My kids are in school… Now what do I do?

I thought that I would homeschool my children. That’s what my mom did for her four, how some of my friends were also raised, and how one friend said she would spend the early years with her eventual children. I got started on homeschooling, used the teaching skills I’d picked up from working in an elementary school, taught my daughter the preschool lessons and about halfway through the kindergarten materials before finally giving in to her demands for a “real” teacher. We were ahead of schedule, so she started attending kindergarten on time while also having already learned half of what they would cover in the year. I had to get started on my son’s handwriting, so we quietly started in on the more involved preschool lessons while she learned that Mommy had been a real teacher to her. My daughter was stubbornly refusing to agree with me on letter sounds… Until she found out that first week that her kindergarten teacher said the exact same things for each letter. She was reading full sentences just a few weeks into kindergarten and hasn’t slowed down since. My son, having a sweet patience that his sister still hasn’t gained, waited for me to ask if he wanted to continue learning with me or to go to school like sister. I was a bit disappointed by the answer, but he went to kindergarten with the same six-month lead and has slowed only a little in the several years since.

But what about Mom? What is a woman supposed to do when her all too independent children are out of the house from 7:45 AM to 3:15 PM most days of the week? First I attempted to tackle my Braille lessons, sewing, knitting, gardening, and new-to-me recipes with renewed vigor… And just felt very lonely without my “little helpers,” so that didn’t go well for long. Second, I played with some hobbies I hadn’t gotten to try before having kids &/or had completely dropped during nesting. Painting went pretty well, when I remembered to tidy away my supplies before my kids got home, not so well if I forgot to stash the paints. Beekeeping went well for the one summer I got to have honeybees, but I had to give them away when we moved house. Multilevel marketing is not something I’m good at, so I lost a bit of money on two fun ideas that I slowly timed out of qualifying as an independent consultant. Ballet was fun, and good exercise, but adult classes aren’t available in every dance studio and I don’t have a decent barre replacement so I had to stop when we moved house again. Looking for a job didn’t go very well the first time, “We don’t offer flexible hours or part time positions, you’re stuck with the time we picked for work. We can see that you want to be home when your kids get home from school, but all shifts end at five (or seven, or nine), no exceptions.” The second round isn’t going much better, mostly the same businesses are hiring as two years ago and they’re still just as unaccommodating. Strange how the more flexible employers are never short of staff, but the stubborn ones almost always have that “Help Wanted” sign on the door.

Theater season is always energetic, intense and thrilling… Until global panic about a new virus shuts everything down. My local theater group is preparing to open for the upcoming season, but they haven’t explained how they plan to reduce the chances of spreading contagions. I’m crazy and constantly renew my hope, so I signed up to participate in the show anyway. I lost a few pounds of body fat by relearning how to eat well and have fun with exercise through the Noom app (no, I’m not down to my goal weight yet, give me a few more months). I started learning Italian on Duolingo and have made it past the first two tiers, but that doesn’t take much time out of any given day. My sisters and I had quite a few big events planned for this year, but our plans had to change as quickly as everyone’s.

So, in the midst all of the uncertainty, two of us finally got around to opening a little online store for a couple of cartoon characters we thought up several years ago. Not that it’s profitable yet, but it gives us a reason to block off a few hours twice each week and collaborate on designs, product options and such. Plus we have this shared blog that we’ve each agreed to work on one day per week. In the next few weeks we’ll start a YouTube channel where we’ll drink tea &/or eat something one of us cooked up, and talk about life from our perspectives. We’ve started considering who to invite as guests on our soon-to-be fabulous YouTube show. With all of this going on, my smaller projects are looking easier and are getting done a bit more timely than before. A dress I started making a few months ago for my daughter is very nearly done, just in time for her birthday.

I’m still sorting out the rest of my weekly activities, looking for something else to do that will take up a few hours on a specific day of the week and preferably earn some money for the next item on my very long list of lifelong goals, hopes and crazy dreams. Nobody has all of the answers to the questions that arise throughout life, but we can get closer to figuring them out when we talk things through with friends. My way of piecing a new routine together may not be for you, it’s not even what I want it to be yet. But I have found that my life is happier when I view most things with curiosity rather than fear, most people as relatives and friends rather than potential threats, and most difficulties as rocks in the mountain path of life.

Now you get to tell me off in the comment section… Or you could answer at least one of these questions that my heart is asking you: What’s one positive way you have changed what you do in the average week (besides wearing masks for safety) over the past year? What do you hope to add into or subtract from your calendar for a better new year? And if you didn’t have to work for money, what work would you do just for the fun &/or love of it?

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