There have been a few times lately that I've sat down and started a blog post about silly things happening in the barnyard or my late-night knitting bouts or my new obsession with alpaca wool, but after a few lines, I'd always hit ‘delete.’ The words came out sounding false, forced and lifeless. I’ve been reading too many blogs lately, and other people's posts are invariably more interesting, moving, eloquent or hilarious than anything I’ve been able to come up with.
So here’s my dirty little secret: I'm suffering from a serious case of writer's block. Well, it’s not exactly writer’s block – it’s more a sense of having absolutely nothing to say. I have no trouble writing about other people’s lives for work, but when it comes to my own, the well is looking pretty dry. It helps that I've got a part-time editing gig that keeps part of my creative brain cranking away. That's what's been keeping me so busy this past six months of radio silence. Well, that and I've become somewhat derailed.
It began last September when Ella started grade one. It was a day that I'd been dreading for most of the summer. Each time we talked about going back to school, her big blue eyes framed with long dark lashes, would fill up with tears and she'd say to me, "But mama, I'm going to miss you." And every time, she broke my heart a little bit more.
You see, when Lucas and I decided to have kids, the deal was that I'd stay home with them. I'd finished post-grad journalism school in April, was pregnant by May and interned at a magazine until two days before Jack was born. I'd work when I could, but my main job was one of "mum." That was nine years ago.
My freelance writing work load was fairly steady, though there were crazy times that I'd clock lots of late nights after the kids went to bed and too many weekends. Money was tight, I was always juggling and it was exhausting and often frustrating. There were dark times when my fuse was especially short, when I couldn't wait to have "my" life back, whatever that looked like. But then I’d chide myself with the reminder that this time home with the kids was so short.
Jack was the first to leave the nest five days a week, starting grade one the September after we moved to the farm.
After an intense summer of spending all our time together as we explored our new home, and our new lives, he was suddenly gone from Monday to Friday. I'd walk him to the bus in the morning and pick him up at the end of the drive at 4:00pm, but for seven hours each day, his world was foreign to me. I knew this was a part of growing up and letting go, but still, it felt like a piece of me was missing.
My consolation was that I still had Ella at home. She, too, would ride the school bus, but only attended kindergarten on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday. I would have the day to myself -- to work, to get chores done -- and then we would have her off days together. But life gets messy and there were days that I'd have to work when she was home. I still never seemed to have enough time in the day and the burden of "mummy guilt" weighed heavily.
But two years of kindergarten passed quickly and this past September saw them both away at school. Surprisingly, to me at least, when D-day came it was something of a non-event for the kids. As Jack was entering grade three, he was an old pro at this full-time school thing; Ella just wanted to be like her big brother.
After a bazillion photos, hugs and kisses, they trooped off down the driveway with their dad, climbed the big steps to the school bus and were on their way, waving madly out the window before turning their backs to chatter with their friends.
Like a scene out of a B grade movie, I watched the bus pull away and only when I turned did the tears start spilling down my cheeks.
I braced myself for some kind of aftershock once the novelty of "back to school" wore off. I still ache with the memory of sitting on the edge of Jack's bed while I rubbed his six-year-old back, trying to console his desolate sobs while I gently explained that yes, he did have to go to school every day of the week now.
He had it harder than Ella: he was the shy new kid at a rural school where everyone has known each others' families for generations. He got through it and today, he's got his own tribe of school chums.
But Ella never went through that: she embraced school as she does most things -- with enthusiasm, exuberance and joy. Perched at the kitchen table during after-school snack time, she'd tell me stories of what she'd done that day. To any onlooker, I was the quintessential proud and smiling mother, but deep inside there was this pit of loneliness and disorientation. I had "my" life back. Five days a week. And I was lost.
I knew all too well the dangers of the empty nest syndrome. I vowed not to be one of those parents who lived their lives vicariously through their children. I'd model parental devotion as well as interest in my own life through writing, farming, cooking, yoga, crafting -- whatever. That was the plan, at least.
When I'm busy being busy -- those days when I've got so much work to do and the chores are overwhelming and I need 28 hours in the day to get everything accomplished -- then I'm ok. Well, not really – I’m often grumpy, strung out and frazzled. But lately, during the quiet of winter when much of the farm sleeps under a thick blanket of snow, when I'm forced to slow down and come face-to-face with that insidious question -- what happens now?—that’s when I get derailed.
I'm sure most folks would shake their heads and tell me I'm wasting my time with such preoccupations. I'm blessed to send my kids off to school and be there at the end of the day. I'm with them on field trips, snow days and we'll drive each other crazy during the long eight weeks of summer.
I know what I have to do. It's time to get off my duff and stop thinking so bloody much. Seize the day, be here now, be the person I want to be in the world, and all that. But it’s scary. It feels a bit like starting over, reaching for that next monkey bar without someone there to catch me if I fall. I’ve spent the last nine years preoccupied with the needs and wants of these two wonderful, and often demanding, little people; now I’ve got to start thinking of my own needs and wants.
It’s no longer a case of asking them, ‘what do you want to do today?’ I’ve got to start asking myself that question. It's just harder than I thought it'd be; that's all.
Phew! For all of you who made it to the bottom of that monster post, kudos! I feel remarkably better getting that off my chest. I'm even getting some inspiration for a new blog post on... wait for it... knitting my first sock! I'm living on the edge out here...