Now that all my kids are in school, where does that leave me?

Once the carefree days of summer are over—a new chapter begins.

Now that all my kids are in school, where does that leave me?

A new season is fast approaching, and I'm not certain that I'm prepared. Truth be told, I've known this day was coming. I've contemplated it for months, years even. I've dreamed about it. I've spent countless hours trying to wrap my head around the fact that my life is about to take a drastic, inevitable turn.

The narrow road I have traveled over the past eight years is suddenly widening and twisting, dotted with signs, dangerous curves ahead. Once the carefree days of summer are over (replete with endless cries of “I'm bored," multiple interventions, and failed attempts to keep the pantry stocked with snacks), a new chapter begins.

This will be the first year that all three of my kids will be in school full-time. Perhaps this change is heightened by the fact that my youngest two are twins, so I am losing both of my babies at once. Perhaps I'm overestimating the impact this will actually have on my life. Perhaps I've created the proverbial mountain out of a molehill. Or, perhaps the feeling that this is a pivotal turning point in my life as a stay at home mom is, in fact, spot on.

Regardless, with the impending approach of September comes the age-old existential dilemma: Who am I?

Over the past eight years, I have enjoyed the joy (and sometimes hair-pulling craziness) of watching my children grow, being a part of each milestone, of every achievement and failure. My world has silently shrunk down to being wholly centered around my children.

As the kids have gotten older and changed, so have I. Everyone tells you how quickly time passes when you have kids, but no one warns you that time is also passing for you. I am not the same person I was eight years and three kids ago. I am no longer the career-obsessed, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office professional that I once was. I would like to believe that that I have been upgraded to someone softer, more nurturing, more patient, more understanding, and more tolerant.

But with that is also a sense that, somewhere along the way, I've lost a bit of me. When someone asked me what the best event of this past year was, it was difficult to think of something that was my accomplishment, rather than my kids,' My identity has become entwined with theirs.

Prior to having kids, I never imagined that I would be a stay at home mom. I expected that I would work and mother, balancing it all in perfect harmony. But the loss of my own mother and the birth of my daughter a year later changed my perspective. I opted out of my well-paying job, a decision supported by my husband, and one I have never regretted. But now the world is opening up, my small bubble ready to burst. I must face the reality that life is changing, whether I'm ready for it or not.

It's difficult to deny this inevitability with the endlessly repeated question from friends, family, and acquaintances: “What are you going to do with all that free time?"

What indeed.

I give the same pat answers I gave when the twins went to part-time kindergarten (and which are all, in fact, true):

  • “I have dreamed of grocery shopping alone."
  • “I'll enjoy having the house clean for more than five minutes."
  • “I will revel in drinking a cup of coffee, blissfully uninterrupted."
  • “I'll volunteer in my kids' classrooms."

But now it seems as though these answers are not enough. “Are you going back to work?" quickly follows.

Don't presume that I haven't spent hours exploring this very question myself. I miss a lot about working – financial independence, adult interaction, positive reinforcement, accessing now dormant parts of my brain.

There is also the guilt of not working. What will people think? When other parents ask at school drop off what I'm doing for the rest of the day, and I smile and shrug my shoulders, will I be judged? Considered lazy? Will I feel as though I have to justify my existence, my purpose in life? Will I find myself slipping into a depression with all this time alone?

If I do choose to return to work, will I be satisfied in my former career? Have I changed so much that that part of me has become irrelevant? I am also hit with the reality that the school day is three hours shorter than the work day and subsequent calculations of the cost of before and after school care, summer vacation, Christmas break, spring break, sick days, and all those days off in between.

I am approaching a curve in the road, unable to see what lies ahead. So I continue to hold on tight to these last fleeting days of summer, to my life as I know it. I feel an impending sense of loss, but also a tingle of excitement as I look to the future, to exploring the person I want to become—the new version of me—and to writing a new chapter, whatever it may be.

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This piece was originally published on Mamalode.

If you're contemplating the road back to work, our podcast “Where Was I…" provides a roughly-sketched road map for anyone wishing to return to work after taking a career break to care for their young children.

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    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

    $58

    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

    $42

    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

    $28

    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

    $18

    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    BABYBJÖRN

    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    26 phrases to calm your angry child

    18. "You are having a tough time. Let's figure this out together."

    Whether your child has a slow-burning fuse or explodes like a firecracker at the slightest provocation, every child can benefit from anger management skills. As parents, we lay the foundation for this skill set by governing our own emotions in the face an angry outburst.

    Next time you are dealing with a tantrum from a toddler, or cold shoulder from a teen, put your best foot forward by trying one of these 26 phrases to help your child calm down:

    1. Instead of: "Stop throwing things"

    Try: "When you throw your toys, I think you don't like playing with them. Is that what's going on?"

    This speaker/listener technique is designed to help communicate feelings in a non-confrontational manner. Not only does this keep the lines of communication open, you are modeling how to phrase a situation from your perspective, which in turn gives your child a chance to rephrase events in his (her) perspective.

    2. Instead of: "Big kids don't do this"

    Try: "Big kids and even grown ups sometimes have big feelings. It's okay, these feeling will pass."

    Let's be honest. The older your kids get, the bigger the problems they face, the bigger the feelings they have. Telling them that big kids don't experience anger, frustration, or anxiety is simply untrue. It also encourages children to avoid or quash emotions and prevents processing them in a healthy manner.

    3. Instead of: "Don't be angry"

    Try: "I get angry too sometimes. Let's try our warrior cry to get those angry feelings in check."

    A recent study reveals that yelling when we are physically hurt can actually interrupt pain messages being sent to the brain. Although your child may not be in pain per se, a warrior cry can work to release angry energy in a playful manner. Choose a warrior cry or mantra together with your child (think of William Wallace from the movie Brave Heart screaming “Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedom!").

    4. Instead of: "Don't you dare hit"

    Try: "It's okay to be angry, but I won't let you hit. We need to keep everyone safe."

    This gets the message firmly across that the emotion is okay, but the action is not. Separating the two will help your child learn to do likewise

    5. Instead of: "You're being so difficult"

    Try: "This is a tough one, huh? We're going to figure this out together."

    When children are digging in their heels, it is important to understand why. This phrase reinforces the idea that you are on the same team, working toward the same goal.

    6. Instead of: "That's it, you're getting a time-out!"

    Try: "Let's go to our calm down space together."

    This flips the script of “time out" to “time in," allowing for reconnection instead of isolation.

    7. Instead of: "Brush your teeth right now"

    Try: "Do you want to brush Elmo's teeth first or yours?"

    For toddlers, tantrums are a way to exert control over their environment. This way, you are offering your toddler a choice, and in turn, some control.

    8. Instead of: "Eat your food or you will go to bed hungry"

    Try: "What can we do to make this food yummy?"

    This places the responsibility of finding a solution back on your child.

    9. Instead of: "Your room is disgusting! You are grounded unless this gets clean."

    Try: "How about we just start cleaning this itty bitty corner of your room? I'll give you a hand."

    In lieu of focusing on the overwhelming task of cleaning up a huge mess, shift the goal to simply starting. Starting an undesirable task can provide the impetus and momentum to continue.

    10. Instead of: "We. Are. LEAVING"

    Try: "What do you need to do to be ready to leave?"

    Allow children to think through processes for the transitions in their lives. This helps avoid a power struggle and it gives them a chance to signal to their minds that they are making a transition to a new activity. This is also an excellent routine to role-play when you are not actually going anywhere.

    11. Instead of: "Stop whining"

    Try: "How about a quick 'do over' in your normal voice?"

    Sometimes kids whine and don't even realize it. By asking them to rephrase in a normal tone, you are teaching them that the way they say things matters.

    12. Instead of: "Stop complaining"

    Try: "I hear you. Can you come up with a solution?"

    Again, this places the responsibility back on the child. Next time your child is complaining non-stop about school/dinner/siblings, ask her to brainstorm solutions. Remind her there are no wrong answers, and the sillier she is, the better.

    13. Instead of: "How many times do I have to say the same thing???"

    Try: "I can see you didn't hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?"

    Having your child repeat back what he hears solidifies your message. Varying the volume adds an element of fun to the request.

    14. Instead of: "Stop getting frustrated"

    Try: "Is that ___ too hard right now? Let's take a break and come back to it in 17 minutes."

    It sounds random, but a research-based formula for productivity is to work for 52 minutes, break for 17. By taking a break from task-related stress, you come back to it ready to begin again, focused and more productive than before. The same concept applies to homework, practicing the piano, or playing a sport.

    15. Instead of: "Go to your room"

    Try: "I'm going to stay right here by you until you're ready for a hug."

    Again, isolation sends the message that there is something wrong with your child. By giving her space until she is ready to re-engage, you are providing reassurance that you will always be there for her.

    16. Instead of: "You are embarrassing me"

    Try: "Let's go somewhere private so we can sort this out."

    Remember, it's not about you. It's about him and his feelings. By removing both of you from the situation, you are reinforcing the team effort without drawing attention to the behavior.

    17. Instead of: (Sighing and rolling your eyes)

    Try: (Make eye contact, remember your child's greatest strengths, and give her a compassionate smile.)

    Practice keeping it in perspective by seeing the strengths in your child.

    18. Instead of: "You are impossible"

    Try: "You are having a tough time. Let's figure this out together."

    Always, always separate the behavior from the child, reinforce the emotion, and work together to come up with a solution.

    19. Instead of: "Stop yelling!"

    Try: "I'm going to pretend I'm blowing out birthday candles. Will you do it with me?"

    Deep breathing helps restore the body to a calm state. Being playful with how you engage in the breathing hastens cooperation. For older children, ask them to breathe with you like Darth Vadar does.

    20. Instead of: "I can't deal with you right now"

    Try: "I'm starting to get frustrated, and I'm going to be right here calming down."

    Teach children how to label and govern their emotions by modeling this in real time.

    21. Instead of: "I'm done talking"

    Try: "I love you. I need you to understand that it is not okay to ____. Is there anything you need me to understand?"

    This keeps the lines of communication open while expressing the emotion in a healthy way.

    22. Instead of: "I am at the end of my rope"

    Try: "If green is calm, yellow is frustrated, and red is angry, I'm in the yellow zone headed toward red. What color are you? What can we do to get back to green?"

    Give children a visual to express how they are feeling. It may surprise you what they say, and what kind of solutions they comes up with to change their direction.

    23. Instead of: "I am NOT changing it"

    Try: "I'm sorry you don't like how I ___. How can we do better next time?"

    Shifting the focus from the event to the solution eliminates the power struggle associated with digging in your heels about the event.

    24. Instead of: "Stop saying 'No!'"

    Try: "I hear you saying, 'No.' I understand you do not want this. Let's figure out what we can do differently."

    By acknowledging your child's “No," you are de-escalating the situation. Rather than arguing yes/no, change the script to focus on the future and the prospect of a solution.

    25. Instead of: "Stop overreacting"

    Try: "You are having a big reaction to a big emotion. If your emotion had a monster's face, what would it look like?"

    When kids are tired, hungry, or overstimulated, they are going to overreact. Putting a face to the emotion externalizes the issue and allows children to respond to their inner monologue of anger. This subsequently helps them exercise control over the emotion.

    26. Instead of: "Just stop"

    Try: "I'm here for you. I love you. You're safe." (Then, sit in stillness with your child and allow the emotion to rise up and pass.)

    When children are in the throes of anger or panic, often their bodies are experiencing a stress response whereby they literally feel unsafe. Letting them know they are safe supports them until the discomfort passes. This is a vital skill of resilience.

    A version of this article was originally published on Positive Parents.

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    Car seat safety isn't a gray area: Why one mom's story is going viral

    She texted her husband to remind him to tighten the straps. Minutes later, he was in a car crash.

    This story was originally published on August 01, 2018

    For most parenting tasks, there's more than one way to get things done. This is important to remember if you're parenting with a partner who has a totally different laundry system than you do or packs the diaper bag in a way that makes no sense to you. It's not the end of the world if the onesies are hung instead of folded or if the bottles are in the wrong pocket. We have to give our partners room to do things their way, too.

    But when it comes to buckling our kids in their car seats, there really is only one way—the safe way—and one mama is thankful that she reminded her partner of that just in time.


    Rebecca Tafaro Boyer is a new mom and nurse at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. On her first day back at work after maternity leave she asked her husband to send her hourly updates on how her 3-month-old son, William, was doing on his first day without her.

    When her husband texted her a photo of William in his car seat, Tafaro Boyer knew she had to let her husband know that there's really only one way to buckle a baby in. "My nagging wife reply was to correct William's position in the car seat—the straps were too loose and the chest clip was way too low. And because I know my husband, I'm sure that he laughed at me and rolled his eyes before tightening the car seat and fixing the chest clip," she wrote in a now viral Facebook post about the experience.

    Just 15 minutes after her husband fixed the straps, he and little William were in a collision.

    According to Tafaro Boyer, an unlicensed, uninsured driver pulled into oncoming traffic attempting to make an illegal left turn, and although her husband slammed on the brakes at nearly 50 miles an hour, he just didn't have enough time to stop and hit the other car.

    "My precious little bundle of joy was so well restrained in his car seat, THAT HE DIDN'T EVEN WAKE UP. Even with the impact of the two cars, William only received a minor jolt - so insignificant that he was able to continue on with his nap," Tafaro Boyer wrote.

    Her husband was injured, but baby William was snug in his Britax B Safe 35 car seat. Had the straps been left as they were, it could have been a different story.

    "I am so thankful that my husband took the extra one minute that was necessary to put William in his car seat safely," she Tafaro Boyer explained. "I truly believe that the reason my family is at home sitting on the couch with a pair of crutches instead of down at the hospital is because of my annoying nagging mom voice."

    Fellow moms are all up in the comments of Tafaro Boyer's post tagging thier partners and leaving notes like, "This is why I nag."

    It's not nagging if it's a safety issue.

    Sometimes our partners (or our child's grandparents or babysitters) just don't know that something isn't safe. We've got to tell them when they're doing something we know could hurt our child. That's a text worth sending. The ones about the way your significant other folds the laundry wrong, those are the texts you might want to keep to yourself.

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      Car Seat Safety