What will I do when you’re gone?

In my not-so-finest moments of being a stay at home mom, I’ve fantasized about how wonderful life will be when my 2-year-old goes to school. To be honest, how much “better” I’ve convinced myself life will be. And if I’m extra honest with you? I’ve verbalized to my son how “I can’t wait for you to start preschool” in moments of sheer exhaustion.

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Nevertheless, I fantasize. Oh, the chores I will accomplish. Oh, the exercising and years worth of self-care catching up I’ll have the time for. Let’s not forget the friend’s breakfasts I can have, and hot food I’ll indulge in. Hello hot food, I was hoping we would meet again. I’ll get that oil change, that dental crown, those new pictures printed and hung up. Gosh, all the things I’ve whined about will be a possibility! Where do I begin?

I’ll shower without nursery rhymes and brush my teeth without a monkey on my leg. I’ll only have to make my bed once, too.

I’ll walk the neighborhood by myself and look out of my mind talking to you about what I see around me.

I’ll watch and play along with Drew Carey on zx instead of guessing what tools Toodles has to save the day for Mickey Mouse. I have no idea what cars and vacations cost any more, but I do know Goofy sure needs a rope to get baby bird down from the tree.

I’ll admire the table where we spent many lunches together just you and me.

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It looks so much bigger than I remember when crafts and plates were scattered everywhere.

I’ll sit by myself and imagine you were here, playing with raspberries on your fingers and fighting with me over what shape cookie cutter your sandwich should be today. I’ll look down at the crayon marks and glue we never managed to get off the wooden table and eat that quiet, peaceful, lonesome lunch I wanted so bad for years.

I’ll finish lunch and walk over to the playroom, where everything will be in its right place. You haven’t been home to make a mess of it. I don’t need to tidy. Lucky me?

I’ll run errands and mistakenly walk around the car to grab you from your car seat. I’ll grab that Publix shopping cart with a kid’s steering wheel.

I’ll be able to listen to Taylor Swift without complaints from the backseat peanut gallery.

I’ll come home, and you still won’t be here. I bet you’re having a great day with your friends. I’m confident you’re being a good sharer and even better friend to your classmates. I can’t wait to hear about it at 12:45. Gosh, the time has never gone slower—even slower than when you were in your LEGO phase and we had to play with them from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. only breaking for diaper changes and meals.

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I get it now why moms are first in the carpool and at the daycares. Sure sometimes it’s for traffic, but I’m betting those moms sitting in their cars outside the school a half-hour early just miss their kids and want to feel closer to them.

Perhaps they’ll catch a glimpse of them running back inside from the playground . . . and they’ll feel whole again.

You’ll go to school, and I’ll go back to the me before you.

But what if I don’t want that me anymore? I take it back—every naive wish to be alone.

Oh, darling, what will I do when you’re really gone? I’m not ready to find out.

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Jennifer Bailey

Stay at home mom enjoying one little boy and navigating parenting one trip to Target at a time.

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