Summer is coming to an end, and with its exit and the start of another Autumn, comes a rush of mixed emotions. For students, Fall means back to school– a mix of reunions with friends and late nights bent over homework. For children Autumn means Halloween and candy, but also raking leaves and itchy sweaters. But for moms, Autumn means the freedom of an empty house during the day while the kids are at school. But sometimes along with that freedom, comes a loneliness and heartache that can be shocking after a long summer of family fun.
Writer Melissa Willets explains that feeling in her the following letter “In Defense of Feeling Broken When Kids Go Back to School.”
Hey, moms who rejoice when it’s that time again; you know, when your kiddos board the school bus, and get whisked away for 8 “glorious” hours. And you know you have aaaaalll day to do, well, whatever you darn well please. Don’t worry, I’ve seen the photos you post to Facebook, featuring your wide-as-school-bus grins. Your jumps for joy! Remember when we chatted at the park, or when we ran into one another at the store? I tried to act like I “got it” as you detailed your super-exciting plans for when your kids aren’t “in your hair every second.” The gym! Home Goods! A manicure!
I get the part about critically needing time alone. As a mom of three kids, I crave that like a PSL come October 1. Trust me.
But here’s the part I don’t get. Why weren’t you feeling the same crushing sadness I did, as I watched the last days of summer fly by, taking precious, fleeting family time with it?
Why weren’t you holding back hot, burning tears when you hugged your babies goodnight each evening for a week leading up to the first day of school? As you remembered holding them in your arms, on the days they were born, and shook your proverbial head at how impossible it is, that time has sped up so inevitably, so cruelly, to this place?
Why didn’t you toss and turn all night, before the first day of school? While you internally panicked that your tiny babies, because that’s what they are really, wouldn’t be able to find the bathroom? Or wouldn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch? Or wouldn’t find their bus at the end of the day?
How didn’t you don sunglasses to the bus stop, so your children couldn’t see your eyes filling? So they wouldn’t know that behind your encouraging smile, was a broken mom, who was fighting the urge to assume the fetal position in the middle of the road, and slip into a comatose state.
Because that is how I feel, after I watched my daughters get on the bus, and drive away. Away from me.
I wanted to run after them, and tell them one more time: “I love you!” No, I wanted to tell them a million more times. And remind them to say “please.” And wash their hands. And so much more.
Of course, I’ve already said all of that. And I told them, “No matter what happens today, I will be right here when you get home.” But in the meantime, I’ve felt blinding, disorienting emptiness. Like someone sucked all my insides out of me, and what remains is a shell. I walked around and did everything I usually do, but it all seemed robotic.
The truth is, my heart and soul were in the kindergarten and third grade classrooms.
I’m left wondering, why don’t more of you mamas feel like me? Are you that good at hiding it? Or are the senses of relief I see you parading down the sidewalk, real? Are you seriously that liberated to have had time to finally put on makeup? And hit the gym? I mean, I too embrace the sense of empowerment a workout delivers, but I’m over here fixated on a plot to army crawl through the playground and get my kids, and wrap them in my arms, sobbing, and tell them how we’re going to start homeschooling, right this second. Hmmm…
No, I know school is good for them. Socialization, independence, blah, blah, blah. They are actually quite well-adjusted, with a lot of friends, despite having the misfortune of being raised by a drone mom. Yeah, that’s right. Helicopter momming is so outdated.
Okay, if you need me, I’ll be lying in the street at the bus stop, waiting for the return of the little people I’ve dedicated my every thought and action to since the days they were born.
Bring smelling salts.
Share if you relate to Melissa’s words.