Summer is over, and it is time to say au revoir to your little loves. If your like me and your youngest is now in school, summer ending also means welcome to the “school-aged mom club.”  For seven glorious hours, give or take, you will be free!

Undoubtedly, you will have mixed emotions about how you will identify once the little ones are in school. This new journey in motherhood will make you a better person. You’ve given so much, and now it’s time to reclaim some of your time and invest in yourself.

Many of you can agree that in order to make this military life work, choices had to be made. Careers were put on hold or changed. Hobbies were pushed to the bottom of the list because who has free time when you have kids? These singular parts of your life were overtaken by your adorable children and the sacrifice felt 100 percent worth it.

However, since my last baby was born, I have to admit that I’ve dreamed about the day I would have all three kids in school.

Oh, the things I could do with just a couple of hours to myself! I could work out without being called to the gym daycare or go to Target with Starbucks in hand and casually graze the aisles.  I could take on a hobby, start a blog, or have a conversation with a friend without being interrupted every five minutes.

Photo: gotmunchies2nite/via reddit

My dreams of perusing the Target aisles alone, though, would soon be slightly altered by our first OCONUS PCS orders to Rome, Italy.  The land of carbonara and la dolce vita.  

Moving to a new country and simultaneously having to let go of the kids as they ALL went to school felt really conflicting for me — someone who considers herself a seasoned spouse and has spent years romanticizing the freedom of being a school-aged mom.  

Once a creature of habit, my schedule was off; 10 am used to be preschool reading time, and then it was just 10 am. It was easy to let the newness of it all get to me. Before, I always had a little companion with me when times got tough. I admit I was being selfish, but change can be hard. Having someone to share it with softens big changes.

But as life continued to move forward, there was no time for self-pity and feelings of inadequacy. My family flourished in their new surroundings in Rome, and I was lagging behind. I had no other choice than to motivate myself and do some soul searching.  

Here’s what I can offer for those joining the “school aged mom club” for the first time.

How to Transition to School-aged Mom Life

Do small things, consistently.

I had an abundant amount of time to conduct a self-study, meaning, I spent a lot of time thinking.  I learned that I did not like the feeling of being alone, not to be confused with enjoying my “alone time.”  This PCS turned my world upside down, forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. This meant that I had to go out and explore my surroundings, even if I was terrified because I did not speak the language.  

The more I went to the grocery store, laundromat, coffee bar, the more I grew confident in handling life alone in a new city.  With that, my outgoing personality began to flourish.

Visualize and focus.

Spend part of your morning motivating yourself and focusing on how you want your day to go. Visualization is a great tool because even when you’re not quite committed to doing something, your brain has already visualized and completed the task, therefore your body will naturally follow through.  For me, my mornings began with a quiet breakfast or coffee and writing a to-do list.

Schedule the housework.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your emotions of solitude and lack of purpose, you will more than likely seek solace in never-ending housework. It is easily justifiable, but it is also an excuse!

Housework is a necessary evil.  There is no way around it. I found these great printable cleaning schedules from Life as Mama to get you started.

Do something for you.

Self-care is thrown around the “mommy community” so much that it’s more confusing than it is helpful.  If you don’t know where to begin in your journey of self-care, I encourage you to do your research. However, do not confuse yourself with too much information.  Keep it simple. Do something for you that brings you peace of mind and do it every day.

It does not have to be the same daily activity, and it does not have to cost anything.  Something as simple as enjoying an afternoon coffee with a book in hand and going for a walk.  Or going to the gym and writing in a gratitude journal.

Mommy date … because you need a social life.

A new pool of eligible moms is open to you now that your kids are in school, and the beginning of the school year is a perfect time to make connections. You may feel like you have nothing to offer, but we are more alike than we are different.

Don’t be afraid to make the first move! Put your best foot forward and be positive, even when you’re not feeling it 100 percent.  Always be yourself and go with your gut.

Unplug from social media.

Being a mom and a woman is hard enough without having unsolicited opinions from the internet thrown at us from every direction. You don’t need anyone to validate yourself.  Your worth comes from within and it is reflected by the amazing job you’re doing in as a mom, wife, partner, and friend.

This is real life…

It changes like the tide and you need to be flexible, swaying with the wind. However, flexible doesn’t mean you forgo your needs as a result.

Sending your children off to school is a dress rehearsal for when they leave the house for good.  This is your opportunity to start living your life independent from theirs.

Every day you make an effort to take care of yourself means a successful day for you and your family.  It will not be easy nor will it be perfect. You may not even get it right on the first try, but every day you will learn something new about yourself.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Cristina now calls Rome, Italy home. She is embracing life as an expat with her Navy husband and three children, ranging from fourteen to seven.  

A lover of languages and culture, expat life is a perfect fit for her and her wanderlust spirit. Her training as a former 9-1-1 dispatcher has taught her how to handle any type of crisis. She enjoys interacting with her community by volunteering and sharing her travel adventures and family life on her blog