Here’s how I know I’m done having kids: I dropped my last child off at preschool this week and I was not sad. Not even a little bit. Not even a small, nostalgic, moving-on-to-another-era of my life smidgen.
Other mothers were crying and hugging and trudging back to their cars with other little ones in tow, and I was basically skipping back to my house. I don’t even feel guilty about this.
I’ve been doing the full-time stay-at-home mom thing for 12 years and I’m ready for the next chapter. I happily dropped off my little guy to his teacher and enjoyed a morning of working alone on my next book.
It was glorious.
But as I say goodbye to full days of kids, I’m looking back on what I’ve learned in those 12 years. I’ve learned, of course, a lot about cooking and budgeting and how to wield a glue gun like a boss, but I’ve also learned a lot about who I am as a person while defining myself as a mother.
I’ve learned to enjoy moments of nothing. By far, these have always been my best days with my children. When we don’t have activities to run to or schedules to keep, but can just enjoy time together, existing, taking walks, inhabiting the same space.
I’ve learned that I can do hard things. There were nights during sleep training and potty training and life training where I 100% wanted to give up, when I felt like I simply wasn’t cut out for motherhood. But I got through it. I survived, and more importantly, my children survived. And we’re stronger for it.
I’ve learned that motherhood is a journey, not a destination. When I started this column more than a decade ago, I originally titled it “Becoming Mom,” because I felt like I was starting on this whole redefinition of myself. Who would I be as a mother? How would it change me?
I see now that those questions will never fully be answered. Motherhood is a constant evolution. We change as our kids change. And just as we master one era, we’re thrust into the next and we have to renegotiate who we are all over again.
In some ways, this is exhausting. It can feel like a never-ending hamster wheel. There’s no moment of arrival where we finally feel like we are enough as a parent or that we have any idea what we’re doing. As soon as we feel that way, the game changes.
But in other ways, this constant evolution of parenthood is exhilarating. There is no deadline, no finish line. We mess up. We try again. We don’t have to know it all or do it all or be it all right now. We get to grow right along with our children.
So while I will be enjoying several hours of kid-free time in my home for the first time in 12 years, it doesn’t mean motherhood is ending. But who I am as a mother is changing. My pre-teen doesn’t need help getting dressed (as she has told me very vocally several times this week), but she does need someone to show her how to shave her legs. My 9-year-old needs me to lie with her in bed at night and listen to the latest drama at school. And my 3-year-old, my little buddy, still needs a lot from me.
So no, I wasn’t crying at the preschool drop-off (and I’ll be honest, those 2.5 hours flew by too fast) because I know that while my babies are growing up, they still need me, and I still need them, as we continue this journey together.
From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Erin Stewart discusses it all while her three children dive-bomb off the couch behind her. Read more from Erin, plus get info on her upcoming novel, “Scars Like Wings,” at www.erinstewartbooks.com.