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Battling the Back to School Blues

How stay-at-home parents fight the "empty house" rut when kids return to school.

Moms everywhere jump for joy when the stores stock up on backpacks and sharpened pencils because it means the school year is approaching and they will soon have eight hours for themselves.

However, once the morning school drop-off is done or the bus pulls away, sometimes returning to an empty house is daunting. After a long summer of being at the kids' beck and call, a stay at home parents may feel a loss for what to do with all the free time, and find the silence in the usually loud house rather eerie.

Not only is the stay-at-home parent relieved of child care duties for the majority of the day, but instead of being at the center of their children's world ("Mom, I'm Hungry!", "Mom, I need help!", "Mom, can we go to the pool?"),  she becomes a second string player who can barely get noticed (Mom: "So, what did you do today at school?" Kid: "Nothing.")  All of a sudden, you have to fight for attention when you spent all summer not having a moment to yourself, and your child's teacher has suddenly become the utmost authority on everything, leaving you feeling dethroned and jilted.

If you are a parent of a kindergartener, the feelings of loss can be that much more powerful. Your worries over your baby's wellbeing at school are only compounded by the "empty house" sense of loss, and the realization that your little person is growing up.  While these feeling get easier to deal with in the subsequent school years, each first day of school brings the reality that your child is another year older and more independent.

So, on those early September days when stay-at-home moms may feel like their stock has gone down a few points, there are some things we can do to get out of the empty house rut, and appreciate all that goes with the school year routine.

Make a to-do list: Remember all those things you had the best of intentions to do over the summer, but didn't happen? Now's the time to cross them off the list--from house maintenance to organizing photos to financial planning--you have the time to really accomplish a lot!

Schedule your appointments: The idea of dragging the kiddos with you to a hair appointment, dentist appointment, or heaven-help-us, a gynecologist appointment is a personal nightmare. Catch up on your check-ups, get rid of the summer ponytail and get a new fall haircut, and schedule those preventative health appointments you've neglected over the summer.

Set some personal goals: When every day is all about the kids, it's easy to lose sight of who you are outside of parenthood. Doing things for yourself while the kids are in school will refresh and reenergize you to be a better parent when they come home. Think about things you'd like to accomplish: creating a fitness routine on your own or with the help of a trainer, learning a new skill set like a digital photography or computer program course online or through a local college, maintaining your professional skills through classes, professional association membership, reading professional journals or articles, and updating your resume, or looking into part-time work, or working from home.

Carve out time for yourself: So, you haven't read a book that doesn't have illustrations for three months. There should be no guilt in taking a break and doing something you enjoy. Read a book, meet a friend, work on a scrapbook, sit in front of Pinterest or even a guilty-pleasure TV show for a bit. After the summer-long mommy marathon, you deserve a break today...and maybe tomorrow, too.

The start of the school year requires stay-at-home parents to switch gears, to return some of their energy spent all summer on entertaining their kids back to their own needs and wants. While the return of school days may bring mixed emotions, turning one's attention to some personal TLC will make for a healthy and happy start of the school year.

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