It is the time most highly anticipated by every stay-at-home parent — and also a time of fear and anxiety: school. When the last of your little ones trots off to kindergarten and your nest is empty for most of the day, you finally have some time and space to sit and breathe without tiny hands grabbing at your legs. Yet, all that time to yourself can be nerve-wracking — what are you supposed to do with yourself? How are you supposed to function when your home is so quiet and clean? Who are you anymore, without your kids around?
Here are a few ideas to help you feel productive and regain your sense of self now that your children are happily situated in school.
Go Back to School Yourself
Many stay-at-home parents willingly put off career advancement to invest time and energy into their families, but few want to step back into entry-level positions while the rest of their peers are involved in management and above. Fortunately, there is a way to skip the lowest levels of employment while pursuing your dreams and demonstrating to your little ones that education is of ultimate importance: going back to school.
You can enroll in an online master’s in psychology program, or another degree program that more accurately reflects your career interests. This allows you to fit coursework into your existing schedule. You might watch lectures and take exams while your kids are asleep or at school, but you can engage with simpler course assignments or readings alongside your children as they complete their own homework. Then, as your kids get older and require even less attention from you, you will have a degree that qualifies you for the type of advanced work you always dreamed of.
Get a Part-time Job
If stay-at-home parenting is your one true calling and you have little interest in a career beyond your commitment to your family, you still might be interested in finding a way to marginally increase your household income. A part-time job might not provide enough wages to pay for your rent or groceries, but it will offer some greater comfort to you and your kids.
Plus, there are plenty of part-time jobs that can take advantage of your experience with childcare. You might start by looking for opportunities at your kids’ school, which might benefit from a part-time classroom aide or a part-time office administrator. You might also look into part-time work at local daycares or preschools. Of course, if you want to spend some time away from childcare for a while, you can probably find day shifts at any local retail shop or café.
Volunteer in Your Community
You are not defined by the economic impact you can provide to your family. As long as your family has sufficient financial support, you should not feel it necessary to get a job now or anytime in the future. If earning a wage is not appealing to you, you might find more meaning through community volunteerism. You should consider causes that are important to you — like reducing hunger in your community or cleaning waste out of your community environment — and identify organizations dedicated to those causes. You don’t need to volunteer every day; you can participate only as often as you need to feel that you are making a difference. When appropriate, you can bring your little ones along to volunteer as well, which could ingrain in them the importance of giving back to their community.
Find a Meaningful Hobby
Stay-at-home parents rarely have time to participate in solo leisure activities, so you might use your newfound freedom to experiment with new hobbies. A hobby is any activity that you do purely for pleasure; it might be something involving physical activity, like lifting weights or hiking, or it might be something creative, like painting, baking or blowing glass. You can take classes to help you identify and improve in hobbies you love through local community colleges, parks and rec departments, retail stores and more.
Take a Well-deserved Break
You can do any of these, all of them — or none of them at all. Parenting is hard, and it is even more difficult when you stay at home without help. As heartbreaking as it might be to see your youngest walk through that kindergarten door, when you get home, you shouldn’t feel the need to do anything more than breathe, take a long, hot shower, watch a movie uninterrupted and eat a cookie without sharing. You are a parent, and you deserve a break for as long as it takes you to feel like you again.
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