Stepping Out The Door (a new parenting era awaits)

In a blur of early parenthood, I remember thinking to myself in a I-long-for-time-on-my-own moment, “I can’t wait until all the kids are at school!”

I also remember thinking that parents a step ahead of me, deceived me!

It goes so quickly,  they said.

They are only little for such a short time, they said.

Before you know it, they will all be at school, and then adults, they said.

The days within those very early years of motherhood ticked slowly for me.  I worked out that I was pretty much either pregnant or breastfeeding for 8 years. Straight!

It was both frantically busy and mundanely slow.

It was a time when tasks didn’t seem to accomplish goals.

It was a time when days and nights were often one.

A new era is at my doorstep and I will, too soon, step out the door.  I can’t believe how fast it’s come!  This year, all my children will be in formal schooling. Those parents ahead of me didn’t lie after all!  And now I’m the one saying, “It’s goes quickly!” Oh, and it does! It does! Believe it!

I’ve been thinking about this new stage of parenting for a while, particularly as my baby, my only son, starts school this year. I could see it closing in fast ahead of me, like watching the light of day appear larger and larger through a dark tunnel journey.  I wrote about it in these posts.

I see a bend in the road

The bend: it’s almost here!

There’s another little story, insignificant really, to tell in the timeline from early parenting to the now.  It’s about the last couple of weeks before school finished last year.   Knowing, as I did, about the changes just ahead, I planned to dedicate lazy days doing things son and I loved to do together (visit the environmental centre and museum)  before the busyness of the school holidays began with my other 3 children added to the mix.

But it didn’t happen. No. Those weeks before school ended were hard for many reasons, and frantically busy. Stressful even. My plans for special days didn’t happen and I felt sad about that at the time. I still do, a little.  It isn’t guilt…but rather a touch of grief. Sadness. Disappointment in losing something hoped for.  It’s interesting how a particular emotion can take me back to another time.  As I let the feeling of disappointment wash over me in a quiet moment, I could see myself standing where I was 4 years previous.  At the risk of sounding perfectly strange, it felt like I was looking out of the eyes of my younger self for a moment!   One little insignificant story leads to another: as conversations often go.

Rewind 4 years. Again, I was preparing for a new phase.  My baby boy was 14 months at the time.  I didn’t particularly adore breastfeeding, I enjoyed the bonding time — yes — and I believe breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, but I do remember feeling glad once each of my babies moved on. Expect for this time.  This time, with my youngest child, I wanted to mark that last feed. This is the last feed! It’s rather silly, really.  I pondered it for a week, and then one day, my son just stopped.  Just like that; before I could experience the finale.  It’s how it should be, in many ways, but I didn’t get that celebratory feed.  That last feed where I marveled in the wonder of raising each of my babies to the next stage of their life.

Expectations that failed to realise: they are.  But these two disappointments are hardly worthy of sadness, surely.   It’s silly, really. There are much more important things to worry about, yes. And yet, we feel what we feel.  I feel what I feel,  and I believe it’s wise to allow emotion as it comes, in whatever scale. The waves that crash on the beach: They come. And if you let them wash over you, allowing the momentum kick your body back a little rather than resisting, the waves tire less, and invigorate more. And so I allow myself to feel sad.  It’s okay to feel a little sad, I say to myself, without wallowing. Then, always onward: there’s no point in holding on to disappointments of yesterday.

I’m a goal orientated person, and I love finishing things.  In fact, when I became a mother, I realised how addicted I was to achieving goals when I couldn’t quite achieve them anymore! You can read about that here. Being goal orientated, as I am, makes sense of why I would seek to mentally mark a stage in an effort to move on.  However, life doesn’t usually work out quite so neatly, and I have learned to love the play, more than the last song.   There is satisfaction in the bittersweet.   And in that, I realise each new milestone for my son represents an end to a stage for me.  His firsts, will so very often, match my lasts as he brings up the rear of each parenting stage.   There’s beauty in that.

In both of the small stories above, I wanted to celebrate something that was already there. That’s it!  To celebrate what was already there! Just like a birthday marking a span of time already spent, so too, I longed to mark the beauty of the times spent with my son.  And not only my son, but all the sweet (and exhausting) years I spend with each of my children during the pre-school stage.  And so with this realisation, the celebration, the lasts, the finale, didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. Because it was already there.

Again, it hit me: the importance of living life right now.  Not waiting for that dedicated hour, or that lazy day, or for things to be just right, or the weekend to come.  Oh, those times are wonderful, and I’ll always long and plan for them, but without living life in the richness of the moments, those times of celebration are empty vessels.

If I could go back to my younger self, I would say,

Dear tired mother,

Don’t forget to touch that curved cheek today.  Because that is precious, right there, that moment.

Trace that small hand with your thumb.

Bottle the sound of laughter as you kiss a bare tummy. Bottle it somewhere special inside you if you can.

Talk about everything. Even if they don’t understand.

You will never regret those dedicated moments when you drink in your child’s form with your eyes.

Revel in the bright eyes that look at the wonder of life with newness.

Strive for connection. Make it a priority.  Take the time.

And always make time, to waste time with these little ones.  Because they will, so often, teach you about the important things.

Don’t wish it away.

Invest in love at every moment you can.

Because you will miss this time, I promise. And it WILL go fast, even though the days go slow. I promise. What you do, in those seemingly insignificant days, even as the world spins by, is incredible. Believe it.

the days are long but the years are short

And so, I say goodbye to a stage of my life.  Things will change for me, and they should.  Change is good.  What I will take with me to this next stage is the lessons of love I’ve learned and the importance of investing in life as it happens. This, I will continue to strive for.

Thank you for all the wonderful times, my son.  I’ll miss you, more than you can know. I am proud of you and know this: I will always have your back.

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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  1. says

    I don’t want to drop Miss Poss off to school today but I have too. I can’t imagine my life with her at school five days a week. Stupid sadness, I know. But she has been mine to cherish for almost five years and it’s going to be hard to let her go. I think I’m going to bubble into bursts of uncontrollable crying (the not very attractive kind). I’m crying now. I know I’ll get over it. I know she’ll be fine and thankfully the twins have quite a few years to go before moving on from their special mummy days.

    That was such a beautiful post. I’m sending you a special online hug today Kell.

  2. says

    Goodness, you’ve made me cry. So well said. After years of supporting mums dropping off their precious children at my schools I can totally understand all of your feelings. The first days are so bittersweet that I’ve often shed a tear (as a teacher and a principal). Your words have such honesty that most parents could relate I am sure. I have one, maybe two years left until my angel’s at school, and I’m treasuring every day. Off to make zucchini slice and a mess in the kitchen while we can!
    Best of luck for this week!

    • Emma says

      OMG I am crying too as I battle the tiredness and longing to ‘get things done’ whilst a baby sleeps on my lap but at least my 3 year old is at childcare. I am a cranky Mum and reading this makes me feel so guilty. I do love them and I do want to bottle this time. I think early motherhood is like being a teen you, you think your life will be this way forever and take it for granted.

  3. Kellie says

    Oh goodness, Im sitting here in tears right now!!!!
    Its exactly how Im feeling, it stricks you to your core when you realise those moments have passed. There cute little cherub faces, only love for you in there eyes! There great big belly laughs and numerous cuddles on the couch.
    Can we just freeze spray them for a little bit longer??????

  4. says

    It is good to remember to cherish it while its there. I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for the last 9 years and it feels like such a long time, but I suppose all things come to an end eventually!

    I still have a little way to go until my kids are all at school, so my goal is to try and remember that even though the days go slow, the time goes fast! Very good advice!

    • says

      That’s exactly it. From where I stand, looking back, I’ll tell you that you won’t regret those slow days, and looking back, I can see so clearly, just how important those little moments are.

  5. says

    Oh Kelly, I’m lying in bed at midnight, 40 weeks pregnant with baby number 2, having “niggles”and wondering if I’m in early labour, unable to sleep, so I check my google reader on my phone. Now I’m trying to not wake my husband with my crying. There is so much about this post that is talking to me – we have just moved (4th time in 5 years) for my husband to start his intern year after 5 years of med, and I’m remembering what it was like with my first baby, in a town where I didn’t know many people – the days and nights were long, and I wondered if he would ever sleep through. Now he’s 2 and sleeps like a champion, despite all the moving around. And now I wonder what number 2 will bring. I will caress his or her cheek whenever I can. I promise :-)

  6. says

    I love this! Thank you for sharing it. I just blogged about how sweet it was to spend some time being truly present with my youngest. It goes way too fast.

  7. says

    Hi Kelly
    oh me too. Last one this week. was thrilled and excited for him. So independent. on to the next phase…you worded it so well.
    a few days in I am waiting for the tired eyes to set as I know they will. It will be time then for cuddles and stories again

  8. says

    You’re 2 years ahead of me Kelly, but I’m already feeling those emotions, thinking those thoughts. As my youngest grows, she is closing the door on that stage of my life – forever. And there is a sense of sadness in that. I think I’m in early mourning (so to speak) because I will most likely be working full-time next year which means that my last year of being home with her is now. It would be nice if time slowed down just a little.

  9. says

    Wow Kelly this is beautiful. I totally understand that grief – no one ever told me I would have to grieve over the passing milestones. Don’t get me wrong It’s not a bad grief its kind of a happy, sad mixture of time moving forward, longing for one more moment as it was, and a proud heart swell of seeing your child move/achieve/grow into the next phase of their precious life. Being a Mum is such a emotional journey but the best journey. There is a cost and their is a prize I muse as I wave goodbye to my littlest as she get’s stuck into painting at kindy. xxx

  10. Kym says

    Kelly, your post struck a chord with me as I too sent my youngest off to school this year, well Kindy anyway. And like you I had imagined some lovely time spent together, before the older two finished school, which in the pre-Christmas rush didn’t happen. Then I thought “Oh well we’ll make the most of the holidays” which we did at first but then I lost two weeks being very sick with tonsillitis and recovering. Life never seems to go according to plan! I spent years during her pregancy and following her birth suffering from a severe case of pelvic girdle pain, and had to rely on others to help care for her (and her two older siblings). I feel like I’ve missed out on so many things like taking her to baby swimming lessons, or even playing on the floor with her. There are so many things I wanted to do with her as a Mum that I took for granted with her eldest brother. It nearly broke my heart when she cried at Kindy yesterday! But saying that I rejoice in the fact that I did make each moment count, as best I could at the time. Now I am looking forward to a little Mummy time this year (and trying not to feel guilty for what I missed!)

    • says

      Oh, it’s so hard when you’re sick as a mum…because life doesn’t stop to give you a breather! Kym, I can tell, from what you’ve said here, that you would have invested in different ways with your kids, making the best of the circumstances. That’s all we can do really, isn’t it? Make the best of where we are and what is thrown at us. I, like you, are enjoying many quiet times to myself…and enjoying the new phase of my life. Thanks so much for sharing your story. x

  11. says

    Hi Kelly, yes we had a little baby girl, Quinn Maria, on Friday the 1st Feb. A great birth experience and we were very well looked after in the hospital. Have survived the first crazy week with lots of highs and the usual (hormonal-induced) tears. We’re doing great thanks.

  12. Glenne says

    Beautifully and honesty written and therefore unsurprising effecting me, might even have the hint of a tear in my eye…! My darling babies are officially grown, with my youngest now aged 18. During their childhood I was a busy career driven woman, a contented, loved and loving wife and hopefully still a very in touch, connected and committed mum. My girls are pretty well adjusted, happy, successful young women now so I guess we did ok…I’m a typical modern mum in that I (even now) regularly second guess myself, pretty certain my mother and her peers never gave their child rearing techniques a second thought, there you go! So the older I get (and I’m still in my forties) the more I miss their childhood, I miss the physical closeness (they just won’t crawl into bed and snuggle for long now…not with me anyway, seems to be the odd boy who gets that pleasure now!), I miss them needing me, I miss the smell of them, the routine of them, the pleasure of everyday life and sharing the little delights with them. Thank goodness we did enjoy it, but I wish I hadn’t looked forward to the next “easier” stage quite so earnestly! I suppose that’s the arrogance of early parenting, you really don’t believe it will be over so quickly! Thanks for your article, there is definite comfort in knowing we’re not in this alone :)

  13. says

    Wow, yet another moment that reminds me of ‘slow down mummy…’ reminding us mummys to be kind to ourselves and to live life in the now, love what you do, keep it coming it inspires us all.
    I have had a very clingy 2 1/2 year old, and am studying also, she is probably reminding me that she needs some mummy time.x My preppie misses being at home now and then, wanting to be with mummy.. but we try. Thanks Kelly

  14. says

    Wow, what a beautifully expressed post. I love that concept that marking the end is about celebrating what already is.

    My youngest baby is three (and a half) – a baby no longer. And I am very much trying to relish each moment with her. I have always loved the baby and toddler years. With my first two, I found things got harder about the time they hit the age of three. This time I am enjoying it so much more, and I am sure part of that is because I know she is my last (and of course, part of it is probably because I am neither tired and nauseous with pregnancy, nor over obsessing on getting pregnant after months of trying) (and maybe she just has a different temperament too!).

    Elli won’t be starting preschool until 2015, so I still have a while with her at home. But still, time seems to be slipping through my fingers, never to come back. And meanwhile my eldest is nearly a teenager. As I said on your kidspot post, it is bittersweet, this ongoing cycle of change and growth.

  15. Petrina Lersa says

    If i had talk right now, no one would understand. Except you!
    I am new to Fun Mum, thankyou for blogging things i thought only
    I felt. I am warmed and releived that my feelings are as normal as they
    come .When i do these similar things to help me remember my 4 boys
    so young. When i was breastfeeding my twins, and a would lift their
    sleepy heads up to burp them, there would be an impression of their
    little ear on my arm. If i could have taken a screen shot of it , i would.
    These, like yours are such small but amazing memories i want to keep
    forever. Thanks Fun Mum.xoxo

  16. Sarah Barker says

    Our eldest is a few short days away from starting school. I have had him with me almost 24hours a day for all these years, soon I have to relenquish some of my hold. I am angry that the last few months, our last ‘complete’ time together was consumed with things I could not control, things that brought sadness and sorrow to our family. I wish I ha more time, more days to enjoy the small things together. But, as you said, I do not feel guilt just an odd grief for what should have been.

    I am less goal orientated, I am more driven to make things wonderful constantly. I have a head and heart full of things I want to do, experiences I want to share and memories I hope I can create for our children. That is a sometimes overwhelming pressure, but it is what makes me the mum I am. We are a fun, free, loving and adventurous family so the idea of passing that opportunity to learn and explore onto others, outside our family, is daunting

    Like you I try to mark events, take mental pictures, real photographs if possible, of every tiny milestone. But also like you, some came and went before I realised they were upon us.

    I cried tears of happiness, sorrow, joy and thanks while reading this post. I cannot thank you enough for sharing these feelings and making me sit back and take stick of what I have done and what I still have left to experience.

    I hope he new chapter in your life is filled with joy and moments of sheer amazement, they are what makes motherhood the phenomenon that it is. Thank you x

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