For the first time, I will have three kids in school full-time. After almost eight years of being a stay-at-home mom, I find myself asking: What now?
Things didn’t go according to my carefully thought-out plans. Last year, I was supposed to have an elementary schooler, a preschooler, and one kid at home with me for one last year before she, too, was off to school. What a nice stair-step it would be, a gradual transition from stay-at-home mom life to the freedom that comes with kids in school full-time.
Instead, we homeschooled through the COVID year, and all three kids were at home all day, every day, for what felt like forever. We’re going from one extreme to the other. My three kids are now a 2nd grader, kindergartener, and preschooler.
Don’t worry–I am not one of those people who will tell you that the years flew by in the blink of an eye and to enjoy every moment. I did my best to soak it up, but this stay-at-home mom stage of life still felt l-o-n-g. Tacking a pandemic onto the end of it didn’t help, certainly. Still, when I got the email that officially let me know my daughter had officially been granted a spot in pre-k, my eyes welled up with tears. No matter how excited I am to regain some time to myself, this is a huge transition.
“What are you going to do with yourself now that the kids are in school?!” is the refrain from anyone who knows about this new phase our family is entering. The truth is, I have no problem at all thinking of a million and one things I’ll do with my time. Go on long walks (with earbuds! a podcast!), read lots of books, watch a television show of my choosing in the middle of the afternoon. Turn up the car radio, take a long shower, prepare one less meal and two fewer snacks every day. Spend a leisurely morning in a coffee shop, go shopping, meet a friend of lunch. The possibilities are almost endless. I may miss my children and their presence, but I know exactly how I want to spend my time.
I am taking a slow and meandering way forward. I am trying to be careful to not immediately fill up every hour of every day, and instead, I am prioritizing a few things as my kids start school full-time:
- I am prioritizing rest. You don’t need me to tell you that parenting is exhausting. The truth is, we moms work damn hard and deserve the opportunity to rest. A nap sounds really, really good right now…and with my kids in school, I’m going to take one. I am leaving plenty of white space in my schedule, and I’m also taking a break from social media in August. I hope this will help me choose activities that are actually restful (like napping and reading) instead of just distracting (like scrolling).
- I am prioritizing delight. As moms, our job is often to help our children be delighted! We plan playdates, give them slime and oobleck, throw dance parties, and bake cookies. But moms deserve joy and delight, too, especially after a traumatic year. I am doing things I think are fun, like scrapbooking and art journaling. I am listening to Hamilton and Harry Styles on repeat. I am watching You’ve Got Mail as often as I want. I am determined to make space for delight!
- I am prioritizing relationships. I am an introvert, and I love alone time, but I also don’t want to accidentally become a hermit who never sees anyone. I don’t want the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction, so I am thinking about the relationships I want to prioritize and the people I can reach out to (safely in the pandemic, of course!). I am going into the year ahead, thinking about who I want to prioritize relationships with.
I recognize how much privilege I’ve had over the years. I am so, so grateful for the time I got to spend with my children at home, exhausting though it was. And as much as is within my control, I want to appreciate and soak up this next season.
What am I going to do with myself? Well, I’m going to prioritize rest, delight, and relationships. And we’ll see what this next phase of life has to offer. I’m ready!