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Both Kids Are In School. Now What?

I look around my living room and let out a long sigh. Disaster zone is the only phrase to describe what I see—the kids have plowed through again.

Somehow a mini-golf match, a super hero fight and a bunch of knights with swords have come through just a few hours before. The boys are sound asleep in bed right now. As that sigh quiets I think to myself, "Only three more weeks, and they will both be in school. Only three more weeks."

My oldest is starting full-day kindergarten at the end of August, while my youngest will head to preschool for the first time this year. I have three very quiet mornings to look forward to each week— three mornings consisting of about four hours where I can have a clean house (maybe) and actually get something done without being interrupted (definitely).

The big question is what will I do? I can think of four tempting options:

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I've been on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the past six years. Before that, I was working 50 to 60 or more hours a week at jobs that demanded my time and a whole lot of hand-holding. I became a freelancer/stay-at-home mom just over four years ago. My work hours have been sporadic and many times I work into the wee hours of the night just to stay on top of projects. It's not easy, but it is a life I have gotten used to over time.

Once both of my boys are in school, my schedule will open up. What will I do with that time? I'm not sure.

So how will my days change? Will my nights still be taken over? I have no idea. This next year will be another year of upheaval for our family as I, the mom, figure out what my next steps in life and career will be as my boys enter the land of full-time school schedules, homework and field trips.

I'm not the only mom who faces this conundrum. There are more than a few stay-at-home moms out there who left promising careers to be with their children. It was the right decision for us, but is the office something we want to go back to? That's something only each of us can decide. There are other options to fill our time while we work it out though.

1. Volunteering

Yes, you could give back to your community. You could be a classroom parent, help out at the local library, build houses with Habitat for Humanity or write the community newsletter. Volunteers are always needed, you just need to find what interests you and works with your schedule.

2. Go back to work

Although my husband and I talk about it, going back to work full-time in a corporate setting just isn't realistic for us at the moment, nor do I want to do it right now. Snow days, random days off from school, illness and summer breaks make it hard to be a mom at work all day without paying for full-time childcare to pick up the holidays and late nights at work. But I could go back to work. Maybe not right now, but maybe when my youngest is in kindergarten and gone most of the week. For now, I want to be there for my kids when I can be, which I can since I am a freelancer and work from home.

Let's get real though. If you aren't working out already, chances are you won't now. But this is the time to do it.

3. Work out

Oh, how I dream of dropping my son off at school and working out all morning to get my pre-pregnancy body back. It was a good body. It worked for me. This is a viable option for many mothers. Why drive the kids all the way to preschool just to have to pick them up a few hours later? You might as well get in a good workout, run some errands and pick your kid back up. Let's get real though. If you aren't working out already, chances are you won't now. But this is the time to do it. Go for a run, grab a friend for a walk and get moving.

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4. Coffee with friends

Remember those days when you could sit with a friend at the coffee shop and have an actual conversation without interruption (the waitress doesn't count). Those days are back. Take the time to reconnect with friends, see what they are up to or just bring a book and sit by yourself with an herbal tea to relax. The bills can wait until later. Give yourself at least one morning off per week.

I am needed every second of every day right now. If I get a solid six hours of sleep without interruption, I call it a good night. Once both of my boys are in school, my schedule will open up. What will I do with that time? I'm not sure. I'll definitely be working, but maybe I'll start hiking a few of the trails I've been hearing about in town.

Then reward myself with a hot cocoa at the new coffee shop.

Image via Twenty20/BrigitteStanford

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