‘My last child is about to start school, and I can’t wait’
If you're a parent excited about your kids starting school, don't feel guilty - you're not alone.
I'd like to preface this with the usual disclaimer: I love both my children equally and do miss them when they are gone (most of the time).
But for thousands of parents, this endless summer break is almost over and across the nation, mums and dads are fistpumping to a reworked version of Alice Cooper's School's Out that goes something like, "school's back from summer".
Among these parents, there's a group who feel anxious and emotional because they know their baby is officially no longer an infant. They are heading off not daycare, not preschool, but actual 9am-3.30pm, bells ringing, school uniform wearing school. And it is a big deal.
I am one of those parents. But because this time around it's my second (and final) child starting school, I've transitioned.
My first experience was reminiscent of a scene from Sophie's Choice. This time around, though, I have evolved and envision that first day drop off to be more like a scene from Bad Moms.
The truth is, I am so bloody excited to have both of my kids at school and to be child free. And despite the movie reference, admitting that doesn't make me a bad mother.
Of course there will be a degree of emptiness that I'll have to contend with, like no more Monday outings with my youngest daughter or random cuddles on the couch. Mostly though, I'll just be relieved to no longer have to pretend to want to play Barbies, and to not have to risk the work performed by my chiropractor by jumping on trampolines.
I can now spend at least six hours a day doing things I was not able to do before. Things like speak on the phone without the sound of a screaming voice that had been silent up until the second I dialled a number. Or have an adult conversation without a request for food, a complaint of "I'm bored" or a whisper of, "I need to go to the toilet".
I can finally have time to just be me again. And it fills me with joy. Unrivalled, toe-tapping, jump in the air, musical style joy.
Being a part-time working, part-time stay at home mum has its perks. Quality time with your children is generally considered to be one. (Let's be honest, not having to pay the exorbitant cost of daycare is definitely up there with the best of them). But this part time, jack of all trades, master of none situation also comes with its drawbacks. Often these are to do with forgetting your own sense of self (and on occasion your own name).
Most of the time, being a parent is a well thought through responsibility taken on willingly. But it's not until you're fully enveloped within the parental bubble that you realise how much of you actually disappears.
The number on priority is always someone else; their needs and desires come first. Yours are either left on the backburner or left completely ignored.
Now that school drop-offs equal 100 per cent of my children offloaded, I'll finally have access to a sense of freedom I haven't tasted in years.
And no matter what those with the 1950s views say, looking forward to this doesn't make me selfish or love my children less. Nor does it make me ungrateful to have them.
It makes me normal.
So, today, after I farewell my two primary schoolers at the school gate, I will drive away, pick up a coffee and head home to do work with the full knowledge that my mind can put me first, that I can concentrate on my other priorities that are non-children related (because yes, mothers have them too).
I can take care of my own needs - like eating when I am hungry, finishing my desperately needed coffee and go to the toilet without eyes upon me and for that, I am truly excited.
Shona Hendley is a freelance writer.