In my former life I was a school teacher. Quitting my job to stay home with my children was the best decision for my family. I transitioned slowly to the new role of stay-at-home-mom, but I grew to love the freedom of being home and deciding the daily influences on my children.

kindergaten-empty-nestFor seven years I stayed home. I went from being the sole playmate to the mother of two boys who would rough and tumble and love and laugh for hours with each other. We had playdates, craft projects, park visits, stroller rides, board games, Target trips (thank you lollipops!), and, yes, even lunch at McDonalds. We took classes at the YMCA and visited the local library. The day was packed full, exhausting, and rarely quiet. The house was a mess and the sound of the garage door sent all of us running to meet Daddy at the end of his work day. It wasn’t glamorous work, but someone had to do it, and I was glad it was me.

But when my youngest child dared to turn five, my role in the world I knew changed. In an instant, I went from being needed every waking moment to having a completely quiet house with no one to answer to but myself. Though the transition was hard, there is life after the kids go to school, so I offer suggestions for making the transition more smoothly.

First, allow yourself time to grieve. When you are a stay-at-home-mom there are days when you feel like you live in a cave. The sounds echo off every wall. Your children grunt and groan. They run around in their underwear in the middle of winter. But when you crawl out of the cave to find stillness, you will find yourself wanting to run back into the cave! The cave has been your sanctuary. Allow yourself some time to ponder the days gone by. One of my first days home alone, I started to cry when I found Dragontales on TV and watched it by myself.

When you are done grieving (though it will come and go), shout at the top of your lungs. Really, do it! I can’t remember what I yelled, but when I did, no one answered. I had a perfectly quiet house where I could be Queen for the entire day. It is liberating to realize that you can set your own schedule any way you choose.

So, now that you have that realization, the next thing you need to do is decide what you want to put on that schedule. It could be that you want to get your house organized, shop without children weighing you down, or have lunch with your girlfriends. It could be that you want to be a school volunteer or help at the local nursing home. Maybe you have been wanting to take an art class or write that book that has been formulating in your mind. You need to have a plan, one that might change each day but that will give you structure for your day.

Next, you need to implement this plan. Is it ok to sit on the couch and eat bon-bons all day? (I don’t even know what those are, but I know people that assume that is all moms do anyway. Grrr.) Sure, take a bubble bath. Take a nap. But doing so on a regular basis is a set-up for disaster. You are re-defining your place in life with your plan. You have the opportunity to do and be all that you never had a chance to do and be before. Don’t waste this opportunity because you can’t find anything to do. Laying around the house all day every day will squash your inner voice that needs to be let out and may cause you to be depressed.

Your plan might include re-entry into the workplace. Great! You have put your career aspirations on hold to stay home. You may desire to get back to work outside the home, or work from the home in the quiet of your home office, as I do. It doesn’t matter so much what your plan is, so long as you take the time to make it, stick to it, and adjust it as you change.

Having your child go to kindergarten is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. Allow yourself to experience the emotion of loss as you move from one phase to another. Learn to redefine what interests you. And don’t worry, they’ll be home at 3:30. Chaos will ensue once again!