A bite of the Empty Nest

The baby turned a year old last month, and I wasn’t prepared for it.

No, I didn’t forget, of course not. Let me clarify that. I know three children can be a handful. I sometimes have to keep counting them, just to make sure they’re all there.

One is reading a book on the couch. Check. Two? Two is in the kitchen, playing cowboy with an imaginary horse under the table. Right. Three? I hear the ruckus of lego blocks banging on the floor, followed by the dissonant sound of a child’s flute. Ah, Three is in the kid’s room. Good, all here. Now where was I. 

Yes, life with three may seem like I’m always making roll call. But even then, it’s hard to forget their birthdays, as I imagine birthing days would be for any mother. Those were three very distinct, memorable, exhilarating (though rather painful) days of my life!

So no, we did not forgot the actual date. I just wasn’t prepared for what would happen next!

After the third child, I thought I knew what to expect. But as it turns out, I had no vision of the future ahead. I went from sleepless nights with at least one restless child, to having no one to worry about after lights out. Suddenly, all three children were sleeping through the night, and in their own room none the less. Suddenly, I had more time for myself and my own thoughts, and found myself binge-watching TV shows, god forbid!

 As if the children had already moved out, leaving me with a house filled with only the memories of their childhood, my thoughts flashed to ten years into the future, and I fell into a fit of panic!

Okay that escalated quickly. But I hadn’t expect it to come this soon. It came like a sudden revelation, this unsettling feeling of being…alone?  What will I be doing in ten years, when these boys start leaving home? As much as I enjoy baking and cooking, hiking and biking, and playing and napping with my children everyday, in ten years, they won’t be around much anymore to keep doing that with me!

As if those ten years had already passed, I started scowling the net for days, becoming obsessed with landing a job immediately. Being on “extended maternity leave” all of a sudden didn’t roll off my tongue so easily anymore. I became so desperate to fill the impending void, that I began writing application letters for jobs I knew I did not qualify for, and applying for others I knew I wouldn’t even like! Every night for a week, I kept pestering Mr.M about our future plans (as if he had a crystal ball), hoping for a concrete vision to sooth my nerves. 

Of course all of that didn’t help much. I just wound up restless at night, with no restless baby to blame.

A few weeks later, ironically, after one failed job interview and a few more unanswered applications, I started calming down. The reality is, the baby is still a baby. And Mr.M is often times away for weeks at a time, sometimes longer than I can take. If I were to commit to a day-job now, I might be stuck with a pill too large to swallow, organising the house and the children on my own as if I were a single-parent. Like things were not hard enough as they are.

It’s been a month since I shocked myself with this self-inflicted anxiety. And though I haven’t found a definite path to follow, French classes have been helping to move things forward at the least, and the searching has led me to discover options that I barely considered in the past. Slowly, opportunities are arising and the real challenge is dawning on me: finding the balance between a career path and family life. 

The children mean the world to me, and will remain so in ten years. But I hope by then I have something for myself apart from their well-being. Something that will help me along when they really start to fly away, leaving an empty nest behind filled with memories of all the fights and hugs and laughter and tears that we are sharing now and will be for the next years to come. And I hope by then, that I would not look back and regret feeling this way now, that I could proudly say I didn’t start too soon nor too late in paving my own way apart from my children. 

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