Being a working mum has both benefits AND disadvantages, but today has been particularly rough for two reasons.
Let me start by saying I made the call to return to work when my third child was almost two years old. I was fortunate enough to return slowly as a casual, then part time, and now full time after having several years away from the workforce.
Sure, there are perks to returning to work, like better holidays and I get to drink coffee while it's hot and have real grown-up conversations. Hell, I've even secretly enjoyed heading off to work when they've been particularly painful during the school holidays.
It's just sometimes I feel like I'm really missing out.
Samuel (10), Charlie (8), Olivia (4) and Claire, having fun during the holidays. Image: supplied.
My boys went back to school today.
Given I do most of my commute before the sun comes up, my husband likes a text to let him know when I've arrived safely at the office.
"I'm here. DON'T FORGET PICS!" was the text I sent him at 6.15 this morning.
By 8am I hadn't heard anything so I followed it up with another gentle reminder.
I know he's busy with the school run, and that is honestly something I do NOT miss one bit. He amazingly takes care of the morning run four mornings a week, but this time of the year I feel like I'm the loser in this situation.
Show your child how to become a responsible citizen. Find ways to help others all year. Kids gain a sense of self-worth by volunteering in the community.
"Pics!" was all I had time to text him at 8am but it was enough to prompt a response in photographic form. I then stole a minute (OK, maybe two or three) to fawn over the string of photos he sent to me. I may have also shown my surrounding colleagues regardless of whether they were feigning interest or not.
There they were: my two boys, shiny new shoes on, school shirts tucked in, giant backpacks on their backs, school hats on and big happy smiles.
I wasn't there to wave goodbye.
I wasn't there to fix up their bed heads and tuck the stray strands of hair back into their hats.
I wasn't there for the big goodbye hugs they still so generously give.
It may seem trivial, and it's not like it was their first day of school EVER. But still ... it's a sad moment to be missing.
Samuel (10) and Charlie (8) on their first day back today. Image: supplied.
A pretty, pointed first
I missed another first today, and I'm sure I've missed heaps of firsts along the way, but this one stung a little more than the others. It was like one of those especially bad stings that makes your eyes water a little.
Ask your children three "you" questions every day. The art of conversation is an important social skill, but parents often neglect to teach it. Get a kid going with questions like, "Did you have fun at school?"; "What did you do at the party you went to?"; or "Where do you want to go tomorrow afternoon?"
Today was my daughter's first ever ballet class. She's been talking about it for months, so we went shopping together over the Christmas break and bought her a dress and some adorable little ballet shoes and she was booked in for her trial this morning.
She's almost worn through the ballet shoes with her endless pirouettes around the house as she wails "I'M A PRINCESS! I'M A PRINCESS! I'M A PRINCESS!" until one of her brothers calls out to stop.
When we reminded her at dinner last night that her first class was today, she literally squealed. Her face scrunched up and she let out the most high-pitched "eeeee!".
But my selfish heart sank because I'm missing out.
I got some cool photos! Image: supplied.
I didn't get to watch the smile on her face as she followed the leader, skipping with her toes pointed out in front of her.
I didn't get to watch on from the sidelines with a goofy grin and tears in my eyes.
I didn't get to welcome her with open arms as she ran out declaring, "I learnt the splits!" (she didn't really).
In fact, I've still not seen my three children as I'm still at work.
But I'm writing about them instead.
Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.
And I may have a tear or two threatening to spill over, but it means they will all get an extra big hug when I arrive at school to pick them up just after 3pm. And hugs, like overseas holidays fix everything.
Oh look! I got my hug! Image: supplied.