My youngest child is starting school in 2010. I've spent almost ten years as a stay at home mum, so I've been thinking a lot about what I'm going to do.
I'm not going to be doing a paid job. It just wouldn't be worth it for our family, in a lot of ways (financial, food, stress, the children's activities), so that's off the list.
But there are lots of other things on the list. So many that I made a chart and asked each member of the family to mark a tick or cross alongside each suggestion, with interesting results.
All agreed that I should concentrate on being a better housekeeper, with the inclusion of mending and making clothes. I feel like I have ten years of cleaning up to do, and it isn't going to be done in a week alone. I'm not surprised that this one was unaminous. I've been saying for years that I'll clean up the house properly when the youngest starts school.
All agreed I should do an art class once a week when the kids are at school. I haven't done an art class since I was pregnant with the child who is now five. This is what the old man who lives next door says I should be doing - he likes my artwork.
All are happy for me to exercise, which for me means swimming, dancing or going to the gym. They know the importance of being healthy, although the kids have some reservations about the possibility of me performing at their dance concert!
And all agreed they want me to help out at school - that is really important for them. Perhaps helping out at sport, and going to the special assemblies etc. Maybe helping with reading, but I'm not sure about being in the classroom - I have an aversion to that!. But I'll definitely keep going to the P&C meetings.
They all support my future efforts to write for money.
They think it is important that I help out my aging parents - their health and mobility are deteriorating and I'm thinking next year might be the one they move into a nursing home, which means cleaning out the house nine of us lived in, my parents for more than fifty years.
They want us to do more entertaining as a family, ie, hosting Sunday lunches or afternoon teas, which is work for me, but very enjoyable, and I like bringing people together.
The kids also want more excursions. Sadly, when my 7 year old was in the public speaking competition the topic was the zoo - she went once when she was two. My older daughter had to write in a journal each Monday, saying what she did on the weekend - one time she said she went to the laundromat. At the end of the year she had to write a poem on a place of significant she had been to. Other pupils in the class wrote about Uluru or Perisher or the Gold Coast - she wrote about Olympic Park pool. She had been there twice. We have a stay at home policy for a few reasons. My partner likes to stay home. Catching the train to work on weekdays is enough outing for him. I don't like to drive unfamiliar places and I hate motorways, so we stay close to home. And I figure if the kids are happy at the local park and pool, or in the backyard, then they wouldn't be more happy playing somewhere further away. If you're happy, you're happy, right? Also, I think children don't need to have done everything and been everywhere before they are ten. Perhaps I'm deliberately swimming against the tide, and I've swum too far, so it is time for more outings.
They don't mind that I plan to do a fundraiser for Women for Women International, which means making craft items, and organising other people to help.
No-one in the family wants me to continue being on the executive for the local community centre. It is a voluntary position and has taken up a lot of time, phone calls, emails and I've had to bring the children with me to the centre at times. They don't like it. Too intrusive. I'm committed to remain in my position until October 2010, so there is nothing I can do about it now, but promise them I won't be on the executive next year.
None of the kids want me to go to New York for the conference. I can understand. My partner supports me going if I give a paper. Instead I can plan to give a paper at the ones in Australia, which make the kids sad enough.
The younger kids basically object to anything that takes me away from them, or takes me to the computer. They don't want me to run the community bookgroups, because it means going to meetings and writing on the computer. They want me to be with them, and pay attention to them. Fair enough. I'm trying to do as much preparation as possible during these school holidays, so I'm ready as the months roll by. I'm hoping to put all my work into a blog, and see what happens.
The other prospect I was looking at was doing an MA in English, part time, externally, which I know I could manage. But I'm doubting I could manage it with all the other commitments. Perhaps I could start mid year or in 2011. I have friends who suggest I should just jump in - start out as I mean to carry on, or fill up the time to avoid the possibility of being pulled into other things, but at the moment I can see stress, and yelling at children, and me being overcommitted, so I'd better hold off. When I first suggested this to my family they were horrified. My nine year old said 'Mum, can you just cook, clean and make sure our clothes don't have holes?' She later suggested I should try having some fun. I know where she stands. She's a sensible girl.
I plan to keep blogging. I have lots of pieces in draft form that I park here, waiting for me to have time to develop and post them. The family gave mixed support, but I'll carry on.
I do realise that I don't have to do anything really, beyond basic cooking and cleaning and driving them around. Perhaps catch up on some reading. As my mother says, my first job is to look after myself and my family. But I like having projects, being involved with the community and testing myself. I feel like there is a lot to catch up on.
I'm glad I've asked them what they want of me. I need to keep it in mind as I take on tasks. Now I just need to remind them what I expect of them. Perhaps another chart?