To the parents who are dropping off their kids to college or university this fall, much of this will be familiar to you. But it is to those parents whose children are going away to school for the very first time that I dedicate this piece.
As you already know, our jobs are changing. My job is changing to be certain. To put it bluntly, I have been unceremoniously dumped from full-time status to a part-time position. Perhaps not unceremoniously, but either way my career as a parent has just been officially ‘downsized’.
For me, Motherhood is the single most important job I have ever had. Indeed, I am still very much employed as a mom (as I forever shall be) but the duties will be different now. The responsibility for taking care of the human being I brought into the world has been altered, and in some cases, revoked. The centre of my universe is moving on to the next phase of her life. While this is a wonderful opportunity for her, it does serve as a confusing lifestyle upheaval for me. I must be clear: if you think from the previous moaning and wailing that I drove myself to be – or felt that I have been – the perfect Mom, think again. In fact, to be completely honest I had never planned on being a Mom at all.
Many years ago through coincidence, courtship, marriage, and all that other stuff, I found myself inexplicably pregnant. Okay, not inexplicably since I knew how it happened, but I did find myself in a particularly singular position that was never supposed to happen at all. Deep down I felt that I did not want to have children of my own. I did not want to have the responsibility of bringing an innocent life into this world and having to think for two people since most of the time I could barely think for myself. When I found out that I was to be a mom, it put me in an incredibly awkward situation. How was I to be free-spirited, selfish, and fly through life by the seat of my pants if I had a little one? Well, what I found out was that I could still be free-spirited, and I could still fly through life by the seat of my pants. But now it was with her. The surprise was that all the selfishness simply fell away.
And even though my new baby girl and I had a rocky start due to a colicky stage and her flat out refusal to sleep at night, we fell in love. Stupid, crazy, I-will-take-six-bullets-for-her kind of love. What I discovered over the years is she is naturally funny and incredibly compassionate. She does not judge people without giving them a fair shake – all three attributes which frankly I lack. She is the one who will stop and remind ME not to judge people harshly before I make a rash decision. She is the one who would give of her time and patience even if it were the last she had. She took what I tried to teach her as ‘a moral right’ and then showed me how it can be best used toward our fellow human. She is, and will remain, my best accomplishment.
Now she is moving on in the most significant way imaginable. She is exploring her new life away from home. As her parent, I trust that she will be brave and curious and bold, because she will know that at home there will be an amazingly proud Mom waiting to hear all about it. Sadly, by the time you read this piece in the Advocate, my job will have been officially downsized.
To all the downsized parents out there, both old and new, I send you a hug. Trust that you gave your children the tools they will need to explore their world away from home. Remember that in the end, they really do know how much we love and support them.
The part-time duty roster has just been posted, and this new job is sure to be an adventure for us all.