Summer is waning, the masks are off, and Target is filling up with pencils and crayons and backpacks. As I think about my kids getting on a school bus at long last in a few weeks, I start to feel equal parts excitement and dread.
I wasn’t expecting the dread.
It sat in the pit of my stomach for most of the summer. As I interrogated what I was afraid of, I kept coming up empty. I wasn’t dreading my kids being back in a classroom, or my husband going back to the office, or the quiet house during the day.
I was dreading the task of finding myself again.
For the last 460-ish days, I have been Quarantine Mom. Social-Distancing Mom. Masks-on Mom. Get-Your-Vaccine-So-My-Kids-Can-Go-Back-to-School Mom.
We have been virtual schooling this whole time. My oldest son has not set foot in his school since March 13, 2020. He left a first grader and will return a third grader. And my youngest was a preschooler — we delayed kindergarten for a year because he has disabilities and virtual wasn’t a good fit. It’s been a long and exhausting journey. But now it’s time.
As a stay-at-home mom, pre-pandemic, I fought hard to maintain an identity as a human being outside of “just a mom.” I taught fitness classes. I had a side business. I went out with friends and volunteered and attended church.
The pandemic took all that away from me. I let it happen. I was tired. I was in survival mode teaching second grade and keeping everyone healthy and making meals and doing dishes and laundry, dishes and laundry, dishes and laundry. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t socialize. I hunkered down, flinging myself over my family like a shield from a flurry of arrows.
The kids are fine. I am left, however, plucking out the damage and putting myself back together.
So as I count the days until I watch the big yellow bus roll away, I can’t help but feel a little afraid to have my time back, afraid to start finding myself.
I want to exercise again. I want to feel healthy.
I want to re-engage with my community and volunteer.
I want to memorize the names of every starting quarterback in the NFL because I can.
I want to use my brain. I want to read a book.
I want to remember what it’s like to miss my kids by 2 p.m. and wonder about what they’re doing.
I want to go more than an hour without being touched or used as a tissue.