I became a parent in 2005, and after my maternity leave, I went back to work part-time. I chose Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays because I had regular meetings on those days. My daughter and I spent Tuesdays together doing errands, socializing and participating in a toddler playgroup at my treasured Watertown Family Network. As she grew, my in-laws came to relieve me for a few hours on Tuesdays so I could get a break from one, and then two, small children.
In 2010, my older daughter started kindergarten and we had a new routine. As any parent in the Newton Public School system can tell you, elementary schools close 2.5 hours early every Tuesday. Educators love this as it builds in time for teacher development, but it can be very difficult for working parents. I empathized with my fellow parents, but since I was already caring for my younger daughter on Tuesdays, it wasn’t a hardship picking up my older one at 12:30.
The years went by pretty much like this; I switched jobs a few times but mostly was able to keep the same schedule. My younger daughter started kindergarten in 2013, and shortly after that I started working for Parenting Through a Jewish Lens at Hebrew College. I set my hours to include Tuesday mornings in order to overlap with another colleague’s part-time schedule. I’d periodically grumble about ending my work day at noon, frustrated to leave just as I was catching my stride, but often it felt like a treat to spend the afternoon with my sweet girls.
But this year it’s different—my younger child started middle school, with Tuesday pickup at 2 p.m. So now I have 90 more minutes to myself, something I’d eagerly anticipated, but a change that also brought up feelings of loss.
Last spring, it dawned on me that Tuesday lunches with my younger child were coming to a close, so I tried to make them extra fun. Ironically, this was just at the point at which my 11-year-old was getting more independent. I knew she enjoyed our time together, but I also knew she would have happily had more playdates or screen time.
This reminds me of one of the simplest yet most important lessons from the Parenting Your Tween Through a Jewish Lens program: children change, and it’s OK to miss how things were. Nostalgia can be a gift. Another key lesson from the class was tzimtzum, the idea of contracting. In Parenting Jewish Teens: A Guide for the Perplexed, Joanne Doades writes, “As parents we need to engage in tzimtzum, to pull back in order to provide our children with space in which they can grow.” So I’m now thinking about these extra 90 minutes as a signpost that my children are in a new chapter; childhood is wrapping up and they’re deeply ensconced in adolescence.
And an insight: Their growth also makes more space for me. In some ways, I could see these extra 90 minutes as a prize for my perseverance, for arriving at an age where they need me less, at least physically. I can step back and reflect on the fruits of my labors of countless pick-ups and lunches and play dates and playgrounds and, well, parenting.
So, I am saying a Shehecheyanu blessing for reaching this milestone, a small yet powerful marker of how the children have grown. What will I do with this bonus time? I could be productive and catch up on work, exercise, clean…or I can rejuvenate—take a slow walk, connect with friends, journal or read. The possibilities are endless. Whatever I do, I’ll try to relish it, to see it as a gift in this new phase of my parenting life.
This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.