School has been in session for over two weeks. For parents whose baby birds are out of the nest for most or all of the day now, I ask: “Are you making the best use of the time they’re away?”
This may seem a silly question for parents who work outside the home, for whom every day is dictated by some required and measurable production.
But for parents who stay home full time or work part time, September can be a transition period of re-grouping and re-directing energies from daylong childcare to other endeavors.
When I think back, the most difficult part of transitioning from full-time employment to full-time parenting wasn’t a loss of income or purpose.
It was learning to juggle the needs of kids with short attention spans with household tasks that often went unfinished for undetermined and unpredictable amounts of time.
After a while, one becomes a master juggler. No amount of interruption can knock a master off stride for long. They became better at scheduling, organizing and meeting the needs of each individual family member.
But once we’ve become master jugglers, we inevitably find ourselves, at times, with less to juggle.
School is in session and you’re not being interrupted every five minutes. You’re ready to do all those things that require more than five minutes of attention but your attention span still seems wired for those short, spontaneous bursts of activity.
The slowdown can feel like paralysis, an uncertainty of what to do next.
Maybe you’ve been meaning to organize closets. Now might be the time. But cleaning is only spiritually uplifting to the oddest of oddballs. So keep cleaning tasks to a limited daily routine. Don’t focus too intently on triviality.
Some shop. I’ll admit gliding in and out of stores without having to keep track of small children can be glorious.
But when the instinct to search between the racks for your offspring begins to permanently fade away, maybe you’re shopping too much. The economy’s need for a boost doesn’t make daily shopping trips as noble a cause as one might think.
Others become fitness-minded. The gym beckons with its structured classes and hive of activity.
You get back into shape and you feel good. That’s great. But just how taut do abs need to be? At some point, exercise can go beyond fitness into the realm of vanity.
(Some will say I’m being sour because I don’t like to exercise. This may be true.)
But I’m really referring to lifestyles that unintentionally become self-interested.
I’m just not sure any activity should be too “me” focused for too long. It goes against who we are as a care giving people.
Finding opportunities to care for others, even in some small way, will bring you greater joy. I guarantee it. Surely with kids off to college or kindergarten, there’s a sliver of “me” time that we can devote to community service.
So consider your priorities and set a schedule for both personal development and community involvement. And you’d better do it quick before the kids get home!