Autumn has always been about beginnings in my life. It’s my season of rebirth. I remember the fall 12 years ago when I adopted the first love of my life, a golden retriever named Decker. I was single, had no children and had my dream career working from home as a writer.
Then I got married (in the fall) and had children (in the fall), and each autumn continued to breathe new life into me. I was fortunate enough to have the choice to stay home with my kids, and a new career was born. Days were spent changing diapers and feeding and potty training and harnessing tantrums and keeping nap schedules and walking the dog. Work was squeezed in when possible.
The fall that my son began preschool marked the start of many years of dropping off and picking up every couple hours, three years for him and three for my daughter, followed by half-day kindergarten for each. Days were spent in increments of three hours, doing what could be done in that time and getting the rest in the best I could. I often secretly wished for more time, careful not to wish away their childhoods.
Now it's fall again, and the kids are in school. We have a new puppy to help fill the void left by my beloved Decker, and my days start out the same as they ever did. The husband gets up earlier than should be legal, which wakes the puppy up. He (the husband) hops in the shower and I trudge downstairs, bleary, to let the dog out to do his business.
Shortly thereafter the boy gets up and I trudge upstairs to start his shower because the faucet is so sensitive that one wrong turn will scald him. I then head back downstairs to feed the dog and the cat and to get coffee. After the boy comes down, I wake up the girl and get her downstairs. I make and pack the kids' lunches, and hunt for change for ice cream.
I go out to the bus stop and chat with the other moms after the bus pulls away. Eventually we all acknowledge we have to leave. I take my cup of coffee and head inside.
And I stand there.
It is silent. There is no radio playing or television rambling. The puppy's asleep on the kitchen floor. I take another drink of coffee and think, OK, now what do I do? I have some time, finally; for the first time in nine years, I have eight hours with no children.
I try to determine the problem, because certainly there are things I could be doing--nine years' worth of cleaning springs to mind. But I can't quite put my finger on it. I'm just sad, somehow. Empty.
I feel guilty being alone, as if secret wishes through the years somehow created this void. My job is to take care of others, to do for others. For nine years, that's what I did, all day, every day. There was not one waking moment when taking care of those children was not on my mind. I was their teacher, housekeeper, entertainer, stylist, social secretary, chauffeur.
Now, I've been relieved of those duties. I chose to be a stay-at-home mother, a 16-hour-a-day job, and my hours just got cut in half. I'm not used to thinking about things other than my children. I'm not used to thinking about me or my interests or about what I can do for people besides my children. It seems unnatural somehow.
It's autumn, and once again I have my days free and a puppy to train. But I'm not the same person I was back then, so things will be different. I may still feel weird for a while, and I think that's OK. But fall is for beginnings, and I know there's a new beginning out there for me somewhere. It just might be difficult to find at first.
After all, I'm a mother, and that's a tough act to follow.
Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.