When my eldest child started school 10 years ago, I was full of excitement and enthusiasm for what lay ahead. I was pregnant with my second child, and working part-time in an office just around the corner from school.
When another mum from the class collated everyone's emails together in a google doc and shared it around, I enthusiastically joined in with the group.
We volunteered to read to the children in class, we gathered in a nearby park after school for whole-of-class play dates, and we created a private Facebook group so we could pick each other's kids up if someone was running late, and arrange sleepovers and weekend play dates.
It was a simpler time.
(Incidentally, the mum that took the reins of parent communication in that class moved away after the first year of school, but we still keep in touch. Our kids don't even remember one another but we have a lifelong bond.)
Now, my eldest child is in high school, and I have a child in year 3 and a child in year 1. Having divorced a few years ago, I work full-time and share my kids 50-50 with their dad.
And that mum has appeared again – not the same woman, but the same wonderful organiser of parents that makes things happen and unites us all in this parenting gig. This time in my youngest daughter's class.
I've never been an organiser like she is, but it's a quality I admire in others. She just seems to have a bottomless well of enthusiasm and ideas for social activities – and the time to make them happen.
This lovely mum repeatedly emails me asking me to attend mothers' morning teas, afternoon play dates in the park, and random local events where she's rallying the parents to get together with the kids.
But I persistently swat away her invitations. I'm too busy, you see, or too tired, or too…always something.
Because I work long hours and I share my kids, I just don't have the availability that I used to.
Sometimes I'll say no because I know my kids will be with their dad that day. Sometimes I say no because the children will be in after-school care while I'm still working. Sometimes I say no because I have had so little time with my kids that week that I just want to bring them home and cuddle them on my couch with a David Williams book and a big bowl of popcorn, and just breathe them in before they grow up and leave home.
And unlike when my eldest was starting school, the school terms are flying by at a rate of knots. I've only just come to terms with the fact that the entire school year is going to pass without me going to a single year 1 event this year.
Perhaps I should have been straight up with this woman from the start. I'm a busy working single mum with so few hours to spare I don't want to spend them making new friends. I have enough friends that I don't get to see enough as it is.
But I've ben in denial, thinking that perhaps the next one will suit us better.
Turns out there will be no next one, and although I wish things are different, I'm too busy to feel any guilt. We're all doing the best we can, and my priorities lie elsewhere for now.