Next year my youngest child will be in 1st grade. Starting in the fall, my kids will all be in school every day from around 8:30-3:30. What will I do with myself? Here’s what our schedule looks like now:
7-8:30 AM: Breakfast and driving kids to school
12 PM: Pick up my daughter from the kindergarten bus stop
3-4 PM: Older kids get home from school
6 PM: Dinner
8(ish) PM: Youngest goes to bed
9(ish) PM: Older kids go to bed
As you can see from my schedule, I have a nice little window of time while my daughter is at kindergarten. This time is so precious to me. I usually use it to shower and write. (Like now). Or I can use it to exercise and shower or I can use it to grocery shop and run errands. Some days I squander it entirely by laying in bed and reading or taking a nap. Such luxury. And after Ellen gets home, it’s just the 2 of us until later in the afternoon when the older kids get home. It’s so much easier than the days I spent pregnant with a baby and a preschooler. Those were tiring days. I feel like I’m still recovering from the last 15 years of sleep deprivation. But the fact is, my kids usually sleep through the night and I can always catch a nap if I need to. So what should I do with myself when all my kids are gone all day? It’s not that I don’t know what to do with myself. I can think of a million things I’d like to do. But I haven’t had this much discretionary time for years! I’m thinking hard about what to do with it.
There are a few things I’m excited to jump back into:
Volunteering 1 of 6A lot of parents volunteer at their children's school. Between room mother, PTA, Community Council, writing the newsletter, and helping out in the classroom, you could volunteer full-time at your kids' schools. I tend to get burned out on this stuff so I try to pick just one major thing per year. But once I've got the whole day free, maybe I'll up my involvement. I'd also love to work more consistently with my local animal shelter, the United Way, and the Food and Care Coalition.
Exercise 2 of 6I know this should have been the first thing to add back into my life as soon as I had an hour to myself, but I'm just not passionate about it. If I've only got 2 hours, I'll use those 2 hours to read or write. But once I've got 6 hours to spend however I want, maybe I could get a little more serious about an exercise routine. People seem to be really into running and zumba.
Household 3 of 6I say 6 "free" hours, but really they're not. There are still bills to pay, cars to register, laundry to put away, and meals to plan. With a bit more discretionary time, maybe I can start doing these things in an organized and efficient manner instead of haphazardly dropping balls all over the place. Think of the closets I will organize!
Hobbies and Crafts 4 of 6I've pinned enough projects on Pinterest to keep me busy until my last kid graduates from college. Time to find my crochet needles and dust off the sewing machine! I can start learning all those things that old ladies seem to know. You have to start some time.
Working 5 of 6I don't have child care or nannies but with kids in school for most of the day I could feasibly return to a full-time job. I could go back to teaching college writing and I wouldn't have to grade papers with a baby on my lap. I could blog all day. I could ramp up my writing and finish a novel. I could become the next JK Rowling! It's fun to think about.
“Nothing” 6 of 6I could bask in the glory of doing nothing. I could leave wide stretches of unscheduled time in my day so I'm free to take a meal to a neighbor or pick up a sick child from school. I could be available to serve and help where I'm needed. I could read and write and paint my toenails and go to lunch with friends. I could go to movies in the middle of the day and learn to play the guitar.
It’s really exciting and fun to see my kids grow and to finally have some free time on my hands. But it’s a little scary, too. I understand why women get baby hungry. I’m not baby hungry, but after defining yourself in relation to your kids for so long and, in my case, leaving full-time work to stay home and raise them, I realize I’m not in that comfy (though tiring!) sweet spot of being a cute young mom with the latest Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag. I now inhabit an awkward space of being the lady trying to get back into the workforce or taking a Beginning Crochet class. I know that the young moms think I’m a little bit irrelevant—I know that because I thought it about “old ladies” whose kids were all in school when I was 25 and having babies. It’s OK. I don’t care what they think. Their kids will get older just like mine did.
Have you noticed how motherhood is a continual reinvention of yourself? Good luck with yours!