I’ve been home full-time with my kids for the past five years. This week, my youngest starts kindergarten. Those of you who work full-time may not realize what a huge transition time this is for at-home parents when their kids start school.
This is the time we feel judged by people who think we’re home all day doing nothing. (This could be actual judgement from people or what we’ve imagined in our heads, either way, it’s all the same to us.) This is a time when whatever self-imposed pressures and expectations come to light as well.
There’s a lot of uncertainty.
Maybe that’s why I dislike the, “What are you going to do now that your kids are in school?” question so much.
The way it’s framed, or possibly my perception and sensitivity to the question always puts me on the defensive. It always makes me feel like I have to justify my importance as an at-home parent.
In the past, I’d always answer with a joke or a brief list of household chores I’d be doing, but it still bothered me that I felt like I had to defend myself. Once we talked about it and moved on to a different topic, the question would usually hang over my head for a while.
“What are you going to do once your kids start school?”
Maybe it bothered me because I didn’t have a clear plan. I knew there were certain household jobs I’d spend more time doing without my kids around, but surely that couldn’t be ALL I was going to do. I wasn’t going to spend 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. each day buying groceries, folding laundry, scrubbing toilets, sweeping floors and picking up dog poop in the yard, was I?
Holy shit — that sounded depressing. No wonder I was bummed every time someone would ask me what I was planning to do in the fall.
One night, when my wife was working an overnight shift and the kids were in bed, I got out a piece of paper and wrote down what I would actually do with my time and what I wanted to accomplish this fall. I’m not going to lie, that 15 minutes I spent organizing and coming up with a plan did more to help me than I could’ve ever imagined.
Here’s how I did it.
First, I came up with some general categories, and things I wanted to do once the kids start school that fit into those categories :
- Volunteering – School on Wheels (lunch-time tutoring of at-risk kids), helping out at my kids’ school
- Making Money – blog, occasional house painting, managing our rental property
- Recreation – golf, fishing, blog promotion on social media
- Household Stuff – chores, repairs, etc., etc.
- Exercise – running, weightlifting
- Social Life – running club, golf, coffee with friends
Then, I tried to break down how frequently I’d be able to do all of these things:
- Daily – Household stuff, exercise
- Weekly – Volunteering, making money, social life, recreation
Finally, I came up with some goals I can reasonably accomplish by the end of the year:
- Fall goals – Complete and publish my stay-at-home-dad book, run a half-marathon in November, get better at golf, begin second book, be a guest on a podcast
That was it!
I felt like I’d organized my days for the rest of the year. While doing this, I also realized I didn’t need to have a plan for the rest of my life, just some short-term goals. Later this fall, I plan to work more on goals for the next year, two years, and five years.
If while reading this, you feel like I did earlier this summer, I’d highly recommend trying this out to see if it works for you, too. Or, if you know someone in this situation and you think they’d benefit from it, please share it with them.
A version of this first ran on Indy’s Child. Photo: Kevin McKeever