Yes, I’m Happy About Back-to-School

I’ve seen a few comments recently from parents who are shocked by those of us who are happy that it’s almost time for kids to head back to school. If we don’t want the children around 24/7, WHY DID WE HAVE THEM?

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I love my boys. They are amazing people who surprise me every day in pleasant (and yes, not-s0-pleasant) ways, and seeing them grow and discover who they are is a gift. I am thankful for them. I think the world of them. I’ve got their backs if ever they have a problem, and no one had better be mean to them if they don’t want me to go all mama-dragon on their asses.

And also, having my kids under-foot all summer has been driving me insane.

Does that seem strange? Maybe it is, to some. I know people who want their kids around all the time, who always put the kids’ wants before their own. I have insane respect for parents who are committed to home-schooling, even if it’s not for me. I know parents who are truly sad when summer is over and school is back in.

Me? I look forward to getting back into routine. No, I don’t enjoy hauling their poor little butts out of bed every morning, especially now that the older guy is acting like a teenager about it. Yes, I wish school ran from 9:30 to 4, which would give us more time in the morning to wake up at a natural time. No, I don’t look forward to fights over homework. But I am excited about the rest of it.

I’m excited to hear about their friends, most of whom they haven’t seen for a few months.

I’m excited to find out what they’re learning, what they’re reading, and what they’re discovering. Last year they both had amazing teachers, and S’s grade 3 teacher did writing workshops with them. I hope this year will be just as good.

And yes, I’m excited to have time for my own work.

I know, it’s practically blasphemy in some circles.

I hardly get anything done when the boys are home. If I’m writing (or doing the necessary social media rounds, or chatting with friends who keep me semi-sane, or [redacted, announcement coming soon]), I feel guilty for neglecting the kids. Not that they’d let me, mind you. Interruptions are frequent, and it can be hard for me to keep my cool when an important scene is disrupted by talk of Lego. And if I say, “forget it, I’m not getting anything done anyway” and leave the office, I feel guilty for neglecting my work…

…and myself. See, writing isn’t just a job for me, and I’d be mighty disappointed if I was just doing it for the money. It’s what feeds me, what satisfies me. Some people get that from housekeeping, cooking, doing crafts with their kids or playing Mighty Machines on the floor. Those things all drain me. Yes, even the kids. I love the boys more than life itself, and we’ve had some amazing experiences together this summer:


Brimstone Head, Fogo Island

But I do need time to be alone, to create, to be elsewhere.

When school is in, I’ll have that. I’ll be able to throw myself into my work and my obligations in that area while the boys are at school, and I can actually enjoy my time with them when they’re at home because I won’t feel like I should be doing something else. Instead of having my mind scattered between two duties at all times, I’m hoping I can compartmentalize and actually enjoy being in the moment with my family. At least, that’s my theory.*

And you know what? They like school, despite what they say when 7:30 AM rolls around.

So yeah, I’m looking forward to September. This year is going to be an experiment for all of us: it’s the first year both kids are in school full days (but still home for lunch, which is pretty cool), and the first year I have reason to treat writing like a job. It will be the first time I’ll have 4-ish hours a day to get my stuff done, and I’m feeling really good about the possibilities.

I love my kids, and I need time for my work. If that makes me selfish, so be it. I think my kids will be happier when they have my full attention at home, and I’ll be happier when I can work without distractions.

Maybe I won’t go this far…

But I’m pretty darned excited.

This post isn’t to excite anyone about back to school if you’re not feeling it. If you’re sad about it, I don’t think you’re crazy or anything. This is just to ask for a little understanding for the rest of us. We’re not bad parents for needing some time to miss the kids, and having time for ourselves might even make us better moms and dads during the hours we have with our families. We all love our kids, and we’re all doing the best we can with the resources we have available. We have different needs, challenges, and personalities. I just want to help us all understand each other a little better.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled shenanigans.


I just saw this, and it is PERFECT. And ditto to the school-supply confusion. Doesn’t help that our Walmart ran out of everything three weeks ago, but that’s fiiiiine.

*I know, there are people who can do this no matter what, parents who work from home AND home-school AND take kids to activities AND garden AND have sparkling bathrooms AND eat organic vegan paleo yadda yadda… and I’m not there. I’m disorganized and easily distracted to the point where I’d look into diagnosis and medication if it didn’t affect creativity. My anxiety since I stopped taking antidepressants leaves me unable to deal with a lot of things. I can barely remember to thaw chicken for supper. Maybe by next summer I’ll have learned to juggle, but I just can’t do it right now.



About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. View all posts by Kate Sparkes

22 responses to “Yes, I’m Happy About Back-to-School

  • kingmidget

    It’s not blasphemy. You’re not alone. My kids are older than yours and I can’t wait for them to get to the point where they can take care of themselves and move out. To me, school is part of how they get there, so returning to school represents the return of routine, and the progress needed for them to become adults and on their own.

    • Kate Sparkes

      Yep. I wouldn’t say I can’t wait for them to move out (we’ll probably get there when we reach the stinky-teenage-boy-shoes-in-the-closet phase), but it is really nice to see how their school experiences are helping them grow and become independent. I’m looking forward to enjoying my time with them after school instead of feeling like it’s always WHAT NOW?

  • Allie P.

    I love that old Staples commercial. I like being there for my kids, but dinners are so much more fun together when I can ask what they did that day and actually not know first hand.

  • Karin

    I’m grateful for back-to-school time, as well. I crave quiet time to create, and summer doesn’t allow much of that for me. Though I love summer as a break from routine, I’m just as happy to get back to it. No apologies. I’m grateful our kiddos get to learn from others’ learning and expertise. Heaven knows I am not currently qualified to teach them trig or calculus–and I’m glad someone else is! 🙂

  • change it up editing

    Oh Kate, this is a wonderful post! My girls are now grown and gone, but I remember feeling the same way every fall! I love them and loved having them around, but even though so much of my time was devoted to them when they were growing up, I was one of those parents who viewed the first day of school as a day to be celebrated!

    My partner is a graduate student/teacher who started back to school this week; I loved spending time together all summer, but he was in vacation mode while I worked all summer, and I know exactly what you mean by “interruptions.” I was practically dancing in the kitchen while packing his lunch on Monday!

    And then I forgot to cook the rice for Monday night’s dinner because I was so gleefully buried in editing work that day. You have plenty of company, believe me!

  • Charles Yallowitz

    Counting down the days. My son had summer classes for a while, but he seems to be making up for lost time lately.

    • Kate Sparkes

      Summer classes would be nice for them. There’s really not a lot to do around here unless we take them somewhere. Day trips are fun, but gas is too expensive to drive them to the city for classes/camps/etc. The place we might be moving to next summer seems like it might have Things Going On, so that’ll be cool. We’ll see.

  • Gloria Weber

    I totally get this post. I’m the same way.

    During summer my writing suffers. I love my kids and they are first priority during summer, which drains me entirely. I can’t do both take care of my kids and write. I’m not a do all the things kind of person. I worked hard to reach my level of “manage to get what needs to be done in a timely manner.” I will never be an “all the things” person. Though, I would like to “get more done” and will continue to work at that. School gives me time to do more. I welcome it so much!

  • Ruth Nestvold

    I was always that way too, Kate. I was writing thesis and dissertation and academic articles rather than fiction when my kids were young, but I too longed for free time after school vacations.

  • L. Marie

    You’re not the only one, Parents, especially parents writing books, need free time too! And it’s hard to get that when you have so many summer activities with kids.

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