About a year ago, whenever I was having a particularly difficult day with my toddler twin sons, I started consoling myself by whispering, "Only 12 more months until preschool." Knowing that one day I wouldn't need an endless supply of patience helped me keep my cool in the moment when my kids were acting less than perfect.
When they were shrieking like wild animals that couldn't be contained or treating me like a human jungle gym, I would daydream about how quiet and peaceful the house would be once they were in school. As time marched on, my mantra slowly changed from 12 months to 11 to 10, all the way down to two, and now preschool is right around the corner. But now that the day I've been waiting for is almost here, I'm not excited. I'm freaking out.
What does a stay-at-home mom do exactly when there are no kids around?
For the last three and a half years, I've been a stay-at-home mom, with a heavy emphasis on the mom part. Through a combination of my own anxiety in leaving the boys with a babysitter, our financial means (or lack thereof) to hire help and the fact that we live at least an hour away from family, I haven't gotten many breaks from this parenting gig, unless you count nap times. The time has passed in a flurry of diapers, bottles, binkies and then sippy cups, first words and solid foods and, more recently, singing the ABCs, refereeing arguments over whose turn it is to play with the red car and the never-ending hell that is potty training.
There were days when I was so happy that I felt like the most fulfilled person on the planet, and moments when I hid in the bathroom and guzzled chocolate chips straight out of the bag while the monsters who claimed to be my offspring banged on the door. For the most part I've enjoyed staying home with them, but all three of us are ready for a change. The boys are eager to socialize and learn new things, and it's important for them to learn how to take direction from other adults besides me and their father. I'm eager to have the opportunity to go to the bathroom without fear that the walls will have been decorated with a marker mural while I was in there. But beyond the fact that things are going to be much more Zen at home, I didn't consider how my daily activities will change once my kids are in school.
I recognize that I'm in an extremely fortunate situation. My family is in the financial position where I don't have to return to work outside the home if I choose not to. I have a part-time job I can do from home for extra income. My husband is a college professor, so taking a day off to tend to a sick child or cutting out early because the kids have a half day isn't easy for him. My being available for the kids when he can't be is what works best for our family.
Between summer vacation, snow days, half days, holidays, the days the kids catch whatever nasty bug is going around and the fact that preschool is only three days a week this year, I know I'll still have plenty of days when the kids are home with me. It's the other days I'm worried about.
Chances are I'm overthinking this, that once the kids are actually in school I'll find that between volunteering in the classroom and keeping up with the house, I'll feel even busier than when the kids were home all day, every day, with me. Maybe I'll look back on how I thought I'd have free time on my hands and laugh. But until then, I'm nervous. I didn't realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in being a mother, and now that my kids are on their way out into the world, I'm realizing I may need to figure out who I am without them again.
I always knew the start of preschool would be a big change for the kids, but it turns out it's just as much a time of transition for me as it is for them.
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