Eleanor returned to preschool this week, and I am slowly returning to being myself. She attended school two days a week last year, and she now attends five days a week.
When we filled out her registration last winter, I spent a long time debating how many days to send her. I did feel my heart split at the thought of sending her to school every day. No doubt all parents feel that. Still, I think the feeling has to be more intense for parents who have one child. Shouldn’t I save every last second of her retreating childhood for myself?
I didn’t want to smother her though. Eleanor thrives with structure and needs other children to play with. Most of her neighborhood friends started kindergarten this year, and I knew she would feel left out while sitting home with me.
Plus, smothering Eleanor tends to mean smothering myself. I don’t do well as a stay-at-home mom. This is partly because I am no longer a “normal” mom. All of my views on pregnancy and parenting are colored by Genevieve, and other parents often don’t understand this. I feel isolated. It’s also because in my eagerness to be the best possible parent to Eleanor, I don’t nurture myself. I am too tired to keep up with news or read books. When Greg arrives home from work, I have nothing to talk about beyond the activities of a 4-year-old.
This is even more true when I’m pregnant. Right now, I’m neither jogging nor taking ballet classes — two hobbies that I love. I’ve had little time for writing and editing work, and I crave that mental challenge. Also, I crave paychecks.
So I chose to send Eleanor five days a week. We need to miss each other a bit. A few days before school started, Eleanor had yelled at me to leave her alone — a first. Now, when I pick her up from school, she runs over to hug me. I had reached a point where I felt like I would never have the mental energy to get back to freelancing. Now, I’m itching to begin.
Parenting is not so different from marriage. I need to bring things into the relationship, not just take out. I can’t do that unless I release Eleanor into the world, too.