My two-year-old daughter started her first year of preschool in September. I had been waiting for the big day to arrive for months. As a stay-at-home mom for nearly three years, I was ready and excited for her to leave the nest, at least temporarily. What I wasn’t as prepared for, however, was how our relationship would change being separated for just three hours a day.
When I quit my job three years ago, I was naïve to what it really meant to care for a child full time. On the surface I understood what I was giving up of course, but there are so many complexities to the job. Leaving the traditional workforce can come with a number of unexpected changes – some emotional, and most of which were impossible to anticipate until experienced firsthand.
One aspect of staying home that caught me by surprise was how I struggled emotionally with the lack of separation from my daughter from time to time. I understand it might seem strange coming from a person who willingly signed on for the roll of stay-at-home mom, but I simply wanted to miss my daughter and witness the excitement she felt when I returned home. As the primary caregiver, the opportunities for me to sneak away and be absent for any substantial about of time were rare to say the least – and in many ways that is exactly why I love my job.
I did mention the issue was complex, right?
On occasion I found myself feeling envious of my husband for his time away from her. He would vanish out the door to a chaotic and busy job beyond our apartment walls, and return with anticipation to hear all about her day. She would ask for him, longing for an opportunity to read an extra book or share a few overtired-giggles before bedtime.
For the first time in my daughter’s life, preschool has opened up an entirely new world outside my careful grasp. Without my help, she is learning to explore a new environment, with unfamiliar faces and friends.
For three hours out of the day, she doesn’t need me. I pick her up from school and she runs towards me. Even if she didn’t miss me for one second, I am none the wiser as she wraps her little arms around my neck. On the walk home from school I ask all about her day, to which I hear a mismatch of confusing stories and details of messy art projects.
I soak up every word.
After all of these precious years spent together, the small space between us feels so refreshing. I had the privilege to witness it all, each moment from the first smile to her first steps and every tantrum in between. But now it’s her turn to experience new things without me. She will grow more confident and curious to the great unknowns around her. I will always miss her and wonder how she’s doing, but I couldn’t be prouder as she takes the first big step towards creating pieces of her own unique story in this world.