There are a mix of emotions on the first day of school – excitement, sadness, anxiety, and relief. For the Mums that is!
Somewhere between the joy of reclaiming a few minutes of uninterrupted time for yourself and the hope that your child has a great day, gets a nice teacher and has someone to sit with at lunch, there is a lost place of not quite knowing how to feel.
On the one hand there is breathing space, freedom and choice (even if it is merely grocery shopping without zig-zagging down the aisles following a child’s every whim) and on the other hand there is sadness (we genuinely miss them). I know that’s not true for everyone. For some Mums there are shouts of pure jubilation at the school gate. Whilst others at least hold it in until they can calmly return to their car for the air punches. But for many parents I’m guessing that their children going back to school is accompanied by a range of emotions including excitement and relief as well.
I’m one of those Mums (who some would call crazy Mums) who loves having my kids at home and looks forward to holiday time as much as they do. So for me the start of each school year is somewhat bittersweet. Despite having a never ending to do list including chores, (this year its Marie Kondo-ing our house), work commitments and personal goals to be achieved throughout the year, the first few days of the new school year leave me feeling at a bit of a loss. It is as though I have to reset my compass. Although I’m sure that this is part of a natural ebb and flow experienced during any transition, it still momentarily throws me off.
On holidays I am the inventor of games, the concoctor of slime and the relaxer of rules.
We go to bed late, we stay in our pajamas all day, we ignore the clock, we explore, we chill out and most of all we have fun. After I’ve spent a few weeks with my children, had time to reconnect and simply enjoyed hanging out together, my world feels somehow bigger, more important, more purposeful and I am reminded how much I adore them.
It is not that I don’t love them the rest of the time; however, spending time with my children during holidays allows me to see them again and reminds me of what beautiful, precious people they are. And they are people. Not machines to be nagged through the daily grind of homework, sports commitments, unpacking school bags and dishwashers. Not little robots to be rushed through a scheduled life.
This is far too easy to forget as the school routine takes over. All too soon the extra curricular activities begin, homework starts and the morning rush creeps up on us. Before we know it, Holiday Mum has faded and School Mum has re-emerged. She reads newsletters and attends information evenings. She checks schedules, time keeps and taxi drives. (She might do a bit of ranting and raving to get everyone to school on time too.)
There is no denying that School Mum and Holiday Mum are not the same.
It is not that they are completely separate, rather that they are simply two different versions of ourselves – roles that we fulfill. Yet sometimes they seem at odds with one another. One is relaxed and carefree and the other, though highly organized and efficient, is somewhat highly strung.
I freely admit to being in the fortunate position of working for myself and from home (both a blessing and a curse, but mostly a blessing), so I’m lucky that I do get to stop and enjoy my children. Equally though I love my work with parents and look forward to getting thoroughly absorbed in it. It is just that when my children first return to school and the house is empty, it feels empty, devoid of the laughter. I think that’s why I feel momentarily disoriented. As though I need to shake myself and ask, “Where am I again? What was I doing?” and then I can resume. The pause button is off.
So as we go into this school year and I chase my purpose and passion with gusto, I want to remember those gorgeous holiday kids (because they are different too). I would like to hold onto holiday Mum throughout the term too and remember to make a conscious effort to connect daily with my children so that we are not swallowed up and consumed by the momentum of another busy school year.
May you all enjoy parenting this year!
Written by Melissa Strader
First published in Melissa’s Enjoy Parenting website.