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Home Alone(!)

Back-to-school takes on a whole new meaning for me this year. Staring down a daily schedule of 1, 2 and 3:30pm pickups for my three students, I bit the bullet and “extended” my younger two children to correspond with my first-grader’s day. Call it afterschool activities, call it enrichment, call it anything you like — I call it a little slice of heaven. I’m empty nesting and it feels good.

From 8 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon, I am utterly unencumbered. When someone asks me if my newfound status feels weird, I ponder for a brief moment before replying, “Yes, but good weird.”

Full-time freedom is much different than part-time freedom. Last year, once I dropped the kids off, I felt as if I had been shot from a cannon — so great was my haste to get things done. Faced with an hourglass of quickly draining sand, I flew from store to store, task to task, errand to errand before sprinting back to pick them up in an exhausted and frazzled state.

Now, this pressure has abated. Go the store. Don’t go the store. Who cares? I can always go tomorrow. Or the next day. You get the point.

“What are you going to do with yourself all day?” the boys’ teachers ask me curiously (if not enviously).

After trotting out the tired old clichés of bonbon eating and soap opera watching, I find myself asking the same question, “What am I going to do all day?”

Now I no longer have the excuse of not enough time to focus on my hobbies, fitness or career. Defenses No. 1, 2 and 3 for the post-tornado look of my house have just vanished before my eyes. Similarly, the reliance on processed and frozen foods for dinner — poof! Gone.

OK, that’s a fair trade. Cooking and cleaning are a worthy price to pay for solitude and serenity. The ability to think uninterrupted thoughts and to execute tasks with efficiency and precision during the course of a day is not something to be discounted.

Another benefit that I hope to realize from all this time to myself? More patience with my children. With the whole day at my disposal to tend to home/work/PTA business, I’d like to focus on them and their needs when they return in the afternoon. Aspirations of me becoming a be-aproned and bubbly housewife-aton are unrealistic, I know, but a mother who is present with them and not preoccupied with one eye on the computer screen, the other on the pot of boiling water and the phone pressed to her ear will be a welcome sight to everyone.

After a few short days, I find that the new schedule is working out nicely.  I’m experiencing a new sensation of missing my children and looking forward to seeing them at the end of the day. My emotional tether is much longer when it comes to dealing with squabbles and homework struggles.

And I’ve yet to eat a single bonbon.

Judith Margolis Friedman is a freelancer writer and mother of three. She prefers to think of chocolate as a food group.