election and has resumed maternity leave until 2014. You can follow her on Twitter here.
If you have a child – how did you cope when they started school, or how do you plan to cope? If you don’t have a child – do you remember your first day of school?