To me, the beginning of September, and Labour Day specifically, have always felt more like a New Year than January 1st. I'm sure it's because growing up, the new school year always started the Tuesday after Labour Day. There was such a distinction between the seemingly endless, carefree summers: hanging out with my siblings, cousins and friends, music camp, the Goossens' cottage, summer jobs, and the school year's rigid schedule: music lessons, homework, tests, exams. I loved school though, and the excitement that came along with the first day...new teachers, new classes, and most importantly new notebooks, piano books, pencils, erasers and pencil crayons. To this day, I still get a rush seeing the store displays of school supplies.
I clearly remember the first year that September didn't start with 'back to school'. It was 1996. I had graduated university and moved to Toronto with a music degree and not much else. It felt weird. I felt drawn to the stationary store. I needed to buy pens.
There were a few years in the late 90s when my life didn't revolve around the school year schedule, but then Shawn decided to go to teacher's college and once again, September represented a new year for us. I didn't need to buy school supplies for myself, but now I could at least go shopping for him; a bonus for him too since he hates shopping!
And then guess what? Both of my kids were born in the summer! I'd love to say I planned it that way, but if you know much about me at all, you know that family building did not come easily, so it was kind of a fluke that we ended up with kids at all, let alone almost exactly two years apart. Both of my maternity leaves began in the summer, and both times I went back to work on the Tuesday after Labour Day. New year. New routine. New job. New boss. New life.
Last September, I went back to work after my mat leave with Otis, and Shawn began a leave of absence from teaching to be home with both kids. He had done the same thing the year Amelia was 1. The plan was for him to stay home, perhaps permanently, and for me to work. We both enjoyed our jobs very much, but we both felt strongly that we wanted one parent at home full time.
I was excited to go back. There were many things I loved about being home, but there were many things I missed about going to work. My work was interesting and challenging and I worked with a great team of really bright individuals (not to mention snappy dressers), but....but, I kept waiting for that moment when I would feel I had adjusted to the new routine, and specifically the commute. I was commuting for 3 hours a day, and since I was doing it with thousands of other people, I thought it must be doable. I thought I just needed to suck it up. If they could handle it, so could I. I didn't want to move, and I didn't want a new job, so I had no right to complain. In March we made the decision to stick with the status quo, Shawn requested another year's extension to his leave.
As the months went by, it got harder and harder. Shawn could see that I was unhappy and kept reminding me that we could make a change. We could switch places. There were options. I repeatedly dismissed him. I really wanted to make it work. I just need to try harder. I needed to adjust my attitude.
And then, in the middle of July I had an epiphany. A dear friend shone a bright light on something that I was trying hard to keep hidden. No amount of trying was going to make me happier. And just like that, I knew what I needed to do. Shawn and I talked it over that night. He formally requested to cancel his leave, and with his blessing, I resigned the next morning. It was tough, really tough. I didn't want to feel like I was running away from something. I need to convince myself that I wasn't. I was running toward something...the life I wanted. The life where I didn't spend more time on public transit than I did with my kids. I know it sounds cliché, but the time they are little is so short, I didn't want to miss it.
The great thing, is that Shawn's school is only 15 minutes from our house. With him working, instead of me, we get 3 more hours of family time per day. I know he will miss being home, and the kids will miss him tremendously. He is such an amazing parent, and our kids have been so fortunate to have the time with him at home.
I'm thrilled about this next chapter for our family. I have lots of plans and I promise to fill you in on them soon.
So, Happy New Year to you, whether you're a parent with a child going back to school, or a teacher with a new class, or a person who loves the change of season and the promise of something new. The summer is officially over, and with September comes cool nights, changing leaves, apples and pumpkins...some of my most favourite things! Wishing you all a year that is filled with new adventures...especially the kind that sneak up on you. Here's to Plan B!