There was a time towards the end of my sophomore year of college that I wanted to quit. I was done. Totally over it. All of the classes and the homework and the stress and the weird social life that college brings. I was working part-time and studying full-time and getting my degree seemed to be taking forever. I was so poor. So poor that my sister used to send me care packages that included toilet paper. I wanted to quit school and find full-time employment and make some money and not be so poor. I couldn’t grasp that if I just stuck it out for a couple of more years, the opportunities would be greater. The money would be better. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
My sister, Janet, used to visit often when I was a student at Purdue. She was newly married, without children yet, and lived only a few hours away. I remember the weekend she drove up and convinced me not to quit school. I remember sitting at the dining table in my little apartment kitchen going over, credit hour by credit hour, the classes I would need to take to earn my degree. She mapped out in full the last two years of my student life at Purdue to show me that graduation was indeed, imminent. That my time there was finite. That I would eventually finish. I would be done. And, maybe not so poor.
I don’t know if she remembers that weekend; if she remembers the assistance that eventually convinced me to persevere. That showed me there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I have been an at-home mom for a little more than five years now. During those years, I haven’t had a whole lot of free time. Time to myself to read a book or organize a closet or go to a yoga class or eat a quiet lunch or shower without having to stick my head out the door wondering if that screaming is the fun kind or the bad kind. I have had a child by my side every day, all of the days, for each of those five years. The work has been relentless. Worth every minute and every effort, yes, but relentless.
And, much like in college, I have had trouble seeing the light at the end of this current parenthood tunnel. I have had difficulty imagining my life as anything other than what it is right now: main childcare provider and meeter of everyone’s needs. I haven’t really stopped to consider my needs for a very long time. I have been getting a bit lost in the weeds.
So, registering Millie for preschool this week was an unexpectedly emotional event. Based on a suggestion from a friend, I selected a program that runs from 9:00 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon, much longer than the standard two or three hour programs typical for our town. Enamored at the thought of a solid five hours between drop off and pickup, I basically yelled, “WHERE DO I SIGN” to the slightly startled woman behind the desk. We hadn’t even toured the classrooms yet. The mere act of registering Millie, placing the deposit, making a commitment, has buoyed my spirits. For the first time in a very long time, I realized that my life this fall would be different. With my three children in school for the majority of the week, I would have the gift of time; glorious, glorious time. All to myself.
I’m not promising what I’ll do with that time. I might write more or read more or go to yoga class or volunteer at school but I also might just sit and stare at a wall because I CAN and I HAVE OPTIONS NOW. My joy is palpable. Because, it’s happening, it’s really happening.
Well, it will eventually happen anyway. After a few more months that are cold and then a few more months that are very hot and filled with restless, bored children on summer break. Then! Then it will happen. But, that doesn’t seem that far off anymore. It’s really just right around the corner.
Suddenly, I can see the forest again.