Tipped into today

Clare Wishart finds the transition to school is harder for her than her son

I remember the drive home from hospital six years ago with my newborn son. Suburbia looked so ordinary after my spiritual trip in the maternity ward. My euphoria at becoming a parent lasted about eight weeks, carrying me through sleepless nights and breastfeeding anomalies.

Now my son is in his first year at school. Every morning, I wave goodbye as I watch him make new friends and barrel up to teachers with a smile on his face. He’s in a new, exciting stage of life, and doesn’t need me like he did in his first six years.

‘Tea and tissues’

I think I’m experiencing a bit of grief. I miss my son’s presence at home – his quirky personality, thirst for knowledge and games with his younger brother. I’m almost envious of the mums whose children struggle with the transition to school, because they are still needed in an obvious and physical way.

I wonder if I am the one holding on too tightly. It’s a tradition for the school to provide ‘tea and tissues’ for grieving parents on the first day, but my jangled emotions have endured beyond this.

In my pre-kids life, I thought success in work was what being an educated woman was all about. But the minute I brought my son home from the hospital, my one thought was, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for’. I had a home, a role and was living the future I’d wondered about when growing up. I loved that focus. Children and their immediacy filled my world.

Now a large part of that life is gone. It’s breathtaking how suddenly you are tipped into the next stage. With my son out of the house during the week, old thoughts and fears about my value and contribution to society have come raging back. A family friend has a career I covet – she works in an embassy, and previously served with the Peace Corps in a battle zone. As a stay-at-home mum, I sometimes struggle as I see my life through points of comparison.

I need to let go of my son

This morning, my youngest accidentally knocked his bowl of cereal all over the floor. After a good cry and clean-up, I was shocked to realise my dreams had changed. I no longer wanted to be an ambassador making decisions on a world stage. My struggle with the transition to school mum has made me realise where my priorities lie. Just as I need to let go of my son, I also need to let go of the dreams I had as a wide-eyed 20-year-old. Life in its many facets involves compromise. Now I consider how we live to be as important as what we do.

We have just moved to a house near where I grew up. I consider myself lucky to be living in this cute 1950s cottage with a brilliant back garden, and I am thrilled we can walk to school. I love my family and am so happy, after eight years interstate, to be living near my parents so they can be involved in their grandkids’ lives.

Transitions can be hard, but they can also be rich. They are opportunities to reconcile your past and realise it got you to where you are now. In your vulnerable moments, they invoke faith to not worry about the future. I’ve decided the greatest gift I want to give my kids is a sense of belonging, and what better place to do that than the place where I feel I belong.

In letting go of my dreams, I can also be fully present for my kids in reality. In surrendering to change, I can enjoy the treasures life brings and trust that what will be will be.