Staying Home Instead
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol.18, No. 5, November-December 2001, p. 217
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
My son is starting a full-day kindergarten this September after having been home with me since birth. He's so excited! I had thought I'd be returning to work when he reached school age, but I've just found out I'm pregnant again. Because I plan to stay home again with this next baby, and because my first pregnancy had a lot of complications, my husband and I have decided that I shouldn't get a job right now. At first I was thrilled at the idea of having all that time before the baby to organize my papers, decorate the house, and bake elaborate treats for my family. But as the first day of school approaches, I find myself getting scared. I'm so used to focusing on my son's activities, structuring my errands around his stamina and patience, and having my social interactions with other mothers during play dates, that I honestly don't know how to organize myself without him. How do other mothers handle this kind of transition?
I found that the time my child was at school seemed to fly past! You'll probably find that you're getting up a bit earlier to get your son dressed and fed, and putting energy into getting his lunch and snacks together. If you have to drive a carpool to get him to school, your free time won't really start until you get him out the door for that, or until you get home from driving the carpool. The end of the day will be similar-getting him home from school, getting him a snack, and hearing about his day.
It sounds, to the uninitiated, as if you'll have hours to get your work done, but I haven't found that to be the case for me. You still have laundry to do, basic picking up and putting away, and there may be pets that need tending. Then you need to subtract the amount of time you spend volunteering for your son's class.
The big issue will probably be deciding what is important to you and scheduling it in. I like to exercise as soon as the carpool is off to school. This provides me with a bit of social interaction, and it's the time that my seven-month-old son will be most happy with the wonderful care providers at my facility. (Last year when I was pregnant, I often substituted the company of other expectant mothers for my workout.)
Running errands and grocery shopping will be easily done when your son is at school. Stores tend to be less crowded during the daytime, and you will be able to shop at your own pregnant pace. Cooking is logically done shortly after shopping.
In order to make certain that you get your paperwork done, you might try to schedule it at the same time every day. If you need to, write down your schedule for the first few weeks. It may take a while to adjust to your new routine.
Don't lose track of the mothers in your son's playgroups. Some of them may be expecting new babies soon or in the future, so you may have the beginnings of your next playgroup already. I enjoy mixed-age playgroups more than single-aged groups, and I think the children do too. If the women are your friends, keep in touch with them and nurture those friendships. Soon enough, your new baby will be here and your routine will change again.
Boulder CO USA
I remember how it felt when my youngest went off to school and I was alone during the day for the first time in about 12 years. There was so much I wanted to do! I could read, sew, shop, or even take a bubble bath without hurry or interruption. Not that I considered my children an interruption, they are my first priority, but I felt ready for a little space. To give my day some structure, I used to jot down a "do-today" list on days when I felt I needed a little extra focus.
Instead of scheduling errands and activities around naps, I found myself scheduling them around when the children would be coming home from school, school holidays, half-days, parent-teacher meetings, or meetings of the school parents' organization. I believe you will find that life falls back into a regular routine pretty quickly without much effort.
For socializing, now that you've "outgrown" playgroups, you might sign up at the community college for a class in something that interests you. You might volunteer a few hours a week at the local library or hospital, or at your son's school.
You might look into getting more involved with your local LLL Group. Planning and Evaluation Meetings can be a lot of fun. Taking on a Group job will keep you in contact with other mothers who share your parenting philosophy. Even with my children past the baby stage, I still prefer to turn to my LLL friends when I need support. They understand where I'm coming from and where I'm headed.
Georgetown TX USA
How exciting that your son has grown up so much that he is ready to start kindergarten! You must be so proud of him. And what a wonderful piece of news that you are expecting again! It can be overwhelming to face the prospect of so much change in your life, and you are right, your daily routine will be very different with your son away in school.
I would encourage you not to jump into multiple projects right off the bat. Give yourself some time to adjust to the change in your schedule. You'll probably want to focus on your son for a short while as he acclimates to school. This might be a perfect time to spend some time in the classroom as a helper, and then gradually ease back your time as you find necessary. You may decide to create a new routine that gets you and your son ready to get to school on time, leaving you ready to face the day and whatever comes your way while he is away. Being dressed and ready to go out the door first thing in the morning can be a big adjustment, especially if you haven't had to in the past.
You could create a list of "dream" projects that you'd like to complete during your "sabbatical," but don't be too hard on yourself if you don't check off every item on the list. The time will really fly quickly these next few months, and it may put a lot of unnecessary pressure on you to look around and see things uncompleted. If you have a history of complicated pregnancy, that can throw a kink into the best laid plans.
There's always the idea of doing lots of advance cooking, to save yourself time and energy once baby arrives. If you plan to decorate a nursery, the planning and mental arranging can be often as enjoyable—and time consuming—as the work itself. Some time away with your spouse might be a nice excursion, especially if your big kindergartner makes a new best buddy with whom he could possibly stay overnight. Don't forget to attend La Leche League Series Meetings before your new baby arrives. It will help you learn more about breastfeeding, meet other women who are expecting or currently breastfeeding, and make a contact with a Leader so that if you do encounter any "wrinkles" with breastfeeding, you'll know just who to call!
These are exciting days for you! I wish you all the best in your school transition with your son, and am sending lots of good pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding thoughts your way!
Oklahoma City OK USA
When my first child started school I was under the impression that my "day job" was over. Four children later I've discovered that my contribution to my child's education began again on the first day of school. We chose public education for all of our children and with each of them my contribution was different. In the early days of schooling I felt I needed to be involved in classroom activities. In our school district, parents often help with special projects and field trips as well as with day-to-day tasks in the classroom. You haven't really lived until you have ridden on a school bus with 100 children! It's a wonderful opportunity to remain in touch with what your child is learning academically and socially.
As my children moved into middle school and high school, they wanted a bit more space from me. So I worked in the school office or the library, where my children could drop in to visit on their own schedule. I was also able to know what the other children were doing, and who my children hung out with. I knew all their teachers and they knew me.
The best thing I did for myself was becoming more involved in LLL! I volunteered for a few special jobs during the few hours of free time I suddenly had. Not only did I learn a lot more about mothering, I also learned a lot about my talents and interests. An extra benefit for me was that my work with LLL helped me to stay grounded to what is really important to me: my family. That is why even now that my children are 27, 25, 23, and 15 and I am a grandmother, I am still volunteering, not only at my son's school, but with LLL.
Marysville WA USA