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MIA FREEDMAN: I am in a very different life season to my friends. Again.

The thing about being in a particular season of your life is that it doesn’t feel like a season. It feels like where you’ll live forever. For better and worse.

When your children are small, you can’t imagine a time when they won’t be. When you’re feeling intense grief or heartbreak, you can’t imagine ever being OK. And when you’re rolling your eyes with your sibling at something ridiculous your parents are doing, you can’t imagine a time when they will be gone.

When things are glorious, we take them for granted and when things are brutal; we feel suffocated by the idea that this time, these feelings will never pass. But they all do. That’s the thing about seasons. Just go look at a tree.

Thinking about seasons in terms of being young (spring) and old (winter) isn’t what I’m talking about. I find that endlessly depressing and unhelpful.

To me, seasons are about periods in your life that you can often only identify in the rearview mirror or when your season bumps up against someone else’s and you see the contrast.

I had my first child when I was 25 and I learned this instantly.

Becoming a mother at 25. Image: Supplied.

My friends were still partying, travelling, sharing houses, sleeping around, finding themselves as they danced on podiums at 4am and slept the weekend away without responsibilities or consequences. 

I had a partner, a mortgage, a baby.

No good time is worth the unique torture of looking after a child while hungover. I quickly decided I would rather be sober until they reached high school. At least.

With a big job, a baby and for those first two years, a partner with a chronic health condition, I struggled. I knew nobody in my season and I was lonely all the time. I felt no desire to be in a different season - I’d partied enough, travelled enough, slept around enough - and I was enamoured with the total consumption of my heart that occurred when I became a mother.

I didn’t want to NOT be a mother. Or to be single. Or to be on a podium, dear god, not a podium, no.

But I was struck most days by the isolation I felt in my season.

This was to continue throughout my life. Embarking on a new season without your friends means you will mostly continue that lopsided way.

We were alone in Baby Season. In Marriage Season. In Pregnancy Loss Season. In Separation Season.

Last weekend, I saw my friend Amelia and was reminded once again of the seasonal difference I experience with all of my friends.

Amelia and I fell in love almost instantly when we met at a media event around 2015 and we have texted each other several times a day ever since. Geography has not been a friend to our friendship, however, and pretty soon after we met, Amelia moved to Japan and then Washington. I’d guess we’ve been in the same room for less than 10 occasions in seven years, including the day we met.

In that time, Amelia got married and had two children. Until last weekend, I had only met one of her children, when he was a baby and she made a fleeting visit home for Christmas.

She had never met my two youngest children. Never been to my house. We’d never met each other’s husbands.

Amelia is around 12 years younger than me and we are in very different life seasons but because we never saw each other, neither of us really noticed.

When she first arrived in Sydney this month, we had dinner together, just us. But when you love someone, you want to know their people so last weekend we brought our families together for the first time. 

And seasons collided.

Stupidly, I suggested we go out on a boat. “It will be fun!” I said. “The kids and Johnny will love seeing Sydney Harbour!”

Because I’m in the season of teenagers, my 14-year-old and 16-year-old didn’t want to come. One was at work. One was out with mates. I am used to this. Teen season means passing grunts mostly, and after years of enforced together time during COVID, they need to strengthen their independence muscle. I’m all for it.

My eldest though - who, at 25 is a full-blown adult - did want to come and brought his fiance and some friends because the thing about seasons is they are seasonal and adult children are quite into spending time with their adult parents. Who knew?

Who also knew that toddlers on boats are challenging.

Me. I knew. Or I used to know, back when I was in Small Children Season but the other thing about seasons is that we are goldfish and forget all the seasons except the one we’re in.

I had also forgotten that Small Children Season means never being able to finish a sentence or a drink. I watched Amelia and Johnny jack-in-the-box, up and down, from the table chasing their delicious, tiny, curious people around for two hours, assembling a make-shift sleeping spot for nap-time and at a particularly opportune moment, summoning Bluey on the iPad so they could have six or seven minutes of uninterrupted conversation.

I’m making it all sound bad but it wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t. I’d also forgotten the absolute wonder of little people, their delightful curiosity (“Mum, why can’t I be a twin?”), their perfect little chubby feet and hands and the way parents have magical powers to heal minor injuries with a big cuddle.

It can be bittersweet when you are reminded of the season you’re in and the seasons you’re not. I felt deeply nostalgic for the physical and emotional intensity of Small Children Season while also feeling deeply appreciative of the everyday luxury I enjoy of being able to drink a cup of tea, close the door when I go to the toilet and say "f**k a duck" without having to explain myself.

Seasons aren’t just about children, of course. They can go for weeks or years. And while the tough seasons are easier to recall, the wonderful seasons are often only identifiable in hindsight.

There’s Living Alone Season (god, I loved that in my early twenties). Leaning Into Work Season (at certain points in my life I’ve had my foot on the accelerator more than others).

Pregnancy Season (unpopular opinion but I adored almost every part of being pregnant... all that walking around with a miracle inside you as your body grew a whole person and even a teeny tiny penis!). 

I’ve had a season of grief after losing a baby followed and a season of being deeply f**ked up with an eating disorder. 

Seasons where I felt painfully lonely in relationships that weren’t healthy. A season of partying where I took drugs and danced in warehouses and made deep connections in bathrooms with other wasted girls every weekend. 

A season of living in share houses when finding someone else’s pube on your soap would spark a week of epic drama and recrimination. 

A season when the grief of my eldest child moving out of home felt like it would break me. 

A season where I had a nervous breakdown and spent months grappling with a long-term diagnosis of anxiety. A season when my partner’s chronic health condition derailed our lives for two years.

A season when peri-menopause made me very hard to be around and very hard to be myself.

A season when the madness of pregnancy loss and infertility consumed my body, my mind and my soul.

And a season of my eldest son and his girlfriend living with us during lockdown which was one of the happiest seasons of my life.

As Amelia and I said goodbye and hugged each other’s families, not knowing when we’d be together in person again, I felt so deeply happy. Brushing up against someone else’s season is a reminder of how transient seasons are. I’ve been so caught up in nostalgia and sadness recently as my kids have been growing up and away from me. But there are good things about it too. I can miss the little ones they were while also enjoy hanging out with the adults they’re becoming.

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