There are those inevitable questions in life that we are all faced with
at the predictable times. When we graduate from high school: "Where are
you going to college?" When we leave college: "Where are you going to
work?" After dating for what is perceived to be an acceptable amount of
time: "When are you going to get married?" After marriage: "When are
you going to have kids?"
It's human nature, I suppose, that we are always looking to the "next thing." So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when, three days into my youngest son's kindergarten tenure, I had already been asked numerous times, "So, what are you going to do with ALL your time?" Because I am not a procrastinator, panic set in. How come I did not anticipate all this free time, and was I now a slacker for not having a plan?
Before my kids were born, I had a career. Because of that, I think people sometimes expect that if you have chosen to stay home with them when they are small, some magical clock chimes once they are in school, and it is now time to go back.
I also acknowledge that I have been very lucky to be able to stay home for the past five years full time and another two years part-time with my older son. This arrangement did not arrive without significant initial uncertainty and sacrifices along the way. However, because of the choice my husband and I made, our household and our family have become accustomed to someone being home to handle the multitude of tasks that keep a family running.
And for my part, I have gotten used to certain duties concerning the kids and our home that I am not ready or willing to relinquish. OK, to be perfectly honest, I could give up the laundry. But I am thinking about other tasks such as taking the kids to school, working in their classrooms, picking them up and talking about their day, sharing an after-school snack, driving them to activities, and all the other tasks stay-at-home parents do that add up.
Now, I am in no way saying that it is impossible to work and raise kids. I see lots of moms and dads doing that and doing it quite well. In fact, those parents should be admired for their ability to balance outside work and family. I think I am just being realistic that I don't think I can do it all. Also, I know deep down how much I enjoy my work at home despite the frustrations and hang-ups that occur along the way.
Besides, when I think about the potential of going out and applying for a job, my responses to the interviewer proceed somewhat like this: "I can be here by about 10 after I take my kids to school and I need to leave by 2:30 to pick them up. Additionally, I need to leave at 1:30 on Mondays for early release and Tuesdays I volunteer in their classrooms so I need Tuesdays off. And did I mention I really do not want to work weekends or evenings and if my kids are sick, I will be staying home. Also, whenever they have a school play, party, field trip, concert, sports practice, game or hangnail, I will not be able to come in."
I have not computed the exact amount of minutes of free time my new schedule actually provides. But I do know that a typical day involves getting the kids off to school, picking up the house and keeping it stocked with food, making lunches, dinners, volunteering, helping with homework, paying the bills and running the household errands. And by the time those things are done, it's time to get to bed and start over again. And let's not forget the chore near and dear to all of our hearts: the laundry!
This leads me back to where I began: What am I going to do with all this time now on my hands? I will aspire to do all of the above and participate as much as possible in my children's elementary school experience. Because I know I am lucky to have been given this opportunity to stay home and that soon enough there will not be an opportunity to work in their classrooms or have lunch with them at school or ride the bus on a field trip to the zoo.
Maybe I am on my way to figuring out what I will do with my extra minutes. After all, I did find the time to sit down at the computer and write this piece. But right now, I will probably go fold the laundry.
Jane Rosenstein is married and mother of two sons. Previously, she worked as an attorney. She is also a five-year survivor of breast cancer.