Last year, I began the school year complaining about an advertising campaign by Staples in Canada, "It's the most wonderful time of the year". Here's the ad:
I always found this insulting to kids. I wondered how children felt, watching that ad, getting the feeling that their parents were happy to be rid of them.
I was thinking about that while I heard the radio ad last week, when I also read this article on the nature of "real life". Tessa, a friend on my Facebook Group, was writing about the phenomenon that happens every year around this time of parents expressing delight that children will be back at school and they can get their "real life" back. She talks about this assumption that real life is when we are free from responsibilities, free from the repercussions of having kids, marriages, jobs, or life. She says:
When a woman gets pregnant, she’s bombarded with social messages that tell her she is supposed to “want her body back,” and the pressure begins to keep pregnancy as short as possible. When she breastfeeds, she’s not only told she’s supposed to “want her body back,” but to “want her life back,” something that can only be done by weaning the baby, of course, since breastfeeding is clearly not a part of life and “life” seems to be comprised of as many tactics as possible to physically distance yourself from your offspring. Case in point, when her child becomes school age, the woman is supposed to rejoice in sending the child away (to “real” school, of course), so she can finally “have her life back” again.
I have to admit that at times I yearn for solitude, or vacation, or just a day to curl up in bed and read a novel with no one bugging me. Now that the girls are older, that's more inclined to happen, but I still have work responsibilities with my writing, and deadlines, and blogging, and emails, and manuscripts to write.
But I think, for many, there is more going on here. Why do we yearn so much to be free of kids? Why do we yearn so much to be carefree again? I think there's this conception that the pinnacle of life is complete leisure and entertainment, without having to make dinner, or potty train anybody, or clean up toys. I know parenting is exhausting, and everybody needs a break every now and then. But parenting is my real life, not sitting in a hammock reading a book. My work is my real life, not goofing off all the time. I enjoy breaks, and we need rest, but the rest should be the exception, not the rule. What is wrong with actually enjoying the life that we have created for ourselves? To live for the brief snatches of time when we have no responsibilities seems like such a shallow life. If you're doing that, you're saying that your everyday life is miserable. Who wants to live like that?
I think we need an attitude shift that begins to appreciate work and routine and responsibility, rather than resents the fact that we have to work. Life was not supposed to be a giant party, and yet that's how it's often portrayed in our popular culture.
Personally, I do look forward to September. It is a good time of the year for me, because it represents new challenges, and new chances, and new opportunities. I get to plan what I want to accomplish this year, and what I want to do with my girls. Because we homeschool, it doesn't mean that I'm without my girls, or celebrating getting my "real" life back. What I am celebrating is a schedule once again. I find it often difficult during the summer because we don't have a schedule per se, and everything is always changing with vacations. How do you get meals made, housework done, exercise fit in, when things aren't the same? So even though September is busy, I like it because I feel like life is back again.
But that "life" is still with my girls. That "life" is still with my husband. Work is still involved. And I'm happy with that, because I like feeling as if my life has a purpose, as if I am moving towards something, as if God is making something important out of what I give Him everyday. If life were just about leisure, I wouldn't have that.
My real life has begun again, and I'm happy. It's a real life that takes work, that's busy, and sometimes I wonder if I can fit everything in. But I'm glad that it's here, because it represents everyone I love. And what would my life be without that?
About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.