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Life After Kindergarten

When school-age kids free mom up to go back to work: now what?

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My youngest child is about to enter kindergarten.  When he does, he will hop on the bus at 9am with his two older siblings and not return home until 4pm.  For the first time in almost ten years, I will find myself with an empty house for seven full hours.  

Now, this time is of course open prey for the laundry lists and lists of laundry that need to be done, the appointments that need making, the errands that need running, the chores that need doing.  Naturally those household duties never go away.  But.  With kids out of the house, I can actually devote sustained focus to something. 

I know that some will read this and think that this admission reeks of privilege.  I know that some moms have had to work all along.  Some moms have juggled and stretched and figured it all out with their game faces on.  But when our babies were born, my husband and I agreed that we wanted one of us to be able to be here during those early years.  And so I have offered private tutoring on nights and weekends for extra money (and a sense of professionalism), devoting my full time hours to my house and kids.  And that wasn’t easy, either.  

But my landscape is shifting, and I feel it deeply.  My babes still need me around, but I am not in the trenches of motherhood anymore.  I have more time for myself, more time to think and to plan.  Having school-aged children will mean that I can channel some energy back into a career, but what will it look like?  

When I consider going back to work, I can’t quite picture myself returning to my pre-kids teaching position, as quite honestly it requires way more of myself than I am willing to give it.  Before I had my own kids, my students were my kids.  Before school, after school, during prep periods, and even on weekends (I worked at a boarding school), I was constantly interacting with students, and I loved it.  But I cannot do that now.  I don’t want to capsize the now-cruising vessel of a household that I’ve established with blood, sweat, and tears.  I want to work more, but without upsetting the rhythm of our family.  I don’t want them feeling the strain of my absence when they are running out of clean socks, eating fast food for dinner, and coming up on the last roll of toilet paper.  I don’t want them to be the only kids with no money at the bookfair or no Field Day t-shirts because mom was too busy to keep up with the flyers sent home.  

“So if I’m not going to teach, what would I like to do?”  When my husband asks me this innocent question, it never ends well.  The open-endedness of it makes my eye twitch and I immediately launch into the aforementioned fears of rocking our tightly-run ship.  Ever since becoming a mother, I think of my goals in relation to my family.  I’m unable to see myself as a separate entity in order to answer this question of what I would like to do.  This does not mean that I’ve given up on the hopes and dreams I had when I was young, but now those hopes and dreams include raising good kids in a home that they love.  If I were to choose a new path, throw myself into a challenging, fulfilling career of my choice, it might be exciting and rewarding.  But it might also ultimately leave me stretched too thinly, filled with doubt and regret.  Half-hearted commitments and sloppy follow-through aren’t for me.  I want to feel good about what I’m taking on.  

As I write this, though, I am coming to the realization that I need to trust my process.  I need to use that list of mom anxieties in order to make a plan.  The structures that I have in place at home that I don’t want to suffer (making healthy dinners, keeping on top of schoolwork, arranging activities, etc), I have to visualize as my framework.  They are my starting point and from there I can build an interpretation of what my picture will look like.  I can consider jobs that will fit what I have already built, because I don’t think I can be happy otherwise.  I need to embrace the room for expansion and grow confidently while knowing that I am not compromising my foundation. 

This is not the first time that writing has helped me find clarity.  I suppose I should take that into consideration and be open to the possibilities. Thanks for taking this ride with me as I figure things out.  I hope you are in a place where your blueprint makes sense for you, and if not, I have faith that we’ll get there together.

Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.

- Oprah Winfrey

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