I was chatting to a very good friend the other day about our kids, juggling work, home and all the rest. We are great friends and have very similar ideals and philosophies. The main difference between us is that I educate my girls at home and she sends her two children to school.
As I was talking to her, I mentioned that my husband and I were thinking we would have to travel to South America for our business but it is just too expensive for all of us to go. I love travelling and it would break my heart to miss out on such a fabulous opportunity and send my husband, without me. She suggested that we leave the girls with my parents and go together. Her suggestion made me pause. It hadn’t even occurred to me to leave the girls behind to do business.
When I was seven my parents went overseas for six weeks to Sri Lanka and Egypt and left me with my maternal grandparents. I had great fun staying with them in their little country town and going to the weatherboard school that my mother and grandfather had gone to. But I was also really sad at being left out of the trip and not getting to meet my paternal grandfather. When my parents came home, they told me that the first thing he asked them was, “Where is Indrani?” Some years later I did get to travel to Sri Lanka and meet some of my family but unfortunately by then, my grandfather had died.
While considering my answer to my friend’s suggestion, this memory popped into my head as well as a whole bunch of other thoughts. How would the girls cope without me? Who would be there to cuddle them when they cried? Would my parents know when to feed them, read to them, humour them and be firm with them? Was I being selfish, keeping the girls with me? Were they ready to be so independent? Was I holding them back? All these thoughts raced through my mind.
What I actually said surprised me. It is something that I have felt since the day my oldest girl, Airlie was born nine years ago. But until this moment, I had never voiced the thought out loud. I hadn’t even really admitted it to myself, quietly in my head. What I found myself saying was this:
“I love spending time with the girls. I love being with them. I love their energy and enthusiasm. That’s why I homeschool them and why they have never been in day care. If I went away without them, I would miss them dreadfully.”
And there it was, in a nutshell – I love being with my kids. It is the reason why I homeschool and why I am a full-time mum. Really, I could have said much more.
I could have told my friend how I love hearing their funny stories and watching their imaginative play. How I love seeing them draw and listening to the stories they tell as they draw. I love the family life we have created. I love seeing them every day and being an integral part of their lives. Watching them learn to read or climb on the monkey bars. Cuddling them when they get sad. Finding answers to the 300 questions I get asked a day. Being challenged to do better and become a kinder, more thoughtful and compassionate person.
Family is really important to me. And I love the family life that we have built together. We go for a ride together every morning around our inner city block. We read stories together and have giggle o’clock. That’s when we all head for the king-sized bed and roll around, giggling and tickling each other. There’s nothing like a little girl cuddle to cure the blues. We have a really strong connection and bond. It is something that I have worked hard to nurture and encourage. It is something that I work on every day.
It felt strange to finally admit out loud what I have felt, deep down for years. It isn’t something that you hear other parents saying very often. Most of the chat is about how to juggle kids’ activities and school, where to send them to high school and how busy we all are. There seems to be an implicit understanding that we send our children to daycare and school, where overworked and underpaid professionals look after our children while we work to pay for our mortgages and fancy cars. I have never wanted that life and I have always craved connection with others.
I find it funny that I have grown up and become an at home mum. I always thought I was a feminist (and I still am passionate about women having the right to choose what they want to do with their lives and getting equal pay to men.) and had never figured on being an at home mum. It’s funny how things turn out! I guess I am a feminist home body if such a thing exists.
I think the reason I found it so hard to voice my feelings of enjoying being with my girls was because I am definitely swimming upstream here and because I never expected to fall so madly, deeply in love with my children that I wanted to spend more and more time with them. But that is exactly what has happened. I love my girls and spending time with them is one of the best things in my life.
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