The Seven Year Itch: Separation

Image Credit: Mathieu Hervouet via Flickr

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for seven years now. Seven years. And, as it turns out, I’m all done.

Which is not true, actually. I have the rest of the year and the summer to get through. I’ll be stay-at-home-mom-ing while also work-at-home-mom-ing while the kids have AAAALLLLLL the free time in the world. So, that should be interesting.

But mentally and emotionally, I’m all done. I have senioritis. I’m struggling to muster the energy and enthusiasm that full-time parenting requires.

After a particularly crappy day of parenting last week, I felt really, really down and really, really drained. And I had to stop and think about why that was. My conclusion? I’ve been doing this for seven years, and I’ve reached my limit.

It’s not that I’m not glad to have been able to spend this time with my kids. I am. I know it was the right move for me and for my kids (and, really, I didn’t have much of a choice for a huge chunk of it). I’m grateful that I got to spend these years with my babies. BUT.

I’m ready for more now. Next fall, both of my kids will be in school full time (HALLELUJAH), and I will have time. Time to focus on work, time to focus on writing, time to focus on Smarty Mommies, time to focus, period. I will have time for things, and the fact that I can see the light is making me impatient.

I know I’ll miss this time with my kids when it’s gone. I know I’ll crave those little stolen moments and firsts that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of and to witness. I know I'll think wistfully of all this time I have with my kids. But right now, all I can think about is ALL THIS TIME I HAVE WITH MY KIDS. It’s suffocating. It’s exhausting. It’s relentless. It can be fun and joyful and exhilarating and wonderful, too. But after seven years of All Me All The Time… I’m tired. I’m ready to be done. I’m ready to miss my kids.

This has been one of the biggest moments of clarity for me. I am never away from my children and so I have never really missed my children. We can’t afford babysitters or childcare outside of my 5-year-old’s co-op preschool (which we can only afford because of scholarships). My Smartner works full-time and, before that, he was in school full-time. He sometimes takes the kids on the weekends to give me a break, and I sometimes go out after bedtime when I need to get away, but I rarely get daytime hours to myself and we don’t go out together almost ever. My dad is able to babysit the kids a couple times a year, and we’re deeply grateful for that time together. But beyond that, if we want to go anywhere together without kids, we have to ask friends. And so, we don’t go out. I have spent a total of 3 nights away from my children. In seven years. And none of those nights was with my Smartner.

Next year, this time I will have will allow me to work more and make more money without having to stay up all night or give up my weekends. We won’t have to pay for school anymore. We might – might – be able to spend time together as a couple. I might be able to do things that I want to do when I want to do them.

But most importantly to me, I will miss my kids. I will be separate enough from them that I will miss them when they’re gone. And it’s not that I desire the permanent separation from them that's coming down the line. I know this will be the beginning of that, and that part is bittersweet. I know I’ll miss them. But it’s hard to appreciate things if you never get any distance.

Last week, on an unusually gorgeous Spring day, I was watching my sons as they ran around the elementary school playground, chasing soccer balls and leaping about. They ran and laughed and used their nimble, gangly little legs, and I was struck by how rarely I see them from a distance. They looked so different. Still so small, somehow. I was struck by the notion that these children, although part of me, are also becoming their own people. And I was glad. I was in awe.

Separation is hard. I’m excited now, but I know I’ll cry when I send them both off to school. It’ll be a big change. It’s scary to give my kids to the world and know that I won’t be there with them every step of the way anymore. But it’s also liberating. It’s the beginning of something, for all of us. The beginning of a life with big kids, and another beginning of a life for me. A life that is sometimes separate from my children.

I will always be a mother. I’m grateful that nothing will change that. But I’m ready to become myself again, too. I’m ready to separate. Seven years is a long time. I’m ready to move forward.

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