Now a couple of months into the school year, I’m getting the same question from everyone who knows me: “So….how is it?”
With all of my kids in school all day long for the first time, it’s no secret that this is a pretty huge life change for me. I’ve spent the last (nearly) decade, being home and entrenched in baby, toddler and preschool life. Diapers, baby food, nap times, potty training, goldfish crackers by the barrel, dropping naps, playdates, PBS Kids….it’s a lifestyle. It was wonderful, but at times really frustrating if I’m being honest. I can’t even tell you how many times I wondered if I could just hire a babysitter to come sit in the car while I popped into the store for one tiny thing instead of having to unload the car full of kids and reload the stroller with all three of them for such a short little errand.
Everyone asks how it’s going in very telling tones and inflections. You could blindfold me and ask me that little question and I could predict what stage of life you are in all by the way you ask.
My mom friends who still have little bitty ones at home with them ask it while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads. They have wide eyes and big smiles and are hoping to live vicariously through what they believe must be the most blissful thing ever: a quiet house and lone shopping trips to Target.
My parents and in-laws know a little better that change is not my forte, but at the same time they’re really happy for me. They’ve seen me in the trenches, they’ve watched the sacrifices and the exhaustion and they know a little peace and independence is well deserved. They ask a bit more tenderly, knowing in their wisdom and experience that even good changes can be an adjustment for the heart.
And then there are the moms standing on the precipice, this change is coming for them...and soon. They are riding the seesaw of extremes: “It will be amazing!” and then “But what will I do?” and again to “I’ll be able to run my errands so easily!” but quickly followed up by “But maybe I’ll miss my kids.” And then to be hushed by the final, “No, stop. Don’t be ridiculous...it will be great?” (No, that question mark is not a typo.) They cautiously ask “So...how is it?” with the calm resolve of a hostage negotiator, keeping it together because they know that one wrong word, a hint of the wrong tone and not only will I show my crazy, but I’ll take them down with me. If not handled just right….I might tell them it’s hard and quiet and lonely and they should homeschool or have more babies and this isn’t the paradise we thought it was. So they gently, very carefully broach the subject. They want to know the answer, but also not too much. They’re are starting to feel that tug, the anticipation of this change and the reality of it is beginning to sober up their fantasies.
Everyone asks that “How is it?” when they see me, well--almost everyone. I would say everyone over...hmmm let’s say... 25 years old-ish asks. Before I was 25 I thought that parents of older kids and longer marriages than mine just “got it.” They must have the magic sauce because nothing looked hard for them. Now being on the other side of 30...there is no magic sauce and nothing is easy. I admire the naïveté and miss it a touch. So be free you twenty-somethings! Be free to believe that whence you commemorate the first dawn of the thirtieth year of thine birth you too shalt have it all figured out...just like we do.
As for the answer to that fateful question, “So...how is it?” I’ve tried a few answers on for size. Obviously, everyone wants to hear “It’s awesome!” or at the very least: “It’s good.” Occasionally I get there, mainly on Fridays when my husband is off work, and we get to play and have fun and laugh at the children for being in school learning and working while we go to movies and quiet coffee shops and restaurants without kids’ menus (to of course take advantage of the po’ man lunch specials and then split the lone plate of food). For a bit I tried, “It’s...ok. I think it’s good? I mean sometimes it is. I’m not sad. But sometimes though I kinda think I am. But no, no I’ve been waiting for this, I’m happy. I’m not crying. You’re crying!” This is generally received with lots of awkwardness and breaking of eye contact on the part of the listener. So I’ve whittled my honesty down to two words:
It’s weird y’all. It’s weird! Sometimes weird-good and sometimes weird-I’m-unenrolling-all-my-kids-and-we-are-moving-to-amish-country-and-no-one-can-take-my-babies-from-me-if-we-live-off-the-grid. It’s weird. I feel like I forgot a kid somewhere. It’s weird that I get to take showers at my leisure (AND SHAVE EVERYDAY. What is this bliss?). It’s weird, like how I thought I might want another baby because I saw a mom seemingly having fun with her child as she CHASED her through Aldi with arms full of groceries. (Be assured, she was NOT having fun.) It’s weird how I now “lunch” with gal pals *cue throws my head back in a carefree laugh as I toss my clean hair over my shoulders.* It’s weird because the house is so ever loving quiet that the oh so coveted quiet I used to long for might actually drive me to insanity. It’s weird that I actually feel rested and ready to help the kids study and make dinner and clean up and get us all ready to start a new morning successfully. It’s also weird that I thought maybe I was having an emotional anomaly and had discovered some new strange emotion, only to realize it was loneliness--which I haven’t felt in a long time.
Loneliness. I’ve craved having time all to myself for so long, swearing that I would lavish in every moment. I used to be a very independent person and as I’ve come into adulthood I’ve started leaning more toward my introverted side. I’m the perfect candidate to be floating on clouds with all this alone time. And yet, I feel less like I’m floating on clouds and more like I’m just floating aimlessly like a lost balloon. The first few times a wave of loneliness came over me I thought I was sick or PMSing or maybe on the brink of a breakdown. But as fast as it came, it was gone again when I was around people. It’s not just the being alone or missing my kids, loneliness opens the door to a world of questions about the future, about my sense of purpose, about my identity.
This is a bit of a momma’s walkabout journey, figuring out what my life will look like in this new stage. I don’t like looking to the future and not knowing what it looks like, it’s scary. But right as that fear was mounting in me God said, “I hem you in, behind and before (Ps 139). When you look to the future, see ME. I will be there. When you see the future, have joy and hope. I will be there with you.”
This season of change, it’s weird. I’m sitting here in a vibey coffee shop with music that has indistinguishable, airy lyrics and I’m LOVING the space I have for creativity and entrepreneurship and dreaming. But also, I’m counting the minutes until those children pile into my minivan and start yelling at each other and talking all at one time to tell me about their day.
It’s weird.Thanks for asking and now I will do what all mother’s day dream about: I will finish my coffee and walk the aisles of Target without a child crying or spilling their snack all over the cart. I will take on this noble task for all of us!