This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
But returning to the out-of-home workforce after nearly seven years of being in the work-in-my-workout-clothes one means some significant changes are in store for both my family and me. Especially since this new job, while still part-time, will include regular afternoon and evening hours.
Now, my kids have been old enough to be at home on their own for some time, so I'm not planning on looking into any sort of formal childcare. But I've seen enough "ABC Family" programming to know that very little good can come from tweens and teens who have a little too much after-school independence.
So there's no question in my mind that coming home to an adult-free home means a whole new set of house rules will need to be implemented.
Should I go with "no friends over after school" if I'm not home? Or should I allow just a few of my kids' friends over whom I know really well? Perhaps most important of all, I'll need to put the kabosh on my teens having "just friends" members of the opposite sex over afterschool, right? Sure, I trust them. But not with dynamite.
Then, there will be the inevitable screen-time issues. Can I be confident my offspring will be able to self-regulate when it comes to Club Penguin and How I Met Your Mother re-runs if I'm not physically there to moderate? Or should I (somewhat unrealistically) demand they go screen-free until either my husband or I get home?
I've been of the "fend for yourself" ilk when it comes to eating for quite a few years now; both my sons are a lot more skilled in the kitchen than I. But I am a little concerned that their after school snack could easily become a regular all-you-can-eat buffet of Nutella, after-dinner mints and microwave popcorn if I'm not there to offer a little healthy eating guidance.
And while I look forward to leaving a list of daily chores to be done before I get home. Walk the dog. Empty the dishwasher. Turn over the laundry. Match the socks; I am not fooling myself that this will be anything but a tremendous sea change for all of us. I know that returning to a profession I'm passionate about is the best thing for me. And I genuinely believe it will be good for them too, especially from a responsibility standpoint. But there will definitely be challenges as we go through a period of hopefully-not-too-radical readjustment.
I have to admit (as I guess you can tell), I am a little bit nervous that my newly home-alone-after-school-kids could easily become the plotline of a "very special episode" of an after-school special if I'm not careful.
So I'd definitely appreciate any and all advice from other parents of latchkey kids on how they've managed to keep their children busy, safe and productive in the late afternoon hours.