What are you going to do with yourself?: On answering that curly question.
‘What are you going to do with yourself once all the kids are at school?’ – Sounds like an innocent enough question and one that I’ve been asked rather frequently in recent times. Sometimes it’s a statement rather than a question, such as ‘You won’t know what to do with yourself!.’ I put this question in the same basket with other curly questions that people often encounter, such as ‘Are you still single?’ ‘When you are going to have kids?’, ‘Are you going to have more kids?’ and ‘Have you lost weight?’ But ‘You won’t know what to do with yourself’ has been said to me a few times recently, and not wishing to sound too defensive, I usually say something along the lines of ‘There are always plenty of things to do.’ Because that’s what I’ve found – even though two of my children are school age now, it’s still really quite busy. It’s perhaps not quite as intense as when they were little. It’s a bit cruisier and I have a bit more down time, however mornings before 9 o’clock are frantic, and afternoons after 3 o’clock are full. Though we don’t do a whole lot of after school activities, the engagements increase as they get older, as does the homework. I have a preschooler at home on Mondays, Fridays and Wednesday afternoons and I have a little down time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But as it so happens, my preschooler is about to start school in September at the ridiculously young and tender age of four and a quarter. I’m not too happy about it. In fact I think I’ll go and have a good cry into my coffee when she starts school, but I know that she will be fine, and I’ve taken the approach of when in Rome, do what the Romans do. She herself, can’t wait to go to school! Thankfully the curriculum involves a large component of free play in the first year.
If you’ve been a stay-at-home mum with children reaching school age, how have you found that question? I know that it’s probably said in jest, but sometimes that question does feel like a pressure. And there is a lot of pressure for mothers to get back into the workforce. I feel like it’s acceptable to be at home with children when they are preschoolers, but society expects you to get a job once they are school age. Yes I’d like to get back into the workforce in a part-time capacity, and of course it will help the old bank balance, but there are weeks that I wonder how that is going to operate in practice. My husband works twelve hour days. Being in a new country, the children have come down with one illness after the another in the last few weeks, and I wonder how I would manage this if my husband and I were both employed. There are also twelve weeks of holidays a year to think about.
I know this is a touchy subject, and I should probably add a disclaimer – I know that all our circumstances are different and this is in no way intended to be a dig at mothers who work outside the home. Truly. Kudos to working mums. Please hear my heart on this. I have been reluctant to address this touchy subject for fear of offending someone or stirring up the ‘mommy wars’. I know that I’m fortunate in this day and age to be able to stay at home. But do people really think that stay at home mums with school age children have nothing to do? Even with school age children most mothers find that their day fills up rather quickly. I’m inclined to think that all mothers work. Yep, that includes those with children at school.
If you have faced that question, how have you handled it with grace? I usually try and think of a witticism like ‘Oh I’m just going to lie on the couch, eat fairy buns and paint my nails.’ When children start school it can be a time for redefining our role. It can also be a time of great growth and opportunity for women. The opportunities are overwhelming and exciting. If you have returned to the workforce, how did you find the transition? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.