This week I’ve been communicating a lot with two friends. Both are feeling kind of lost. Bereft. One is at home on maternity leave with a baby, a toddler and a primary schooler. She is exhausted, bored and feels like her brain is turning to mashed avocado. “Sometimes, I just need everyone to stop speaking to me and wanting me every minute of every day of my life,” she told me in an early arvo vent message when all her kids were momentarily occupied. “I’ve been playing trains and changing nappies and going to the park for almost nine years now and I feel like I will never move out of this stage.”
My other friend’s youngest son just finished school. She is feeling exaltant and devastated about it all at once. “I’ve been parenting for 20 years and now it’s over,” she texted me in an early morning whatsapp the day after her son’s graduation ceremony. “Being a mother has been a huge part of my identity for so long and now it’s like my work is done and I’m just….gutted.”
The days are long, the years are short.
I’m not sure who said that about parenting but my god did they nail it.
There are periods of motherhood that you do wish away no matter how many misty-eyed old ladies come up to you in the supermarket and urge you to “cherish every moment”. Look Old Ladies, I understand the sentiment and some days I too get dangerously close to whispering these words into the stressed ear of another mother with tiny kids but then I remind myself to shut up because not every moment is worth cherishing while you’re actually living it and some of the moments would be more enjoyable if you, say, punched yourself in the face. In hindsight, maybe when your kids are at uni and won’t return your texts, you can look back and cherish that adorable time your toddler chucked a fit in the biscuit aisle and cried so hard she threw up all over you because time heals and most glasses eventually turn rose-coloured even if you have to wipe the vomit off them first.
The truth is that nobody can live in a constant state of present gratitude for anything in life, even your children, no matter how much you love them. There is simply not deep fulfilment or spiritual wonder or even emotional satisfaction to be gleaned from every aspect of raising a child from newborn to young adult. There are parts that are really boring, parts that are intensely repetitive and some periods that are quite frankly, excruciating. There are also many, many more parts of parenting that take your breath away with their magic and meaning and their ability to fill your heart while also threatening to break it into a million pieces because your love for this little (then big) person is just so primal and ferocious it feels like it may consume you.
On balance, I highly, highly recommend having kids although it’s not for everyone and that’s OK too.
Your child leaving school though… that can be unexpectedly eviscerating and that’s the place many parents where have found themselves this week as their children finish school and return home to prepare for their final exams next month.
Oh this time hits you like a punch in the heart. That’s how it felt for me and I’ve been hearing the same from my friends all week. This is a relatively new thing: parents having feelings about their children finishing school.
Do you remember your last weeks and days of school? Do your parents?