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Kindergarten Empty Nest: When your Youngest Child starts School

Written by M. Blesy

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!

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Friday, April 18, 2014
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  • Guest (Debby Barnes) Permalink

    Thanks you! I have been a stay at home mom for almost 12 years. I have loved (almost) every minute of it. Our youngest is 4 and I feel panic when I think about sending her off to school all day next year. Thank you for giving permission to grieve. No one talks about this and I was starting to feel alone. I will try to start thinking of a plan for this next chapter of my life.

  • I am so pleased to still be getting comments on this essay, even years after I have written it. I want to assure you I have "survived" the kindergarten separation. It really was a much smoother transition than I thought it would be. When my oldest started middle school I went through a similar emotion. I suppose that each stage of our children's lives will send a wave of roller coaster emotions our way. What I have learned is that we do survive. Our children (at least in my case) actually thrive on the new experiences of life. They now just laugh at "silly mom" and her tears and fears. My personal transition into the work force was a bit more challenging, having to try a few things before the fit was right for me and my family. I can't stop the clock. I wish I could, but even though my children don't "need" me in the same way as they used to, I know that they know that mom will always be here, no matter what stage of life they are entering. Best wishes!

  • I am so pleased to still be getting comments on this essay, even years after I have written it. I want to assure you I have "survived" the kindergarten separation. It really was a much smoother transition than I thought it would be. When my oldest started middle school I went through a similar emotion. I suppose that each stage of our children's lives will send a wave of roller coaster emotions our way. What I have learned is that we do survive. Our children (at least in my case) actually thrive on the new experiences of life. They now just laugh at "silly mom" and her tears and fears. My personal transition into the work force was a bit more challenging, having to try a few things before the fit was right for me and my family. I can't stop the clock. I wish I could, but even though my children don't "need" me in the same way as they used to, I know that they know that mom will always be here, no matter what stage of life they are entering. Best wishes! :)

  • Guest (Teresa) Permalink

    Thank you very much for your insightful article. I've been fortunate to stay home full time since my youngest of 3 kids was born. My husband works and is fully supportive. I was so looking forward to when the kids are at school all day. However, to my surprise and disappointment, I am finding this transition very hard. No, I don't want to go back to taking care of my kids at home, however, I am trying to figure out the next step to move forward with my life. Yes, your cave analogy is perfect. I guess when the nest is empty, we should get out of the nest ourselves slowly, gently, and one step at a time.

  • Guest (Sally) Permalink

    I loved reading this, sometimes I wonder if I'm doing enough and after reading the summary of your day I'm like, "hey I do all that and I love it too" but sometimes I feel like its not enough. I've read so many articles written by SAHM's who seem to be so miserable leaving the workforce and I do understand they have valid points, but I want to scream "it goes so fast enjoy it". So thank you, its nice to see some Mums LOVE being at home with their kids. I have four more years till they are both in full time school, I only look forward to it on extremely noisy days.

  • Guest (Erica) Permalink

    I was just looking for information about this , now as I sit all alone in my kitchen :-( trying to decide what I should do with my life now...My husband has a great job, I have always been with my children, I have two, my oldest is 7 and my youngest is 5. We have just moved to another city, so she goes to school 3 days a week, full time... and now Im starting to feel sad, I don't want to waste time at home doing nothing, I'm glad I found your post, I started crying too while reading it, just like Cassandra.

    from Idaho, USA
  • Guest (Tina) In reply to: # 875 Permalink

    I too am having a REALLY hard time with the idea of my child going to kindergarten. I am a mess and it consumes me. I know me child will be ok, I just wish it was easier to see that I will be ok.

    from Chicago, IL, USA
  • Guest (Kate B) In reply to: # 1066 Permalink

    I can't agree with this article more! I've been a working mother since my son was four years old and he's transitioning to kindergarten next fall. Even though I'm out of the house at work, I find myself profoundly saddened that he is going to kindergarten and I feel that my time with him is precious and fleeting. I am attempting to hold back the tears at my desk right now actually. Thank you for helping me to feel somewhat normal.

    from St. Louis, MO, USA
  • Guest (JustAMomof3) Permalink

    I am just now reading the article,and as I type with tear filled eyes I cannot help,but feel somewhat relieved that I'm not alone in feeling like this. I've been a Mom for going on 10 years now & that has been my sole purpose. It's day 4 into the first week of school ,and this morning was by far the hardest. I walked my baby into school, and was stopped by the principal as she assured me that my son would be okay walking without me. I of course choking back tears and shouting found myself surrounded by many other parents and a few of the teachers in the school as they chuckled at my resistance to letting my baby go. I leaned down asked him if he was okay & he shook his head at me and just smiled. I kissed him and told him see you later. Walked away feeling the most heartbreaking feeling in the world. Would my baby be okay? As a Mom and only a Mom all of my life it seems I don't quite know what to do. I've been battling these tears since the approaching school year hit me. I want to be happy and feel like I have the choice to begin to know myself and what I want to do,but at the same time I want to be close and available if any emergencies arise. This is hard. I know it'll be alright I just have to get over this hurdle and figure out what I want now as a Mom and a woman. Thanks for sharing this article it really helped me to know that I am not alone and weird

  • Guest (M Blesy) In reply to: # 1374 Permalink

    Hang in there. You are NOT alone. How was the first day?

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