I have been a full time at-home parent of one or more children non-stop for the past 11 1/2 years. I have worked at home with my children, I have homeschooled, I have done volunteer jobs that I could do with my children (like La Leche League and my work for Attachment Parenting International), and I have had stretches of time where I have been dedicated only to parenting and keeping up with the children and (trying to keep up with) the house. I have looked for "my" time in the crevices in those times when I had very little support from others. Most of the time, I was on my own with my kids while my husband was away at work.
I love my kids dearly. I wouldn't have traded any of that 11 1/2 years with my kids for anything. I have no regrets with regards to being home with my kids. I don't look back wishing that I had been off at work instead or wishing that I had put them down in their beds when they were sleeping so that I could "go get something else done." When my son went off to 1st grade today for the first time without hesitation, I knew that we had crossed a metaphorical bridge together. All that time that I was home with them was an investment. All those hours holding and rocking made him ready to go be on his own, rather than it being something that he just had to endure. There's a real difference when a child is truly ready to do something, as opposed to when an adult has decided it is time.
But if I were to find one regret, it would be that I didn't realize the value and importance of surrounding myself with a nurturing community. It wasn't that I was a hermit parent who never took the kids out to see the light of day. In fact, we had lots of friends and I was usually working on creating some sort of parenting group to have someone interesting to talk to who understood my cloth diapering dilemma or a conversation about my latest co-sleeping challenge. Or someone to just talk about what it was really like to be a parent so that I didn't feel so alone.
We all need that. We all need someone who "gets" us. Who understands that we're going to have good days and we're going to have bad days. Do you have that for yourself? Do you use your nurturing community to support you? How did you find those others who support you as a parent? I'd love to hear!
Today, on my "baby's" first day of 1st grade, I went out to Starbucks with some friends to talk about parenting and what I'd really like to see happen in the world. It was divine. How have you chosen to nurture yourself today?