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"My youngest child is starting school this year. And there’s just one problem."

This morning, my kids have been absolute bloody terrors. My two boys have been fighting both verbally and physically, and to be honest, it’s been a struggle not to join in and use my superior strength to shut them both up (kidding… sort of).

I had to threaten my daughter with losing her screens for the rest of the holidays (which is exactly 21 days, 19 hours, six minutes, and 48 seconds at the time of writing – in case you wondered) in order to get her to read just a few pages of a book. That’s because I’m pretty certain the only thing she’s read over the past three weeks or so is the credits for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, her current favourite show (that may or may not be appropriate for a 10-year-old).

Despite all of this, and the fact my house is an absolute hovel because I just completely give up on cleaning over school holidays, I’m kind of dreading the return to school. Not because of all the costs of back-to-school time (which are… significant), but because this is the year I “get my freedom back” as everyone keeps telling me, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

Yep, my youngest child starts school this year, even though in my mind he is still a squishy little baby/toddler/whatever, but definitely NOT a big school boy.

This is weird, because I’m not the most sentimental of people. When my other two kids started school, I inwardly rolled my eyes at the mothers who walked away bawling because they’re going to miss their babies thinking, “chill out lady, you’re gonna see them again in six very short hours”.

But I’m starting to get it now. I’m looking forward to having them out of my hair so I can clean whatever that weird stain is off the couch and deal with the cockroaches that love the chip crumbs all over the floor, but after the house is spick and span, I don’t know who I’m going to be.

There are two types of mums when it comes to back to school shopping. Which one are you?

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For the past 10-plus years, I’ve been Kelly, stay-at-home-mum. Usually frustrated at not having time to do anything for myself, but at least sure of who I am. Mum. Obviously I have taken up other pursuits too, but for the most part when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m home with the kids.

Almost my entire twenties, the time when most people are discovering who they are, has been spent this way. Now I’m 32 and about to send my last baby off to big school, and I need to figure that out.

I’d love to say no one warned me about the sudden loss-of-identity you can feel as your children grow up and need you less, but that isn’t true. Older women advised me to keep something for myself, because otherwise my self-esteem will hit rock-bottom when I no longer need to ‘mum’ full-time.

The thing is I just didn’t believe it. Or, I just didn’t really believe that that time would actually come. This sounds stupid, but when you’re 21-years-old and cradling your first baby, the idea of that baby being 10 and having two school-aged little siblings feels like a whole universe away, and not worth worrying about.

That’s the weird thing about time though, especially time spent parenting. The cliché tells us that the days are long but the years are short, but you can’t understand that until you’re standing on the other side of it, wondering where all those years went, and wishing you hadn’t wished them away when they were there for the taking.

In the meantime, I’ll remind myself that the school day is only six very short hours. Before I know it they’ll be home, whining and brawling, and I’ll be counting down the minutes to bedtime or the next day’s drop-off.

I guess I’ll also enjoy the pre-school fees I’m no longer paying.

How do you feel about your kids going back to school? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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