I’ll Be You Next Year

Dear friend,

I see you at the bus stop trying to be strong, I follow your posts with the photos of the kids ready and perfectly dressed to start the new school year. It may not be the first time you put a kindergartener on the bus, but this time is your baby that you are sending off to school.

You try to be strong and keep a smile glued to your face so as to instill confidence in that little person that is now taking the first steps towards independence. I know that behind your phone you snap the photos and videos that will capture this painfully fabulous moment forever, while your heart aches and is excited at the same time.

I know you will say you are fine, and that you will drive off with that same smile dangling from a corner of your lips, about to fall off your face. I know that you will pretend this doesn’t hurt until the garage door closes behind you. I know that then, in the solitude and quiet, the tears that you held back will come rolling down with no intention of stopping.

The tears may turn into a quiet sob as you think of the time you brought your newborns home for the first time. When you remember nursing them to sleep, kissing the boo-boo’s of the first falls they took while learning to walk. You will be thinking of the first words, of the park dates, of the swim lessons and music times. You will envision the time you took them hand-by-hand to their first classroom in preschool and the many picnic lunches that you shared.

Among this vast collection of memories, of months and years, of your time with them at home, you will find yourself feeling so full while your surroundings show you how empty the house now is without the little ones running around in it. And you will cry, you will long for those times, you will be proud of yourself for making the decision to stay at home to care for them and to be their first teacher but you will find yourself lonely.

I know that you will have plans for those first days to fill the long hours that stretch between drop-off and pick-up. I know people (perhaps myself included) will ask you what you plan on doing now that you have “all this time to yourself”. You don’t have to answer, you don’t have to know, you don’t have to have it all figured out but what you do have to have is that time to mourn. Know that I’m here, waiting on the sidelines with tissues handy, for whenever you want company, for whenever you want to talk.

I know that is not easy to give up a career to make child-rearing your everything. I know what is like. I’ve been there, I’m here doing just that. I also know how others may want to pretend to understand while undermining what we do when we stay home just because, on occasion, they have taken some vacation days to stay home with their kids. It’s not the same. It will never be the same.

I know how we take our job very seriously, how when people see us at the gym they think how easy we have it being able to “do what we want” every day. They don’t know that prior to that you did two loads of laundry, made breakfast, packed lunches, got the kids to the bus and planned dinner. They don’t know that you will then take the little ones at home to the zoo so that they can see, in person, the animals they were learning about in the book you read them at bedtime. They don’t know that play dates are scheduled for the kids to grow their social skills and to have other parents to share experiences with.

They also don’t know that now that the kids are “gone full-time” you will be called to volunteer at the school, you will finally clear the garage from the stuff collected through the years, you will find a million things to be busy with while you figure out what is the next thing for you.

They don’t know the real struggle of leaving yet another career, that of nurturing and enriching your children’s life first hand. But I do know it and I’m here to cheer you on, to be your companion, to learn from your experience. I know I’ll be you next year.

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