Kindergarten Empty Nest: “What are You Going to Do With All Your Free Time?”


A stay-at-home mom.When my youngest starts kindergarten this year, I’ll be home alone every day for the first time in over 11 years. After a pretty unstructured summer, with only a few camps scattered in, it will be a huge change for all of us to be apart.

As August passes, I’m filled with nostalgia, sadness, excitement, and anticipation of what’s ahead. There are so many projects I want to tackle, ones that have been put off for said 11 years, but I know the “free time” I’m imagining won’t be as abundant as it sounds.

Everyone I meet these days asks me, “What will you do now that your kids are all in school?”

I appreciate that people recognize another huge shift in my life (aren’t moms always going through seismic life changes?). At the same time, I’m a little surprised that everyone assumes I will have so much free time on my hands. I feel like I’m supposed to have a laundry list of tasks and projects that I can rattle off to justify that I’m not working outside the home.

Maybe I’ll enjoy a quiet kid-free lunch where I can make something healthy instead of finishing leftover chicken nuggets and grilled cheese crusts.

I’ll enjoy riding in the car alone without refereeing fights, handing back snacks, or listening to kids’ songs.

Probably I’ll be doing all the things I’ve been doing all along, like shopping, cleaning, bill paying, and generally organizing our lives, except I won’t have to do it with someone attached to my leg, needing to eat or nap, wanting to play, or making a giant mess.

It’s funny how some people tell me, “I could never be a stay-at-home mom.” In other conversations, I’ve heard people talk about “those moms” with “all this time on their hands.”

Trust me when I say that a mom that stays home, even if her kids are in school, is not at a loss for what to do with her “free time.” She is not getting manicures and working out all day. She’s not at a leisurely lunch in town. She’s not perusing Home Goods and redoing her house.

She’s getting kids out the door and off to school. She’s cleaning and doing laundry. She’s grocery shopping and running endless errands. She’s volunteering in school, sending a million emails, and organizing after-school activities. She’s on (or even running) the PTA. She’s a coach, a scout troop leader, a book fair/walkathon/school dance/art in the classroom chair. She’s a room mom, field trip chaperone, and library volunteer. Sometimes, in a pinch, she’s even a substitute teacher. Then, in the afternoon, she drives all over town and comes home to make dinner and help with homework.

All moms, in all stages of life, are working hard for their families. It’s never a competition over who has it harder, and I have yet to meet a mom with time on her hands.

Are you going through yet another life change as a mom? How do you feel about the next stage?


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