So your youngest child, your baby, is heading off to school. The years of sitting on the floor, playing trains and tea party went by in a flash, didn’t they? How is it already over? And, as if your emotions aren’t already a hot mess, you’ve probably been asked that inevitable question: “Are you going back to work? What will you do all day?”
What will I DO all day? You mean, other than what I already do all day? Like buying meat and fruit and bread and shampoo and toilet paper and then searching Pinterest for new chicken dishes they’ll eat and ideas on how to sneak in vegetables, washing their clothes, folding their clothes, scheduling their doctor’s appointments, filling their prescriptions, buying them new shoes and socks and underwear and snacks for their lunches, volunteering in their classrooms to laminate books, and plan Valentines Day parties, and decorate bulletin boards, vacuuming my house, dusting my house, scrubbing toilets, sewing Cub Scout patches and Girl Scout patches on uniforms, rushing to the school to pick up sick kids, nursing sick kids… Oh! and maybe getting a 20-minute workout in for myself twice a week?
You mean other than that?
(Except for every 4th Monday when they have a half-day, or on snow days, spring break, fall break, winter break, summer break, teacher workdays, Presidents Day, and Labor Day when they’re off from school…)
Well, that’s what you want to say, right?
What IS that question anyway? What will you do all day?! As if now that our kids are in school we are gifted with this giant swath of time from another dimension? As if the 874,000 things we already do dissipate into thin air?
And you know what else? If, by chance, I do have a few hours here and there to myself once that giant list above is completed, want to know what I think I might do? Find myself again. I know, that sounds cheesy. But that’s a big difference between working and stay-at-home moms. (Not a knock on working moms—I was one once. I have the utmost respect. Bad-ass moms right there who probably inject coffee into their veins in the break room.)
But stay-at-home moms give up their former identities when they quit working. For example, I used to be a teacher. When I introduced myself, I’d say, “Hi. I’m Karen. I’m a teacher.” My working mom teacher friends still get to say, “Hi. I’m _____. I’m a mom. And a teacher.” But those of us who gave up our careers have that identity stripped away. For many women, that’s exactly what they want and the loss of their career title doesn’t create a void.
It did for me.
So another thing I plan on doing with “all my time” is remembering myself. Now that all the butts are wiped and all the diapers are changed and all the babies have been nursed to sleep, it’s Mommy’s time. Mommy put herself on the back burner (sometimes on no burner, if we are being honest) for years. And she was happy to do it, because it’s the job she chose—the most important job in the world. But you know what? Before motherhood, she was something else. And she misses her.
That doesn’t mean we all have to jump back into our power suits or heels and dig out our old briefcases. You may be ready for that world again. But maybe not. What it does mean, however, is that after nine years straight of the un-showered yoga pants playdate life, it may not be a bad idea to take some time to think about who you are. About who you want to be.
I know I’m going to.
Who were you before you became a stay-at-home mom? Do you miss her? Is she still in there?
I was an English teacher. I loved words. I loved books. Reading and writing and reading other people’s writing was my life. Thankfully, I work from home now as a writer, so I’ve been able to tap into my skill set and use my brain for something other than remembering my kids’ birthdays at the pediatrician’s office. But for a long time, I struggled to call myself anything other than a mom. I’m changing that now. I’m remembering who I was 10 years ago. And I’m bringing her back.
So in the fall, after I drop my baby off to kindergarten, I’ll probably head home to unload the dishwasher, throw in a load of clothes, and sort away a pile of Shopkins and Legos. But when I meet my son’s teacher that morning, I’ll say, “Hi. I’m Karen. I’m his mom. And a writer. It’s nice to meet you.”
Just in case you’re wondering what I’ll do all day.