8:01am—Life After Staying Home

Carrie Tinsley Stay at Home Parent

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I’ve come to a crossroads, one that every stay-at-home parent will eventually encounter: next fall, my three children will all attend school.

I’m not really sure how this happened—wasn't it only yesterday that I was slogging through the grocery store like the old woman in the shoe, with so many children she didn’t know what to do? They ran in three different directions, and we received the judgemental side-eye from strangers while I was stuck driving the cart with the huge plastic car on the front, yelling for them to come back and being so, so tired. But that didn’t happen yesterday. It was almost four years ago.

In my long-ago life as a working mom, I was a high school English teacher…a good one or a mean one, depending on which of my former students you ask. Last year, my professional teaching license quietly, unceremoniously expired.

My husband has hinted around at how far extra money would go toward helping our family’s bottom line. Just something part-time, he says. I know the kids will still need you after school.

Frankly, the thought of being in the real world again scares me. My professional clothes still hang in the closet, but I’ve traded them in for the ubiquitous yoga pants. What if I ask my co-workers if they need to potty? What if I need a break and hide in the bathroom to check social media like I do as a mom? What if I’ve completely lost my edge? What if I’m not good enough anymore?

I also look at my kids. Of course you need me. Of course I’ll still volunteer for everything at your school. Of course I’ll still wait in the car line to pick you up every single day. Nothing would change if I went back to work… But all of us know that isn’t true.

Slowly churning underneath my surface is wondering what’s around the bend. What will I do, who will I become if not the full-time, stay-at-home mother of these three children…if not a teacher, then who? Even if an amazing job fell out of the sky, would that boss believe I’m the right hire, even though I haven’t worked outside my home since Obama’s first term?

I can see the crossroads up ahead, the one where I drop three kids off at their schools Monday through Friday by 8 and then…and then…I don’t know. I’m not sure what happens at 8:01am.

Change is coming. When 8:01 rolls around, life will be different for all us stay-at-home parents who have changed diapers and potty-trained and made a million snacks and meals for our kids all their lives. We’ll hop in our SUVs and minivans and start a whole new chapter of parenthood, of our adult lives.

On my hardest days staying home, I dreamt of this moment. The thought of dropping everyone off and speeding away has been my mirage in the desert on the sometimes endless days of stay-at-home motherhood. Yet, now that the time has come, I’m intimidated to step back out there, and I want to hug my children closer to me and say Not yet…I want you back here at home with me. We’ve had a good run, and I’m not ready for it to end!

One of my favorite singers Sam Cooke once sang, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and he’s right. When 8:01 rolls around, everything will be different, and I’ll learn what life is like after staying home.

About the Author

Carrie Tinsley

Carrie Tinsley is a Southern girl, a recovering English teacher, the wife of a very patient man, and the mother of three kids, a dog, and a cat. She writes about everything from parenting misadventures and teaching to poor attempts at housekeeping and DIY at .

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