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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Final Year

I promised I'd write about why I dropped my 4yr old from two days a week at daycare down to one this year. His final year at home with me.

Next year, my youngest son starts 'big school'. In the past, this is something I have longed for, and I've often counted down the years and months until I'd finally be packing off all three kids to school. I've fantasised about being able to keep the house tidy. Get ironing up to date. Write in peace and quiet. Aaaah...the bliss.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not someone who constantly needs 'me time'. Last year, a couple of days to myself (whilst the 4yo was at daycare) was all I needed to recharge the batteries. Well, most weeks anyway.

Apart from my husband's assistance most evenings and most weekends (that is, when he's not traveling for work, working back, or taking cycle trips around France...ahem), it's just me and the kids. I have no family here in Sydney to help me. If I'm unwell and my husband is away or at work, that's it - I soldier on. I can't call up my sister or my mother-in-law and ask them to come around for an hour or two.

I know I'm not the only one in this situation - far from it - and quite frankly, the way I live my life has been my choice. Hubby and I moved to Sydney - our family and friends from our hometown didn't move away from us.

But, you know, sometimes not having a break can be really hard. It was almost four years from the time my eldest son was born before I had my first whole day to myself (which I enjoyed doing each week for a year before the 4yo was born). Hubby and I rarely go out just the two of us. And when we do, it costs us a fortune in babysitter fees. (Oh, cue the violins now, will you?) And to be honest, sometimes I don't think my friends who have family around really, truly get how hard that has been at times for Hubby and I.

But to be fair, we've gotten used to it. It's the way our life rolls, and we really don't know any different (except when my sister or my MIL come to stay and I have a taste of being able to leave children at home whilst I run errands etc - luxury).

So, now you might understand why I was so keen for my youngest child to start school next year. Add to that, that he is an incessant talker, defiant, a mischief-maker, very demanding of my attention and just plain trouble at times, then, well, school looked pretty good to me. (Of course, he's also wildly cute and gorgeous a lot of the time too. It's certainly not all bad!)

Last year, I put his name down for a local preschool, which I knew was a long shot for him to get in to (not enough spaces and too many on the waiting list). Friends and family suggested I put his name down all over town at other preschools. I didn't. I figured he could continue with daycare if preschool fell through. Then one day last year, I decided that if preschool didn't happen, I'd drop one day a week of daycare. At the time I cited financial benefits and some issues I've had with his current daycare. I joked to friends about how if that happened, I'd probably go crazy. When I told my friend this idea, she said, "Are you mad?" Maybe.

Preschool didn't happen and I dropped the extra day of daycare. Even my husband had to ask, "Are you sure?" which, coming from him, is really saying something, because the idea of saving $80 a week is very appealing to my husband!

So of course, by reading this, you're now wondering why on earth I made the decision I did? How did I go from complaining about not having enough time to myself, to suddenly deciding I needed less time.

Let me explain by telling you a quick story.

My friend Nicole told me about a friend of hers who is a very busy woman. Earlier this year, she had her youngest child about to start school, and she was rather excited about this prospect because she had a lot of stuff to do. So busy was she, in fact, that every day when she would drive past a certain park on the way home with her preschooler, her child would ask, "Mum, can we go and play in that park?" The mother would always answer, "Not today. Mummy's busy. We'll go another time."

Anyway, school started, the mother was happy - not a tear was shed - she was too busy and had too much on her mind. Then, about six weeks after her child's first day of school, she drove past the same park. She stopped and burst in to tears. She suddenly realised, she had never gotten around to taking her child to the park. She was too busy, and she thought she had all the time in the world ahead of her for a simple thirty minute play in a park she passed by every day.

I can't tell you how much I can relate to this story.

I may be a stay-at-home mum, but up until a few weeks ago, I hadn't had time to take my son to playgroup. Not once. (Or rather, I didn't make the time to take him.) I'm home every day of the week, and yet I rarely take him to the park for a swing during the day (I figure I'll just wait until his big brothers are home from school). Outings are trips to the local Westfield or to run errands.

Just like the mother in my friend Nicole's story, I have always figured I'd have plenty of time to do the 'fun stuff' with my 4yr old. I realised last year that I hadn't been doing it though. I was too busy with my P&F work for the school, blogging, doing house stuff...the list goes on.

So now, I have one year left. This is my final year of having a little munchkin attached to my leg. We've done playgroup. We've gone to the movies, and this week we're taking a trip to the city to see Centrepoint Tower and meet Dad for lunch.

And you know what? Even when I'm having a bad day with the 4yr old (like the Monday just passed...NIGHTMARE!), I still don't want to send him off to daycare. The idea of not having him around during the day - any of my sons - is tearing at my heart strings.

Who'd have thought it?

Are you a parent, and are your kids all at school? How did you feel when you eventually said goodbye at the school gate to your youngest child? Do you have a child starting school next year? How does that make you feel?


Image: WeHeartIt


Dorothy said...

I can so relate to your story. I had to put my youngest in full time daycare last year because I needed to work. I am a sole parent.

His older brother goes to school and he too was in either before or after school care just about every day.

Then it dawned on me - this year will be the last year I will walk home with my little one after dropping his big brother off at school. As it was, I was only doing it twice a week due to work.

So I made a decision to quit work during the year, to get at least 6 months at home with my "baby". As it happened, I ended up quitting earlier - in February. I am preparing to move us to the country, where the cost of housing is less and the pace of life slower.

My little one is now home with me two days a week. I may feel able to make it three once we move, but being a sole parent, I find parenting really exhausting and so need him to be in care at least some of the time.

We get to walk his brother to and from school every day now. We run errands together, we visit friends, we go to the playground. It's nice being a SAHM again.

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

I can relate too.
I only send my boys one day - others say why not prepare them for school better with 2 or more ?
WHY would I .
Soon enough (2012) they will go 5 days a week for 13 yrs.
I love them home with me and besides the cost I would miss them any more than 1 day away.I love going ti playgroup... you made a point with me about the park. I must do this tomorrow.

Corinne – Daze of My Life said...

I was lucky that I had this realisation when my eldest was just 6 months old. I went back to work for six months while my hubby stayed at home. I realised how precious time at home with my kids was to me.
So ever since, I've made sure that at least the morning or the afternoon is devoted to doing something for them - going to the park, doing an activity together, we're members of zoo, wildlife world and aquarium so go there a lot.
My eldest is going to school next year, she started preschool this year (3 days a week). I feel that we're both ready for the transition as we have had that time together (and still do 2 days a week).
It's also lovely having three days with just the youngest and I, it's the first time she's ever had one-on-one time, so it's really special.

I love being a SAHM and all the fun activities we do together have made wonderful memories for me.

I hope you and your boy soak up this wonderful time together. x

MaidInAustralia said...

I was actually quite happy when both kids started school. They were ready for it,and I figured I'd have more time to work. But I didn't factor in settling-in difficulties, homework, helping out in class/tuckshop/and on excursions, sick days, nits, and the rest. I actually have way less time a. for me, and b. for quality time with them. Homework really is the bane of my life, because it takes up valuable chilling time and life skills stuff, like helping to cook dinner. I don't know what the answer is but I miss my kids desperately when they're not with me, especially if I know they're having challenging times at school. I guess no matter what we do, mothers feel torn when it comes to our families. xo to you, hope it all works out.

foxinflats said...

Oh am hearing you on this one! Each day seems to go past in a flurry of activity, but its the times when I do 'nothing' with my boys that we most enjoy, and are most memorable.
Last saturday, we had a 'nothing' day..that is, neither my husband nor I did extra work, we plan chores or special weekend tasks,we didnt even plan an outing. We just all did our own thing around the home (I even read part of a book - in bed!!! This hasnt occurred since since before we had kids).
Anyway, having stripped away all of the things we felt we SHOULD do, we had the best day, filled with lots of cuddles and quiet moments, laughter and games. Will aim to do it again (but knowing me, will 'schedule' it in...)
Loved the story about the park. I'll remember that one.

DanniiBeauty said...

This post brought tears to my eyes! I love staying home with my kids and am dreading going back to work fulltime next year. I will have been home for 2.5yrs with my second bub and love it.
I am taking advantage of everyday coz time flies and they grow up too quick!

Mrs BC said...

Good on you for making time to enjoy your little one while you can! A few years ago we decided that working ourselves sick to pay huge daycare fees & never see our children in daylight hours wasn't living - so we up sticks & moved to another city, where we can afford a slower pace of life with one income. It is hard without family around & it takes ages to make new friends, but we wouldn't move back to that old life for anything.

Miss Pink said...

My eldest started school this year and it kills me a little each day as i drop him off.
I was a childcare teacher pre-kids, and i actually don't believe it is necissary for children to attend daycare or preschool prior to school. That there isn't anything they would get from preschool that cannot be provided at home by their parents if they are lucky enough to be able to have one of there parents stay home with them.
I admire you for going against the grain where so many people feel preschool is a NEED, and for spending that extra time with your son. I know he will appreciate it and it will bring you both closer together, sort of like a shared secret.

Annicles said...

My three are all at school anda part of me cannot beleive that all that time has flown. However, I have a secret weapon - I work four days a week. That leaves me Fridays to do "my" things. Every now and again, that invloves giving a child a "sick" day, even when they are perfectly well and doing something together. If a child is seeming a mopey or feeling neglected, they need a day of love, just 1-1. My secret is weapon is that special time together. I have to keep track and the rule is only once a term but somehow it helps give a child much needed time and space and it is fun to play hookey once in a while!!

Ami said...

Beautiful post Jodie. It got me all teary! Someone said to me the other day, before you know it Sophie will be starting school! Of course I couldn't help but shed a few tears. I'm sure you and the 4yr old will have a lovely last year together. xx

Thea said...


This is my second last year. *sob*

Crinau said...

Honest and beautiful post Jodie.

Maxabella said...

I applaud your decision, Jodie. It's the right one for you and he will be all the better for a bit more time with mum.

I don't know how it works, but maybe because I've only ever had that one day at home on my own with my children, I make sure that it's all about them. I guess because I work 4 days a week away from them, I am not in danger of taking the time I do have with them for granted. Plus, a working mum really does get plenty of 'me' time so it's a very different scenario.

What I'm trying to say is that I have always stopped at the park. x

Jacki said...

I'm so glad you wrote this post Jodie! My oldest has just started 2 days of daycare and I've found myself looking forward to the times when both my children are at school. Finally, being able to complete a simple household task without interuption! But you're so right about going to the park and having fun times. I know where I'll be taking my kids on Saturday. Thank you and wonderful post!

Naomi said...

It was bittersweet when my youngest started school. She had been in child care since she was 2 while I was at work, and when she started school I was working "partime" (32 hours a week)
In her last year at home we had one day a week together while her big brother was at school and she was not in care, I cherished those days. But she was so, so ready for school and so, so needed to be there and have that stimulation.
It's a very personal decision, and I think a lot depends on your needs as a Mum and the nature of the child.
But I fully understand your decision and hope you have a great last year together.

River said...

Have I got this right?
Daycare is $80 a day?
$80?? A DAY???

You're going to enjoy this last year with your boy, and think of the memories you two are making!

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem said...

Thanks for all your comments everyone. I know some days will be hard work with my little man, but there will be lots of great days. To be honest, I haven't missed not having the extra day at all yet, so that's a good sign!

And River...yes. Daycare is expensive and some people pay more than that. That amount is a reduced rate because he's 4. Younger kids are more exp!

MultipleMum said...

Enjoy your time together. I really hope you get to do all of the things you have planned. Building memories together x

AlyceB said...

Hi! Newest follower from http://blossom-heart.blogspot.com. Found you via Aussie Mummy Bloggers :)

This post got to me too... Although not in relation to school. I'm about 3 weeks away from popping out #2, and I realised just yesterday that these are the last 3 or so weeks I'll ever have with just me and my son :( That made me feel quite sad, and still does!! It certainly made me appreciate the time I do have with him a whole lot more, let me tell you!

Mum @ Mum's gone 2 Aus said...

My eldest son started school this year and having looked forward to this time for the break, I really miss him and feel quite depressed on a Sunday knowing I won’t really get time to spend with him until the next weekend. My youngest son is at day care part-time and on the other days I frequently fall into the ‘too busy to do anything’ trap.
I currently have one clear day to have fun with my youngest, when we don’t have pre-booked activities or errands to run. You’ve reminded me to make the most of this day before he heads off to school.
A friend recently said that you lose a little of the children once they start school (what the teacher says is always correct, their friends are more important). I hadn’t realised until now how important it is to cherish the preschool years. Thanks for writing about it and reminding us!
Enjoy your time together.

Melinda @ Here We Go Loopy Lou said...

What a gorgeous post. I love the story about the Mum and the playground. My eldest heads to school next year, and I am already feeling emotional. As hard as it can be with 3 little boys under 5, I just know that their time at home with me is going to be over before I can blink. I am really trying to get to the park, the Zoo, to play games and to just appreciate them and to savour every minute!