By lizjones, Sep 26 2017 02:30PM
This month has seen a significant milestone reached for our family as our daughter started school for the very first time. In many ways it’s really no big deal. She has been at nursery since she was very young and loves the activities related to that – painting and crafting, phonics, counting, playing with other children – so it’s really just dropping her off at a different place. But it’s also a very exciting time for us since it marks the end of a long period of unsettledness. We have recently moved back to the UK after living overseas for 3 years. We had a fantastic, life-changing experience but it was a very transient time since our friends and colleagues were also expats and so came and went. The planning for our return to the UK (in time to start school) began around 10 months ago and has involved a great deal of packing, unpacking, losing things, finding things, house-hunting, researching...
But now we have moved into our new home and the little one has started at the school she should remain at for the next 7 years. Friendships are being formed with families living in the same village, most of whom are likely to remain there for the foreseeable future. Local clubs are being joined and our routines are forming. It’s a very different way of life for us and we are enthusiastic to see where it takes us. It’s a time of stability and permanence for us.
For me specifically, the start of school also has an additional benefit: less ‘mummy guilt’. I have always considered myself to be a working mum. Even in those times when I didn’t actually have a job I felt like an ‘unemployed mum’ rather than a ‘stay at home mum’. On a logical level I know this is the best thing for me and my family. Every family is different but I know my daughter has benefited greatly from the care of child development experts at nursery rather than solely being with me – it’s just not my forte. Other mums (and dads) do a fantastic job caring for their offspring rather than taking on employment outside the home but that’s not me. But knowing this doesn’t stop the guilt of not spending enough time with her or the jealousy of those mums who appear to be perfect mummies crafting and baking, joyfully caring for their offspring themselves. On those days when she cried when I dropped her off (even though she refused to leave when I went back for her). And those occasions when I didn’t see her for a whole day because she was in bed when I left and back in bed when I got home (even though she spent the whole day being spoiled by grandparents). And those times when she went to bed later than ideal because we were spending a little time together after work/nursery before bed…
But now she is at school. And she has to go every day. I’m not making her go. It’s not my decision. The guilt won’t disappear completely – I’ll still feel bad about breakfast club, after school club, holiday club… but it is a significant relief. For me the start of school wasn’t a tearful affair, rueing her growing up too fast. It’s an exciting time. An opportunity for her to begin building her own life, making her own choices of friendships and hobbies. And for me to allow myself to be enthusiastic about my career without feeling like a terrible mother. Because ultimately the guilt was something I gave myself and it’s down to me to choose to banish it. Some will say I should have made this decision sooner. And they are probably right. But sometimes the right decision needs the right time too.