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Humor / Motherhood / School

The back-to-school parent conspiracy and the glories of a “Princess Year”

On Wednesday, I posted the following status update on my personal Facebook page:

It’s my son’s first day of first grade and my first day of both kids in full-day school. Worked, hiked, baked, started a new project and napped. Why didn’t anyone tell me how FREAKIN’ AWESOME it is? #ParentConspiracy

I got 32 “likes” and 18 comments, mostly along the lines of “I’m so jealous” or others like my friend Cheryl who posted: “13 days for me. But who’s counting?”

She deservedly is. She has all six kids in school for the first time.

I consider myself fortunate to work from home while raising my family but it’s meant a lot of early mornings and late nights so I can be present for my kids. Most moms are master jugglers and I’ve had my share of dropped balls. But what surprises me the most are people’s expectations. “Are you going to get a job now?” “What on earth are you going to do to stay busy?”

Somehow people have forgotten that motherhood and managing a household are full-time jobs.

Last year, my friend Tina bucked the naysayers and enjoyed herself. “I’m calling it my ‘Princess Year'” she said when her kids went to school. And she spent her time volunteering, getting pampered and playing. After so many years as a hands-on, stay-at-home mom, I say good for her to have some time to herself. I only wish working moms had that same luxury when their kids are in school.

With 6.5 hours to fill every day, I have constructed a mental list of all the tasks I want to accomplish while juggling volunteer classroom responsibilities and work. After dropping off my son on his first day of school, I hiked North Table and ran into a herd of deer. In years past, I’d keep hiking but that day, I stopped for a while, marveled and rejoiced, “I NOW HAVE TIME TO STOP AND WATCH THE DEER!”

Can you say waaaaay overzealous?

On my way home, I drove past a school giving away free items and scored a decrepit table and oak file cabinet. I spent the next three days sanding and painting them for my son’s room (which I completely made over),

gutting out our disaster-zone-of-a-garage and sold outgrown sporting goods on Craigslist,

baked an apple pie and these oven-dried Jell-O apple chips,

mowed the lawn, cranked out some freelance assignments, bought a new mountain bike from REI, went on a lunchtime biking date with my husband, and (get this) even napped.

I have been like a daytime empty-nest mom with ADHD.

But I didn’t want to set the bar too high. While boasting about everything I’ve accomplished to my overworked husband, I warned:

“Don’t get used to this frenetic pace.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“I’m just getting everything out of the way at once so I can play.”

And what a Princess Year it’s going to be.

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.


  1. same for me. it is soooo nice. have fun!!

  2. Neither of us would have been ready for full-day kindergarten and I’m so glad I had that extra year. Will definitely enjoy this “Princess Year.” 🙂

  3. yea i am the same way. i dealt with 2 years of preschool. 1st yr was afternoon and then the next morning. and then morning kinder. im looking forward to having a clean house longer then 3 hours.

  4. what!!? that’s a one heck of a busy day – yay you!

  5. One day I shall enjoy that too. 🙂

  6. sounds wonderful! only 3 more yrs to go for that…

  7. Sounds great…..I only get one of those tasks done a day….I have to quit having kids….there is no full day of sanction in sight in my house:)

  8. I’m getting a small taste of this new found kidless freedon. Miss O is in preschool in the afternoons.

  9. Love it. And jealous. I have another year before both kids are in school full time.

    Enjoy your Princess Year. 🙂

  10. I love the “princess year” idea. Getting both kids in school was a life changing event for me too. Although I usually do work during the day while they are at school, it’s nice that I get Fridays off to work on and complete tasks I don’t get to during the week.

  11. Holy cow! Princess Year is the best idea ever! I still have five (or six depending on the school district) years to go.

  12. Oh yes!!!! Love that princess year idea! Both kiddos in school full time this year and I’m caught between overwhelming elation and regretful nostalgia. I work, but in a hospital, so my hours vary from week to week. I’m home a lot during the day… all by myself… finishing projects, getting stuff done, managing a household and miraculously staying caught up on laundry! At the same time, when I look back on the last 8 years, I realize I raced through them, anxiously awaiting these days when the kids were in school. If I’d had the perspective I do now, I would have savored those days with my little ones at home a little more, realizing it wouldn’t last forever. I miss them while they are at school, but I feel like I can be a better, more intentional mom when I am with them!

  13. Not that my princess year is over, I have no more excuses. I have several home reorganizing projects planned as well as looking into options for my next career. Can’t be a princess forever!

  14. “Now” not “Not”. My year is done and gone!

  15. I went back to work when both of my kids were in Jr High, my husband told me we made money not because I had an income but because I was no longer at home to spend money. Amber does that sound like your brother? Enjoy this time watching your kids in school and to yourself. The empty nester years come way to quick….trust me.

  16. I love this idea!!

    I’m already getting *the question* and my daughter is only in half day Kindergarten.

  17. Oh my. This is depressing. Stay at Home Moms have way, way too much free time. A good gig if you can get it. While you’re off hiking and at the nail salon and shopping and pampering yourself in general (for a year!), perhaps spare a thought for the majority of moms in this world who have the full-time job of raising kids as well as full-time jobs in the real world.

  18. I whole-heartedly agree that there are enviable things about being a SAHM but I say appreciate the time you’ve given when they’re in school. As a working mom, I’ve never had it but wouldn’t begrudge moms who do. SAHMs have a rough go when kids are little…many times I admit I was glad to go to work and leave my kids with someone else so I could get a break. Being a working mom is hard too because I feel like i never get a break. But if I had that time, I’d do all you are doing and much more. Enjoy!

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