What Happens When The Carpool Years Are Over?

What Happens When The Carpool Years Are Over?

Mother and daughter in car
Jupiterimages/Getty

At some point your kids won’t need you to drive them everywhere anymore. And you will be really freaking excited. You will put down your car keys, pick up the remote, and binge the hell out of the Real Housewives. For better or worse, you will get to watch Ramona on a high-def TV from the comfort of your couch instead of on your itty bitty iPhone screen in your cramped car as you wait for your kid to finish practice. You will sip wine and ignore the dishes and the laundry (and maybe your spouse) and revel in the freedom of no longer being your kids’ on-call Uber driver.

Not gonna lie … this will be awesome for a few weeks.  But then one night, I swear, you will find yourself putting down the remote and wondering what’s next. I mean, it has been more than a hot second since you have had any consistent downtime to speak of – at least a decade, but probably more? So where do you even begin? What comes next as you enter the nirvana that is post-carpool life? Here are four things you must understand as you navigate the transition.

You will feel overwhelmed. 

But in a good way. Not like when you were a new mom trying to learn every technique under the sun in order to get your baby to sleep, eat and poop. Or how you felt back when you had to interview babysitters or get your child into a good preschool.  This time it’s all about you. Your interests. Your passions.  Your options.  There may be hobbies you want to revisit from your pre-parenting days or new ones you can’t wait to try (pickleball, anyone?) The point is your newfound downtime is an opportunity for you to discover (or rediscover) what hobbies and activities you enjoy. Just remember that you’ve got time now. You don’t have to dabble in everything at once. The idea is to pace yourself, keep an open mind, and embrace the possibilities.

Don’t overdo it. 

As moms, we tend to feel that we have to be productive every second of the day. It’s a hard habit to break. After all, you have spent years scheduling the shit out of everything for your family. Not to mention that you’ve been the room mom, the snack mom, and the field trip chaperone a gazillion times over. Maybe you are also the chauffeur, short order cook, and personal shopper. Catch your breath. Indulge yourself by taking that bath or a nap or whatever you need to do to feel more zen. Achieving the right mindset will help put you in a better place to focus your interests and energy on what you want to try next.

You’re still cool. 

Despite what your kids say, you’re not super uncool. You’ve still got it. Granted, “it” may be buried deep inside you after decades of momming, but you’re still cooler than you think. Hear me out. Before you had kids, you had a pretty decent social life. You made plans with other people who actually wanted to hang out with you.  You would meet for coffee or a hike or a drink without a care in the world. That part of you still exists. Let her out! Sure, she’s been tethered to her minivan for years but she’s ready to let loose. How do you summon her?  Close your eyes and go back a few decades and try reconnect with your inner twentysomething free spirit. Marry that freeness and fearlessness you once oozed with the confidence and badassery that now comes with being fortysomething-plus. Remember that you have so much more to bring to friendships and relationships today now that you have traveled more, loved more, lived more. Don’t be afraid to show it and share it with others!

You still matter. 

It’s okay to give yourself time to adjust to this new scenario. After all, you have more than likely been the family CEO for years and just because you no longer drive your kids’ asses around everywhere, they still need you. A lot. Your role in their lives is changing, but it is in no way diminishing. They definitely will not admit it until they are parents themselves, but you are still counted on and cherished by your kids for the support you lend, the unconditional love you give and the wisdom you impart.

So as you put down those car keys and pick up some new hobbies, remember that you have earned every bit of your newfound me-time. Toss the to-do list for a bit. Eff the mom guilt. Resist the urge to micromanage your husband and kids. For the first time in a long while, focus on yourself and see where the road takes you.