They all said it would happen. They warned me always to enjoy my little one because the days with him would be over so soon and next thing I know he’ll be off to Uni never to be seen again except on Christmas or when he needs money.

Well, they were right. It’s happened! Not quite the university bit yet, but he’s gone to school. Here in the UK children start Reception the first September after they turn 4. So just like that, my summer baby has traded in his paw patrol onesie and is wearing a uniform of grey shorts and white button-down collar shirt even though he can’t possibly manage buttons yet – and he’s off to the great institution of Big School with his blazer, little book bag and lunch box every day. It’s the longest, most consistently we have ever been separated, and I’m not sure who’s having a harder time with it – him or me?

Well, they were right. It’s happened! Not quite the university bit yet, but he’s gone to school. Here in the UK children start Reception the first September after they turn 4. So just like that, my summer baby has traded in his paw patrol onesie for a uniform of grey shorts and white button-down collar shirt even though he can’t possibly manage buttons yet – and he’s off to the great institution of Big School with his blazer, little book bag and lunch box every day. It’s the longest, most consistently we have ever been separated, and I’m not sure who’s having a harder time with it – him or me? I might be going through somewhat of an Empty Nest thing…a diminishing nest perhaps?

There have been tears (me) and bargaining to play hooky (him). It’s quite a shock to the system, to be honest. Since giving birth to him, he has, for better or worse, been my trusty sidekick – always here with me. ALWAYS. The bonds we have formed started even before then. The second I found out I was pregnant with him, those mother-son tendrils began swirling around my heart, taking root and changing me forever. Now it’s like I have lost a limb! I have this deep sense that he will never be all mine again. He is now on his path to becoming an independent child of the world.

This has brought a whole new era into my life, starting with an updated morning routine in our home. Mornings are a 2-hour mayhem from waking to getting back from the school drop-off. FYI – Don’t ever try phoning me in those hours or expect me to read a text. It’s not going to happen.

Then after the drop-off, silence. Pure silence. I get back to the house, and all I hear is the clock ticking. I cleaned the house from top to bottom the first day, and every time I wanted to cry, I cleaned harder. The second day I finished all the laundry, ironing, folding and packing away. The third day I tried to clean again, or put on a load, but amazingly the house was still mostly in order! (Something that also hasn’t happened in the past four years) So I had to find something else to do. 

Thus began a fizz of novelty; A pink dawn of possibility. Suddenly I could do the things that were so difficult to manage with a little one strapped to my side. I got my hair cut. I did the grocery shopping. I went for lunch with a friend and managed to have an entire adult conversation, uninterrupted. I went to the doctor and didn’t have to navigate a peek-a-boo toddler behind the curtain while having my checkup (a smear is not exactly something you want your toddler asking too many questions about. TRUST ME. “Mommy, what was the doctor doing to your bum?”) And I could make a cup of tea, and – wait for it – drink it – waaait for it… while still hot.

But then the novelty wore off. Now it’s been a month of this ridiculous nonsense of him being away from me for a good 8 hours a day, and I’m losing my mind. My baby is gone! I don’t even know who I am anymore without 20kgs of pure energy tearing around the house like a cross between a Labrador puppy and the purple minion. 

I’ve been going through all the phases of change — first denial: I’m free! I can cut my hair! I can get a job! I can drink hot tea! I CAN DO ANYTING!!!! Then the crash of sadness: a tight chested feeling of missing him constantly, being the first mom at the pick up every day. Counting the minutes till they open the doors and let me have him back for the night. Then anger. Why did the past four years go by so quickly? Why couldn’t I have more kids? If I had more I wouldn’t have time to miss him so much. I wouldn’t have the privilege of knowing this terrible silence. 

Then bargaining. Maybe I could cut out his afterschool activities? Maybe I could keep him off school if he coughs? (A legitimate thought) Maybe I could pull the cord and home school? (A less legitimate thought) 

Then finally acceptance that this is all part of growing up. It’s the next stage in his precious life, and in mine. I am still his mommy. I’m still the one he calls for when he has a nightmare or runs to when he won a sticker for paying attention. I still got to spend those first four years with him all to myself, and I know that in itself was a privilege in this day and age. Now I’m just waiting for my sense of self to crawl back into the light.

I haven’t lost my self-identity completely. I’m still me under this mom façade. I still love spending time with my friends, wearing high heels, travelling and exploring with my little family of 3. I still believe it’s better to be kind than to be right. I still get a thrill from skiing and hate to fly. I still prefer my wine red and champagne dry. I’m still a feminist liberal with some rather old-school values. I still love to write, read and make things. I still love all forms of music from classical to contemporary (with a keen appreciation of anything made by Disney). Pink is still my favourite colour. And I still love to shop.

But it’s impossible to spend four years as a stay-at-home mom with your child as your sole responsibility without sidestepping that self-focus quite drastically. It’s easy to forget who you are deep, deep, deep down when you suddenly don’t have the needs of your offspring to meet 24/7 365. You can’t really remember what your own needs were.

Regaining self-focus is the new novelty that I will be trying to get used to for those 7-8 hours a day, Monday to Friday. It’s going to be interesting, to say the least, if this past month is anything to go by.

But I tell you one thing. I am definitely going to be that weird mom who loves school holidays because she gets to have her kid to herself again, if only for a few weeks: A glimpse back to the days when he was all mine and I was ALL his.