In August, my youngest child starts kindergarten. It's a bittersweet parenting milestone, marking the end of having a "little" kid (sad) but the start of being able to reclaim more hours of the day to serve my own needs, not just my children's (yay!). Will I cry the first day I put him on the bus? Undoubtedly. But truthfully, I'm more than ready for this new stage.
I've spent almost the entirety of my 30s either pregnant or with a kid attached to me for the majority of every single day. I can't remember a time when I didn't wake up and think more about their schedules and needs than my own. And as much as I'd like to think that sending them both to school seven hours a day would change that, guess what? It won't. Sure, I'll get a few extra hours a day than I did with preschool, and there's the convenience of the school bus, but in general, my days will still be spent mostly ensuring that our household, our family, and their lives run as smoothly and happily as possible.
Strangely, however, I seem to be the only one who is aware of that the start of school is not some kind of parenting finish line. I've stopped being shocked that every single time I tell anyone, of any age or gender, that my last kid is starting kindergarten, their response is inevitably the same. "So what are you going to do now?" they'll innocently, but gratingly, ask. As if my son graduating from preschool also means he, along with his sister, doesn't need a full-time parent. As if I need to find a new gig because the contract on my current one is up.
"What are you going to do with all that time? Are you going to start working full time again?" I've been asked over and over. I try to ignore the implication that I don't already work all the time as a part-time employee and full-time mom. "I'm not sure yet," I sweetly reply, but the truth is, I am sure. I'm sure that I won't find a full-time job that allows me to see my kids off to school in the morning, then be home every day at 2:30 when my kids get off the bus in the afternoon.
I'm sure that my kids' needs from the hours of 2:30 until bedtime won't magically disappear just because they're now both elementary school students. I'm sure that those needs will only multiply with play dates and homework and sports and extracurriculars and all the realities of being a big kid in today's busy world. And I'm definitely sure that, just as I have in the past, I want to be there for all of it. I know they need me to be there for all of it.
The questions aren't malicious; my child is starting a new stage and I guess it makes sense that I would have the desire to take on a new challenge, too. But I can't get behind the underlying notion that school for my kids means no work for me, that I need to go out and find work to replace it. It's just not how life rolls when you're a mom of kids who still need you to drive them to practices and remind them to bathe and brush their teeth.
So, yes, I will take on more paid jobs if they come my way and maybe I'll finally start the passion project I've been talking about for years, but, no, I'm not looking at kindergarten as a radical life change for anyone but my son. But I'll smile and nod when you act like it is.