June’s Big Word of Mouth theme is counting. Here is a counting story I prepared earlier…
LAST night I put on a load of whites and sobbed. I hung them out and sobbed again.
After years of washing 15 white school shirts each week I have watched the number fall to 10, then five and now finally to a big fat zero. The only white shirts I’ll be washing now are mine.
Before I had even given birth to the first child I was imagining how it might feel when the last born left school.
I was dreading the great cavernous hole and heartache of no longer being a mother who was needed. As I basked in the sun with my pregnant belly pushing against the stitching on my great blue maternity bathers I knew I was going to slip into the mothering role a lot easier than I was going to slip out of it.
When the first and the second of the troops left school there was the sense of milestones being reached; there was intense pride; there was a sense that a heartbeat was all that separated me from my last day at school. But this time the feeling is different.
This is the last one of the troops leaving school. This is the last load of white shirts. This is the last school lunch I make. We’ve had the last parent teacher interview, the last school assembly, the last graduation, the last speech.
There is no more homework, no more excursion notes to sign, no more sports uniforms to dig out of the bottom of the laundry basket for a recycled wear.
A wise person once said (well, actually, it was me and I said it a million times), from the moment they are born it is the task of a good parent to help them reduce their dependence on you.
What a wise old (repetitive) goat I am. And it’s happened here — no one needs me. And I’m not sure when I’ll be able to stop the little catch in my throat and the little sag into tears that follows.
Being a mum is who I am. It’s been the best thing I’ve been, the longest job I’ve had, the hardest and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
I’ve been pulled in five million directions at once and I’ve grizzled and wondered if I will ever get a bit of time to myself. And now I’ve got it — time to myself. Everyone can get along just fine without me.
Everyone can cook and clean and sew and shop and have a party and make a fancy dress costume and open an account and drive the car and organise a lift and get a job and phone a friend and settle a score and decide for themselves. I am superfluous to requirements.
It is so sad. Sad in a good way, though. It’s time for me to think about the rest of my life and who I might be apart from mum. I’m glad I’m a YaYa and a gal pal and a book club member and a mildly dedicated gym junkie and an employee and a student.
I’m so proud of my babies who no longer need me to hold their hand. If yours still need their little paws held, hold on tight for now because soon enough they’ll want you to loosen your grip and you’ll be looking for another thing to define you, too

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