On Monday, with the kids home from school yet again (this time for Presidents’ Day), I thought I was facing another long day full of fighting, messes, and the inevitable ennui that sets in when you’ve been stuck indoors together for too long. But miraculously, the stars aligned and all three of my girls were simultaneously engaged in activities that did not require my time or attention.
My middle daughter had a rare, four-hour play date at a friend’s house. Rarer still, I did not have to drive her to or from the play date. My toddler took a two-hour nap that coincided with this play date. And my oldest, who had a friend over, disappeared into the basement to practice back walkovers. The house was quiet, I was caught up on chores and there was no carpooling to do. Usually I have to pay for this kind of down time. It was an unexpected boon.
I should have grabbed my smartphone and caught up on emails and Facebook, or read a magazine, or planned a party I’ve been meaning to plan, or, well anything fun. Instead, I chose to analyze what such a sudden pocket of free time might mean…is my tenure as a stay-at-home mom close to an end? What will I do when these moments of freedom turn into days?
The girls are getting bigger. Not just physically taller, but more independent, more social, less mommy-centric. They don’t need me as much. Even J, a mere two. Especially her. I get a lot of doors slammed in my face by that one. “Just leave. Me. Alone. Mommy.” Just a few weeks ago, J climbed off my lap for the first time ever at library story time and went to sit with the bigger kids. And I’ve noticed that there are fewer calls for “Mommy!” throughout the course of any given day.
Watching the girls grow into themselves slowly but surely is magical. It’s what I stayed home for. All the hard work is starting to pay off as they do more and more without me. But the days when the house is empty more often than full are not far away.
Next fall, J will go to preschool and A and S will both be in school all day. I like the idea of being home for them after school, but not so much the idea of trying to fill all that time without them. Or the loneliness. Even now, the pool of stay-at-home friends I have has shrunk. I’m past wanting to join mothers’ clubs or hang out on the playground trolling for new ones. I have outgrown the new mother’s scene.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure where I belong anymore.
It may be time for me to think about branching out and moving on a bit myself. A scary thought for sure, when you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over eight years.
Where will my growing pains take me? To a full-time job? A stint at a local retailer? To more Y classes? A marathon? Volunteer work? It is not lost on me how lucky I am to have choices, but such a luxury has its challenges. One thing is for sure: there are no more babies coming. So if I do decide to stay home for a few more years, I’m going to have to redefine what that means once there are no more diapers to change or tantrums to diffuse.