My baby has started Kindergarten. I sent him off to school Thursday looking so cute and so grown up.
Then I went home and cried my eyes out. I cried off and on all day Thursday and Friday. I’ve spent the last six years focused on being a good mom to him. It’s been a full time job, and everything else has taken a back seat to being present and engaged with him. Our finances, our schedules, our transportation options, our travels, our jobs, and our social lives have all been built around the priority of being a stay-at-home mom. There have been times when I didn’t love that job, and there have been times when I prayed for more writing time, but I’ve always felt tremendously blessed to be able to stay home with him. I know a lot of families aren’t in a position to make that choice, so I never took the responsibility for granted. I also knew I’d only have him at home with me for a few years and there would be time for writing later.
Now that time has come, and to be honest I’m a little terrified. My nervousness exists on two main levels: For one, I’m still an emotional wreck about Jackson being at school all day. I’ve got the standard, nervous-mom jitters I get every time he’s out of my sight, but this time it’s more than that. He’s becoming independent of me in new and much wider ways. He’s making friends I don’t know, he’s learning things from people I don’t know, and he’s building an entire set of memories I won’t share. Sure I talk to him about his day, but that time is his to disclose or share as he wishes. Half of all his waking hours will be spent independent of me. It’s an important step, it’s essential to his growth and the development of his own identity, but it also means developing a new identity for me, too. I get that it’s a healthy and necessary step, but it doesn’t make it any easier to face after sharing virtually every minute of his life until this point. Parents go through this all the time, and they survive and thrive, but this is a major transition time for me. Imagine having your dream job and sharing it with the person you love the most for five and a half years, then having your hours cut in half.
The thought of filling the time and space Jackie occupied in my day is daunting, but thanks to my writing, it’s not impossible. Throughout his childhood the one common thread of a wish outside his existence has been “more time for writing.” It’s really the only selfish drive I’ve had consistently over past six years. (Which isn’t to say other selfish instincts haven’t flourished at times). Writing has been a part-time job for me since before Jackson was born. I began writing as a hobby in college for fun, but the work of writing started interestingly enough the same weekend the work of parenting began. I signed the publication contract for Learning Curve the same weekend I started trying to get pregnant. I gave birth to Jackie two days after finishing edits, and I proofed the novel with him asleep on the chest.
There has never been a Rachel-the-writer without a Rachel-the-mom. Perhaps that’s why this feels so daunting:
That’s right, it’s my new writing board completely empty. I’m starting over again, and this time it’s not just a new book, or a next step: It’s a new way of life. It’s exciting and terrifying. I’m not sure how I’ll do without Jackie at home. I don’t know how I’ll do as a full-time writer. I don’t know for sure what my next adventure will be. What I do know, though, is I’ve got a clean slate. It’s it time to make it my own.