Among my Facebook friends there are quite a few expressing sadness that their youngest and very last child ever will be starting school this year. I can certainly appreciate the bittersweet emotions they're processing, but I just don't feel the same way.
Yes there are some anxieties about my child being a little on the young side, whether he'll adjust well, and the fact that both his siblings go to a different school and won't be there to guide him, but mainly I feel incredibly happy he's onto this next stage. Here's why.
I want to develop my own career and interests again
Twelve years of having babies and getting all three through their first five years is enough for me. I don't long for what was; I'm looking ahead to what's left of my own future and I certainly feel no guilt about that. In a world where women are praised for being self-sacrificing, I will no longer put my own aspirations on hold.
I still of course have a lot of years raising children ahead of me but now they will all be at school, I will finally have a little more time and head space to chase my dreams. It's both exciting and terrifying.
We finally have access to holiday care for all our kids
I have worked part-time for most of the years that I've been a mother. One of the most stressful things about this is finding care for a 0-5-year-old during the holidays, because basically, there is none. Our preschool has four weeks off every Christmas and it's in October that I start sweating bullets about it. Now our annual leave might actually be able to be used at other times of the year, because we'll have access to holiday care for all of our children. The relief is real.
His early years were exhausting
My last child was not one of those that 'fits in with the family,' as I so often hear about third children. He came out of the womb ruling the roost, an unsleeping (though incredibly cute) baby who developed eczema and an allergy to peanuts, making his infancy uncomfortable, stressful and screamy. Though I loved that baby with all my might, I do not miss the sheer exhaustion of being his primary carer.
He proved to be a delightful toddler, but was a runner who would have meltdowns when strapped into baby carrier, pram and car seat. Those days when it was just easier to stay home are over and I'm not sad about it. My older two missed out on a lot in those years, even though they did get a baby brother.
His milestones give us all joy
There is no greater privilege for me, than being around to see my children reach important milestones. I can't think of a single reason I'd be sad to watch him run through those school gates and grab that new life with enthusiasm. I also know there are times ahead he won't feel so great about school, that there will be sad and challenging times just as there are in all our lives. His family will hold his hand as he walks those paths, empathising with woes we've all been through and sharing delight in the good he finds.
He'll discover the joy of independent reading
We'll love helping him to learn to read, just as we did with our other children. Watching him achieve this key life skill and watching his little face light up as he reads a difficult word for the first time, will go down as one of my greatest parenting joys.
So no, I don't feel sad he's starting school. He'll always be my baby, and the excitment of seeing him grow far outweighs nostalgia about his very early childhood.
I sometimes wonder if this means I've become hardened, but my reasons about not beng sad are just as tied up in sentiment as those who are sad. In the end, we all just feel what we feel, and that's ok.