Free time. Sometimes I feel like I would give an arm and a leg for a little bit of free time. To have lunch with friends. To go to the gym. To take a nap. To read. To go to the grocery store all by myself. To do nothing.at.all. I knew when I signed up to be a stay-at-home parent that I would have little time to myself. I also knew that with my husband’s job, which has us moving to a different country every two or three years, that having a set of grandparents (or two) close by to provide some regular child-free relief was not going to happen. In our journey across the globe, we’ve been fortunate enough to find our place and develop our circles of friends. The expat communities in Thailand and Poland have been good to us, and we know that if we have an emergency, we can call on the support of our friends to help us out with the kids if need be. That is the way it works when you are abroad. You help each other out. And I am so grateful for these friends and their support.
But, still, when you are a stay-at-home parent, particularly not near close friends and family, you spend an extraordinary amount of time with your kids. This is of course exhausting, but also wonderful. You get to witness every little new thing they discover, the days their mood begins to change and they develop new facets of their personality, and watch the bond between siblings grow (yes, a time does come when they stop fighting constantly). Your life is so wrapped up in theirs that it is hard to imagine a time when it will no longer be that way. Their every little move is known to you, and yours to them.
But, one day they will go off to school – all of them (in my case, three) – and then, you will actually have free time. Think about that for a minute. You, without needing to feel guilty, will be able to do what you want to do – whether that is going back to work part-time or full-time, or taking on a new hobby or two, or just enjoying the peace and quiet for awhile. This is your time. So what will you do?
I am not going to lie. I have about 18 things on my plate that I would like to do when the kids start school. I’d like to start writing more often and for more publications, I would like to write another children’s book (and hope that it will be successfully published this time). I would like to train for and run a marathon. I would like to learn to swim and bike correctly and try my hand at a triathlon. I would like to become a good photographer. I would like to get back to writing thank you notes, planning ahead of time, and reading. I would like to cook and not be rushed. I would like to explore the city – take tours, visit the non-kid friendly museums, mosey about Krakow’s beautiful old market square.
So yea, it’s safe to say I’ve thought about what I will do when the kids go to school. But sometimes I wonder if the thrill of free time will peter out quickly. The reason I stopped working five years ago was to stay at home with the kids.
Will I be able to feel that my life is fulfilling when they are no longer at home, nor fully dependent on me? Will what I plan to do with my time be “enough?” Will it fill the void of not having them around? Will my time be useful? And if so, to whom will it be useful?
I have talked to other mothers who have the same concern. One friend in particular who just went through the process of sending her boys off to school for the first time (she home-schooled them previously) has struggled with feeling whether what she is doing in her free time “enough?” When your role – for years – is to raise sweet little beings into strong, confident, and loving children, and then one day the time you have to do that is cut back significantly – what will that feel like? Will it be a blow? Will it be a relief? Will it be bittersweet?
At a minimum, it will be an adjustment. And while I don’t have any answers, yet, it is just one more milestone on this path of parenthood.
Are you a stay-at-home parent? How have you adjusted, or how will you adjust, to your kids going to school?
p>This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Loren Braunohler of Poland.