THE BLOG
09/04/2014 06:13 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2014

7 Unexpected Perks of Back-to-School for Parents

Jamie Davis Smith

Most kids are back in school by now. For me, the start of the school year marked the first time in over eight years that all three of my children would be away from me for six hours at a time, five days week. I cried a lot the first day at drop-off and don't think I'll ever stop missing having my kids with me during those hours. But, I have to admit, after just a week, I have noticed some unexpected perks.

1. Me-Time: You know what I used to look forward to for indulging in some me-time? Trips to the DMV and the dentist. I had a guilt-free excuse to escape for a few hours with a good book and no stroller. A fair trade-off seemed to be dealing with typical government bureaucracy and inefficiency or a drill in my mouth. After just two weeks of the kids being in school, me-time has been transformed into sitting in a comfy chair with a good book and a cup of good coffee. Trips to the DMV and dentist are back where they belong -- in the realm of dreaded necessities.

2. No Judgment: I can use my iPhone without judgment. When I'm kid-free I can make a call or send an email without getting dirty looks from complete strangers who think I'm the worst mom ever for checking on what exactly that high-pitched beep meant. I don't think twice about taking out my phone now. It's freeing.

3. Talking like an adult: I had to work hard to watch my language when I had kids. I can't explain the liberation I feel being able to say I'm having a sh*tty day if I'm having a sh*itty day. It makes me feel like a grown-up again. I can also talk about anything I feel like with friends without having to censor out the dirty parts or striving to remain positive about everything all the time. I can get rid of the voice in my head by just staying what I feel. It's novel after all these years of self-censorship around the kids all day long. Plus, I can go hours without saying "boo-boo."

4. Real Lunches: Lunch used to consist of my eating discarded grilled cheese crusts while constantly running back and forth between the dining room table and kitchen to get more milk, another napkin or non-mushy clementine slices. Do you know what I had yesterday? A salad! It even went beyond the basics and had beets and artichoke hearts. And, I got to sit down and eat it without getting up once. That's right -- an entire meal without getting up once.

5. Running Errands Doesn't Take All Day: Trips to the grocery store used to involve long negotiations about who got to sit in the cart, why we couldn't buy all five varieties of Oreos, questions about why exactly I was buying that broccoli and at least one trip to the bathroom. Now? I go shopping with a list, stick to it, don't talk to anyone and get out in about a half-hour without visiting the bathroom even once. If I do buy Oreos I can choose any kind I like and eat them all myself. And I never need to visit the toy isle in any store "just to look" if I don't want to.

6. Important News isn't Just about the Latest Lego Set: Finding time to read the newspaper has been replaced in recent years by filling requests to look up how many different Star Wars Lego sets were currently being made and researching the various options for American Girl swimsuits. Attempts to listen to NPR were abandoned once I started questions about "What does killed means?" and "Were they talking about a bad guy? Does he live near us?" Now I can listen to NPR without being on high alert for "material inappropriate for children" and read the entire paper instead of skimming the headlines. How sophisticated of me! Go ahead, start a conversation about ISIS's activities in Iraq or the Common Core curriculum -- I'll be able to join in.

7. Nighttime is for Sleeping: In some ways it used to be that the adult portion of my day began after the kids went to bed when I caught up on work, emails and menu planning. Now, I need to prep lunches and snacks for the next day and then I'm done for the night if I want to be, knowing I have another whole six kid-free hours coming the next day. I can talk to my husband completely uninterrupted giving him my full attention. Even better, I can go to sleep when I'm tired not when I'm done. It's glorious!