As we were waiting for her bus to arrive one morning, my daughter asked me if is it easier to get my work done at home when she’s gone. She said, “Mommy, are you happier now that the boys and I are back in school?” It was an innocent question but her words stung. They pierced my heart with a pain only a mother knows. I was flooded with guilt for somehow giving my daughter the impression that I could ever be HAPPIER without her.

To be perfectly honest, yes, it’s a heck of a lot easier being productive in my home office without distractions. But am I HAPPIER when my babies are gone all day?! Not at all.

Many of my friends throw back-to-school brunches the day they turn their precious treasures over to the hands of beloved teachers after a long summer of “Camp Mom.” I can’t blame them – and I certainly don’t judge them. But I never feel like doing a happy dance on the first day of school. I never feel like toasting the quiet house with mimosas. Or celebrating my reclaimed freedom. Instead, I always feel a deep sadness. The kind of sadness that belongs to one who spends too much time worrying about the future and not enough time enjoying the present.

I’m not proud of it, but I can practically see the empty nest taunting me over the horizon. My ovaries ache at the thought of last child going off to college. And, while I know in my heart that the gift of motherhood is only mine for a season, I can’t help but feel powerless against the breakneck speed of childhood.

So, no, I’m not happier now that my children are back in school. Even though I have six straight hours of uninterrupted productive time. I would say I’m more lost than anything. Floundering through my day, unsure of my next task, overwhelmed by the new sports and activity schedules, sinking in paperwork, consumed with responsibilities that have been put on hold for way too long and confused about my own feelings.

But I have been here before. I know what to do. I know how to find my new normal. It may take me a few days, but eventually I come out of my slump. If you’re feeling a little lost yourself right now, please take a peek at these Five Tips for Surviving Back-to-School Transition:

1. Know that this too shall pass. Allow yourself a couple of days to ease into the new fall schedule. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to celebrate. It’s ok to scrub the house from top to bottom. It’s ok to sleep all day. Cope with the transition in whatever way you feel comfortable. But know that after a few days, you will all settle into a new routine. And you’ll be planning Christmas break in no time at all!

2. Have no sacred cows. When your family is in a season of transition, it’s time to let go of the old and make room for the new. This means reassessing everything – all of the sports, hobbies, activities, jobs, social events, projects, etc. Hold a family meeting and make a list of all of your commitments. Decide if it’s realistic to continue with all of them. And be willing to release anything that doesn’t fit in with your family priorities – even your sacred cows.

3. Put pen to paper.  There is no better way to get clear about your feelings and your purpose than journal writing. Whenever my life gets muddy and my vision is messy, I spend some time writing. Start with a brain dump by simply free-writing for 20 minutes. Empty your mind of all the clutter so you can open it up for clarity. Then ask God to give you direction through the pages of your journal. You will be surprised at what surfaces when you put pen to paper.

4. Love ‘em and leave ‘em.  If you spent the summer relaxing with friends and enjoying some much-needed down time, it may be difficult to get back to work when those friends are still hanging out at Starbucks. But remember, if you’re being called to serve others through your business or ministry, you’re going to have to say goodbye to some friends and activities you enjoy (at least temporarily). You can still love them, but you may need to leave them for a while so you can surround yourself with friends who can support you in your business endeavors.

5. Care for the caregiver. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when you’re busy managing the affairs of a household and a business. Sometimes when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we put our own physical, emotional and spiritual care on hold. But that’s when we need it most! So be sure to do ONE thing every day for yourself. We believe in this so strongly that the first commandment in the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur is “Fill your own cup first and serve others from the overflow.”

So how are you feeling now that school is back in session? Are you falling gracefully into a new normal? I’d love to hear your tips for surviving this transition!

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a mentor to moms who are running a business that supports their values of faith and family. As president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network for free and receive the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur toolkit!

Publication date: September 12, 2013