If I could do it all again — raise a family — I would in an instant. But I'd do it a little differently, because hindsight, it turns out, really is 20/20. I realized this not long after my kids left, when I had the chance to focus on myself, to reflect upon the ways parenting had changed me and the things I learned. I think you can only really accomplish this properly when you've achieved some distance from the role.

I'd raise my family differently, not because of the mistakes I made — though I certainly made my share — but because time means so much more to me now. I understand it better and its importance … and the way parents use it, lose track of it, and wish it away or wish for more. It's all about the time we spend together as a family, the time parents spend making decisions and avoiding decisions; doing the right thing and the wrong thing; and consoling, teaching, reading, talking, dancing, playing, working, dreaming, laughing. It all comes down to time.

If I had the time to do it all again, I'd:

1. Give myself permission to not be on call 24/7. By permission, I don't mean disappearing without a trace or for long, drawn-out periods. But I do mean handing over the reins of parenting more often so I keep in touch with who I am in addition to being a parent.

2. Enjoy a regular date night with my husband at least twice a month. Away from home if possible, but if we can't, at least pretend we are.

3. Let the laundry pile up. Because, let's be honest, nobody is going to fire me.

4. Swing on the swings with the kids. Fun is more fun when your mother is having it too.

5. Make fewer to-do lists. They only beget more to-do lists, and though I might feel as if I'm accomplishing something, I'm only writing down what I already know.

6. Have more "backward days," where dinner is for breakfast and breakfast is for dinner.

7. Sleep more, better, longer.

8. Worry less, better, shorter.

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Copyright©2016 by Melissa T. Shultz. Excerpted from From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life by Melissa T. Shultz, published by Sourcebooks, Inc. Printed by permission.