Note: This post is the long awaited answer to "The Question" that I've been pondering for some time now. It's not in any way meant to elevate my chosen occupation over any other, but rather my attempt to define what it is for me. Because sometimes, people want to know.
When you stay at home once your kids are in school, you probably actually won't. Much. Because you have BEEN HOME and you are ready to get out a little.
You will have a list of things you have been meaning to do once the kids go to school, and you will be eager to start getting it all done.
And you will. Start. But it will probably keep growing faster than you can get things done.
Because when your kids go to school people will have your number. On speed dial. They will be eager to help you figure out what to do with all the time you have on your hands. And when they call on you to help, or to play, or to go to lunch, you will be happy to say YES! Oh, it will feel so good to have the freedom to do that. It will especially feel good to help, because you haven't been able to do as much as you would like while you have been busy taking care of kids 24/7 for who knows how many years. And help you will.
You will probably help at school. You will sign up to help at the class parties, because seriously, who doesn't love a party? And if you are a picture taker, you will sign up for the yearbook. After a few years, you will wise up and realize that if you are in charge of the craft at the party, you won't get many pictures taken, and you will let the other parents sign up to help while you take pictures. When you get home and realize that your own kids are in a whole lot of the pictures, it will make you smile, but you will have to figure out how to make sure they are not in all the ones that make it into the yearbook.
You will probably help with book fairs and picnics and special friends day and soup labels.
You might go on field trips. And if you are really lucky, your kids will have teachers who welcome parent volunteers on a weekly basis or more, and you will love being a fly on the wall to see what your kids act like at school. They will probably run over and hug you when they see you arrive, and their teacher will not mind at all. You will correct papers or prepare materials for projects or help kids with math and reading.
The teacher will thank you often, sometimes even with a note or a gift, and you will think that this is the LEAST you could do to help her have more time to teach.
You will be available to help at church with things that happen during the day. You will make it to those funerals of the elderly members you have been lucky enough to know and love. You will probably take a casserole or a salad for the meal afterwards. On a really good day you will make one to take to church and one to leave at home for supper. Most times you will hope that enough of the church one is leftover to bring home. Usually it won't be, and since you spent grocery day at a funeral, your family may or may not eat something you found in a box in the freezer for dinner. You will get to eat lunch with people you know, and you will enjoy remembering. The family will send you a thank you note, and you will think that you should be sending THEM a thank you note.
When you stay at home once your kids are in school, you will realize you now work the second shift. You will stop volunteering to be on committees that meet in the evening or on weekends, because that's when your kids are home, and
they will have homework. And practices and games and church activities. There will be conversations and fun to have together. You will think that with all the free time during the day you should get all of your laundry and shopping and cleaning done then, so you can be available to your kids after the bus arrives. You might slip up and agree to be nominated for church council and accidentally be elected. It's ok because they usually only meet once a month. Your family will survive without you. Dad can do homework too.
Your kids will be gone almost seven hours a day. SEVEN HOURS! You will think about meaningful ways to invest those hours in finding your own identity apart from being so and so's mom. You will join a Bible study or a book club or a Moms in Touch group...there will be plenty of things you could join. You will consider that an awesome social life, and you will give very little thought to the fact that those things also do some other people some good (especially when you agree to be the leader), because you feel spoiled to be able to do them.
You will sign up to teach Sunday School or organize Vacation Bible school because you have plenty of time to work on such things while the kids are in school, but you will be surprised at how the crunch time happens when they are at home. Every. Time.
After all, your kids will be home more than you think. It's not really school five days and home two. There will be Monday holidays and professional development days and conferences and teacher conventions. They will no sooner go back to school after Christmas vacation, than you will start filling in your new calendar and realize they will have two full weeks of school out of the next seven.
You will wonder why on earth you seem so busy, and why you haven't had time to retrieve the laundry you did three days ago from the dryer. You will find yourself thinking that this is an unusually busy week in what is normally a very cushy schedule, and next week will calm down considerably. You will think this pretty much every week. You will learn to say no, and you will hate that, and still, too often, you will say yes.
You might also think it would be good if you could earn a little money. You know, to start saving up for college. You might even have a hobby that would make a good home business if you did it for people. It would be perfect because you would have complete flexibility.
You could make a website
and some business cards. But you will hardly ever hand them out because you have no idea how you could actually find time to do the work if you had it. When people ask you what you do, it would never occur to you to say, "I am a small business owner." You will say you stay home with your kids. (But not much.)
When you stay at home once your kids are in school, you will think about the reasons why you get to do this, and thank God that you don't need to earn a paycheck. You will thank Him for providing for you, and for a husband who doesn't mind working hard, and who appreciates the value of what you are doing for him and your kids every day. You will be humbled and in awe that you have such an amazing privilege. You will ask God to help you use this gift of time in a way that is worthy. And by his grace, that's just what will happen. Whether you're aware of it at the time or not.
When you stay at home once your kids are in school, Mondays and Septembers will be your paychecks. But the best paycheck of all will be knowing that you will never have to say, "I wish I would have had more time to spend with my kids."