Bored out of my gourd.
August 23, 2012 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Bored out of my gourd! Help a SAHM cope with all the children in school full-time now.

So, my youngest just started first grade. Yay for him! He's gone all day. Now I'm watching episode after episode of City Hunter to fill my days. Oh, I'm also cleaning, doing laundry, and making meals. But honestly, those don't fill up my days very much.

I need ideas on what to do with my time. I feel like I'm wasting away.

Some issues though:

1. I have thrown around the idea of getting a part time job or volunteering. HOWEVER, my kids are ALWAYS sick. No joke. Someone is always sick so I would be the worst employee ever because I'd be calling in all the time to take care of one of the kids. I would not be reliable. I have no family to take care of the kids (when they get sick) so it's all me. Each year I sign up to volunteer at the school but hardly ever make my scheduled time because someone is always sick!

2. Funds are limited. I can't take classes or go do things/pursue hobbies due to lack of finances.

3. I would really like to be/feel productive, like I'm accomplishing something each day. Hard to do for me when I'm not bringing home a paycheck, not taking classes, or volunteering.

4. Arts and crafts - no, I suck at these things so telling me to learn to knit - not gonna happen - and besides, supplies cost money.

5. Most of my friends are SAHM but have little children still at home or have family nearby (to hang out with) so that hanging out with me isn't really ideal.

What on earth should I be doing with my time?!
posted by Sassyfras to Work & Money (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Would taking free classes through something like OpenCourseWare be interesting to you?

What about teaching yourself fancy baking or cooking methods?

Exercise? Writing/blogging? Reading books (free at the library!)?
posted by erst at 4:01 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sort of building off erst's suggestion, is there some sort of field you are or would want to be an expert in? A friend of mine is in the same situation and runs a snarky book blog, while another runs a movie blog (a Netflix subscription is only 8 bucks a month and most libraries have movies, too), and a third runs a site about things that are free like Facebook games and Flash games and other internet entertainments. There's free webhosting (Tumblr, Blogspot, etc.) and such so it doesn't really cost anything except time.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:13 PM on August 23, 2012

How about babysitting for some of the moms who still have kids home during the day?
posted by thatone at 4:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am an adult literacy volunteer. The workbooks have very direct instructions and the training session to get started is usually a half day. My learner waited 6 months to get matched with a tutor. He and I each selected our times and location avail abilities, and I specifically requested a learner with a fairly flexible schedule - we meet on Fridays, but of something comes up we can reschedule a meeting.

Many learners have fairly flexible schedules and my organization requires that we meet in a public place (we chose the library, but Starbucks and Barnes and Noble are also cool). One hour a week for at least a year is the commitment that my organization asks we make.

Having more than one learner is totally allowed after you've been volunteering for a bit. And yes, the sense of accomplishment is really fulfilling, even on days we don't make a lot of progress.

There are other types of volunteering, of course, and many are flexible about time. Check with your local hospitals and nursing homes if those are environments that are interesting to you, as well as museums, gardens, and historical societies.
posted by tulip-socks at 4:29 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Substitute teaching -- same hours as your child is in school, call in for an assignment on days when you want to work, and get money to ease the funds problem.
posted by Houstonian at 4:31 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Along the same lines as substitute teaching:

Public institutions (e.g. college, university, school district) often have a casual employee pool. It's more flexible than a part-time job, but you still build up seniority and work semi-regularly at the same institution so you'd get to know people and processes--in other words, you'd have some continuity. People do get longer-term assignments sometimes (a week or two, up to a few months) but they also might get called in for a single morning because an employee is away sick for the day. It pays less than a full-time worker would get, but almost twice as much as minimum wage for an hourly worker.

Also, I know more than a few people who now have permanent part-time or full-time jobs because of their time in their casual pool. So if that's an eventual goal for you, it might work well.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:35 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

On my own list of Things I'll Get to One Day:

* Organizing my photos, getting them developed and actually putting pictures in baby books
* Creating a house binder with instructions, model numbers, etc.
* Purging the attic of unnecessary-but-too-nice-to-give-away objects; making lists/taking photos of what's *actually* up there
* Family tree research
* Indoor herb garden
* Small paint touch-ups
* Dealing with the drawers that accumulate mysterious bits
* Purging the instructions box of instructions for items I no longer own
* Holiday cards (I always swear to start early, and never get to them)

Can your local United Way suggest one-off volunteer opportunities? Do you have a local veterans' group/hospital--and do they need Christmas cards written to service members? Does your local library run a coupon box (folks clip at home, and drop them off for anybody to take)? (In fact, call your local library and ask if there's anything you can help them with from home.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:35 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm not in work right now, for health reasons. What I've been up to:

- Got a kindle (bought it off Craigslist for $50). It is AMAZING. I read more now (usually a book a day/two days) and you can download remotely straight from your local library with no overdue fees. If you don't want to get a kindle using the library is still good of course. If you go this route you could always host a book club from your home to make more 'activity-ish'. Once every two weeks might be enough, for an hour? Then you wouldn't even need a sitter?

- Watch tons of movies (careful with streaming if you're using a PC - virus virus VIRUS).

- I do hobbies I already put down money for years ago, i.e. I play my ukulele I bought in 2007, I hula hoop, I bake stuff.

- online Scrabble is one of my favourite things, and I believe if you get good enough you can compete in online tournaments.

- I might suggest drawing/painting as an arts/craft thing even though you've stipulated not to due to funds, but drawing can be just a piece of paper and a pencil, and watercolours can be very cheap. Getting good at figurative drawing is pretty much just a matter or practise. And if you're proficient with Photoshop or Illustrator at at you can make them even more amazing.

- I've been using Rosetta Stone to re-learn my all but forgotten French, its surprising how quickly you can progress if you do an hour a day. There are 25 languages available on that program too. I think you might be able to get a version out from the library if you're at all up for that.

-If you can keep to a coherent theme, you could write a blog. Tumblr is good training wheels for this as you can re-blog as much stuff as you like and build up to including more and more of your own content.

- Being penpals with people in the armed forces is something I've been thinking about, but it seems like some of them want at least the possibility of hooking up after and I'm married, so I haven't done that one. (Maybe someone else could point you in a better direction though?)

There's tons more than this, and I'll be back when I can get my mushy painkiller-filled brain working a bit better!
posted by everydayanewday at 4:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

To add to everydayanewday's great list, if you want to (re)learn a language for free, Duolingo is a really nice web tool that will quiz you in French, Spanish, or German.
posted by tantivy at 4:45 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Write a book! Requires no supplies other than a laptop and a wordprocessor. If you write two pages a day, you can have a whole novel written by the time the school year is over.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:45 PM on August 23, 2012

Spend some time now making plans for times the kids won't be in school like the winter holidays and summer. You can slowly accumulate the supplies for crafts or activities to do with them or shop thrift stores for supplies. By the time the hols come around, you'll have things in mind to fill those days the kids are home. You could also make a "sick day" basket for quiet activities to do when they are home sick.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:56 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just rode my bike for the first time since my son was born 5 years ago. It felt like freedom!! I also signed up for the tough mudder in the Spring.
Maybe it would be good to hike and bike. Bring your camera. Climb a mountain!
posted by beccaj at 5:01 PM on August 23, 2012

Look for work that you can do from home and/or with flexible timing. The specifics will depend on your abilities, but proofreading? Baking things to sell? Website design/coding? Envelope stuffing? Amazon mechanical Turking, even? Tutoring? (if the kids come to you, it doesn't matter if you have one of yours home sick).
posted by lollusc at 5:09 PM on August 23, 2012

To add to everydayanewday and tantivy, another language learning tool (free!) is Memrise.
posted by thirdletter at 5:43 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might be worth checking with your kids' school librarian. At my kids' school, it's very flexible; I'm able to go in and shelve books whenever I've got time. There are always, always books to be shelved! One man I volunteer with spends about an hour *every day* wiping down the books with disinfectant wipes-- you'd be amazed how dirty those books get.

There are other tasks to be done, as well: wrapping new book covers in plastic, helping during inventory time, etc. The fact that I can make it work around my part-time job makes it completely stress-free, and I've really enjoyed the social aspect. I hope you find something that works for you!
posted by ebee at 5:57 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your school doesn't need volunteers, then I want to move where you live because your schools must be amazing.

I spend the time that I'm not doing home maintenance at my kids' school. Whatever skill set you have is useful somewhere doing something, and nobody bats an eyelash if your kid gets sick and you need to delay a project.

Bonus: you work with teachers, staff, and other parents, who will happily give you references when your life is such that you want to get back into the working world some day down the road. Don't kid yourself, it's useful experience.

Obvious extra bonus: You make your kids' schools even better.
posted by padraigin at 7:25 PM on August 23, 2012

Maybe get into aggressive couponing or something? If funds are limited, then a hobby of figuring out how to make those pennies stretch can be just the ticket. Maybe learning more frugal recipes, or finding out what stores in town have the best deals on stuff? Beneficial for your household-and can be a whole lot of fun.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:53 PM on August 23, 2012

The kids' school definitely needs and uses volunteers extensively. However, it's more on a "sign up for this time and come do the work" type schedule, which I have done, in the past. But because my children are so often sick, I rarely am able to go. I know that everyone there is very forgiving and understanding of having a sick kid, but it gets really ridiculous when I am able to go TWICE the entire YEAR and am scheduled to go at least weekly. It puts the teachers in a spot because they had things for me to do and I let them down, all the time.

So, I really feel I can't be doing things where people are relying on me.

Some really cool suggestions in here.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:43 PM on August 23, 2012

If you're into the language learning thing, also try for its social aspect.
posted by ootandaboot at 8:57 PM on August 23, 2012

If your kids are genuinely sick every week but 2 out of a whole school year, it sounds like their illness is a full time job. That sounds terrible all round. Maybe look at something like free dog walking for neighbour's or a book club?
posted by Jubey at 9:42 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The website is neat, and there seems to be a thriving mother community on there. It's a website where you make "lenses", or pages about your interests -- very simple to get started. There are lots of ways to monetize them, via related products and page hits (albeit slowly) and be social.

You can choose to keep your earnings or donate them to charities. I've only made like 5 lenses, but I made one pretty successful lens and now I passively get like $6 a month from it :) It doesn't sound like much but it can add up, and even if you don't end up making much it's fun to share your knowledge with others, experiment to see what's most successful, and learn things from the abundance of lenses. It's also something you can abandon and return to sporadically.
posted by iadacanavon at 12:25 AM on August 24, 2012

I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way, but if your kids are sick all the time (and I have no idea what issue this is), it seems like starting research/a support group into why this is might be something that feels productive and useful of your time? You may find other parents who are struggling with this and need support as well?
posted by Vaike at 1:06 AM on August 24, 2012

Oh, and one other thing-your kids won't be sick all the time forever. Their little immune systems will eventually be built up! Now is a great time to look a bit further down the road and really think about what you'd like life to look like in five or ten years. Planning for that would be a wise use of time too.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:26 AM on August 24, 2012

Have you talked directly with the teachers at your kids' school? Why not send an email to a particular teacher saying "It seems my volunteer slots at school are fated not to be, but I have a chunk of time at home. Is there a project I can pick up in advance and return to you, like assembling widgets, or collating folders, or--?" Can't hurt to ask.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:25 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look into Leapforce or Lionbridge. I can answer questions about Leapforce. It's a legit and interesting work-at-home job.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:34 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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