It’s official: My ‘baby’ is now a Kindergartener. After ten years as a Stay at Home Mom, both of my kids are now in elementary school and I am here in an eerily (wonderfully) quiet house.
Many of my Stay at Home Parent friends are in the same boat. Some are doing cartwheels down the street, some are bursting into tears every time they see a stroller getting pushed down the street and some are starting to panic. Sure they’re struggling with the idea of their baby growing up too fast, but they’re also worried about what having their youngest go off to full-time school means for them.
Does this mean it’s time to start looking for a job? Am I still qualified for a job? Do I even want a job? What the hell do I want to do with my life now that it no longer completely revolves around this little person?
I was in the same boat last year when we switched my son to a full day Pre-K program. I was filled with anxiety. I felt this overwhelming pressure to immediately go back to work yet had no idea what I even wanted to do. I was practically left gasping for breath when my husband and I dropped off the kids on their first day back to school and his last words to me on his way to work were “Happy first day of the rest of your life!”
Do not fear, my friends. I have come up with a solution for Stay at Home Parents who have just sent their youngest off to Kindergarten.
Introducing the Stay at Home Parent Sabbatical.
In many companies it’s customary to offer employees a sabbatical every 7 years. If you’re the SAHP of a new Kindergartener, you’ve likely already put in your 7 years of work (yes, pregnancy counts, and yes, even though being a SAHP is not a paid job, it sure as heck is work.)
That means you’ve earned yourself a SAHP Sabbatical.
By definition a sabbatical is “a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to travel, rest and do research.” I have included an easy to use form at the bottom of this post so that you can calculate the proper duration of your SAHP Sabbatical.
Think about it, you had nine months to mentally prepare yourself for the idea of shifting gears from full-time career to full-time parent-hood. You deserve at least the same amount of time to prepare for reentry into a non-child-centered life.
What does one do on a SAHP Sabbatical? Based on the definition above, you are supposed to ‘travel, rest & do research’.
Travel: Unless your kid’s kindergarten is one of those live-in boarding schools, chances are your ‘travel’ will have to remain pretty local. In my case, most of my ‘travel’ consisted of ‘traveling’ to the mall and Costco to do all of the errands that I put off while being consumed with the craziness of entertaining children over summer break. If you’re lucky, you may even get to travel to all of those exciting doctors appointments that you’ve been putting off.
Rest: The main challenge of resting in your home without the non-stop distractions of children is that you start to notice all of the projects that you’ve been putting off for years and should be doing now that you have seven child-free hours each day. I’ve found that the best method of distracting yourself from these pesky to-dos is watching marathon sessions of Orange is the New Black on Netflix while simultaneously checking your Facebook feed at an alarmingly frequent rate. This step lasts approximately 1-2 weeks depending on which Netflix series you choose to binge on.
Now comes the hard part.
Research: The most important component of the SAHP Sabbatical is ‘Research.’ If you’re one of the lucky ones, you may already know you want to do “with the rest of your life.” Maybe you know that you don’t want to go back to work so you’re available for school functions, volunteering or other family needs. Or maybe you’ve been counting the minutes until you could finally go back to work and you’ve already sent your resume out all over town.
But if you’re like me, you may be so confused about your future that you feel like you need to do research just to figure out what you should be researching. In my case, my career field (digital marketing) had changed so drastically over the past ten years that I felt like I was starting from scratch. Plus, a decade home with kids can change a person. The job you did before you had kids may not appeal to you anymore (or maybe you’re remembering that it never appealed to you in the first place.)
This is the perfect time to make a change and try your hand at something new. My first step was taking approximately a hundred career assessment tests and reading a bunch of career guidance books.
In fact, I named my blog The Dusty Parachute as a response to the title question of the famous book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” My answer was “My parachute’s so dusty I can barely tell what color it is!”
I decided to start my blog both as self-therapy as I worked through the huge question of “what do I want to do with the rest of my life?” and also as a way to research and educate myself on all the ways that my previous field had changed over the ten years that I was home with my kids.
If I had followed my initial gut reaction and panicked and jumped at the first job that came along I would have never had this opportunity to explore my love of writing. I wouldn’t have discovered the cool niche freelance opportunities that are available in my field. I wouldn’t have realized that despite my children’s complaints about how they wish they had a nanny, I really do love having the flexibility to be home with them after school.
You’ve spent the past several years dedicating your life to your kids: wiping noses, kissing ouchies, refereeing arguments, playing every game they can come up with and researching activities, playgroups & preschools to help give your child the best start on their road ahead.
Now it’s your turn to concentrate on your road ahead.
So, if people start to hammer you with questions about what your plans are for “all your free time” now that your youngest is going off to Kindergarten, just tell them, “I’m taking my Stay At Home Parent Sabbatical…and I’ve earned every minute of it.”