It's that time of year. School is starting, activities are ramping up, work is busy, and moms are stressed. Completing all the forms, connecting with teachers, helping kids transition to new classes or schools, managing new schedules, making lunches, ensuring your kids have what they need for class, band, soccer, etc. etc. It is exhausting. Typically the mental load of managing these details falls on mom. This could be because social norms tell us these are mom responsibilities, it could be because moms' brains are wired to multitask (there is actual research on this!), or it could be moms want to be involved in all the details. Whatever the reason, I wanted to share some tips that have worked for my family over the years.
I have four living children ages 7, 12, 14, and 17. So that's second grade, seventh grade, ninth grade and twelfth grade. One is learning how to spell while another is working on college applications. We are a busy family with sports, choir, band, and scouts. My husband and I both work hectic jobs and also volunteer in some of the above activities. I often get asked "How do you do it all?" The answer is, I do what I can, I let go of perfection, and I try to stay organized. I say no to things if needed. Over the years I have used trial and error to figure out what works to manage all the moving parts. I wanted to share some helpful hints that save my sanity and may be helpful for you during this busy season of life.
Tip #1: Make Time to Exercise. For me, I have been forced into early morning workouts since we are so busy in the evenings. It's really not so bad once you get used to it! If early mornings aren't your thing then lunchtime or even exercise while you are waiting at your kid's soccer practice. It's important for not only your physical health but also your mental health. It's also modeling to your children that fitness is important.
Tip #2: Make Time for Yourself. This may be difficult especially in those early years of raising kids. I always say babies and toddlers are a time suck. They are super cute but they take up a lot of bandwidth. Still, you can put on a podcast during your commute, you can trade time with your partner to get an hour to yourself on the weekends - get creative.
Tip #2a: Make Time for Your Spouse. Date nights, lunch dates, dedicated time on a regular basis where you are connecting and talking and maybe even having fun. Yes, you will need to schedule this! (See Tip #4).
Tip #3: Kids Do Their Own Laundry. Each family member has their own laundry basket and is in charge of washing, folding, and putting away their clothes. The seven year old needs some nudging and oversight but kids will soon learn that if they need underwear and socks and that shirt they want to wear they need to plan ahead and get their laundry done. My standards are low on wrinkles but I have taught my older ones how to iron so if needed they can do it.
Tip #4: Google Calendar (or another version of a shared calendar). Use it. We have a rule - if it's not on the Google calendar then it's not happening. As the kids get older give them access so they are aware of family events. Doctor's appointments, practices, games, meetings, etc. are all on there. You can color code and make separate calendars as well for each family member if you want. By using the calendar it cuts down on mom nagging and reminding of who does what and who goes where on any given day.
Tip #5: Meal Plan. On Saturday or Sunday mornings I look at the week ahead and the evening activities and plan meals accordingly. Making extra for leftovers is key as well as using that crockpot. We don't make elaborate meals but they are well balanced. I usually double up on chicken or turkey burgers so we can use for another quick meal. I put the menu on our whiteboard and this helps tremendously with minimizing the mental load during the busy week.
Tip #6: Weekly Family Logistics Meeting. On Sundays we take about 10 minutes as a family to review the week and who is responsible for what. We have a whiteboard in our kitchen and go through the schedule. This cuts down on questions and last minute surprises throughout the week.
Tip #7: Kids Make Their Own Lunches. Even the little ones can do this. Set your standards of what is acceptable and let the kids be in charge. Double check the little ones (no you can't have three bags of chips!) until they get the hang of it. Saves you time and thought.
Tip#8: Master Grocery List. One of my pet peeves is someone telling me while I'm brushing my teeth, driving, or otherwise distracted, "Mom, we need (insert food item here)!". I have trained my kids that if we are out of something to write it on the whiteboard. This helps me not to have to remember every single thing we are running low on or are out of. I then refer to the list when it's time to grocery shop. I also keep a master list of our staples that I can quickly refer to when shopping.
I hope some of these tips are helpful and can minimize the stress many are feeling right now. Remember you are doing great and things WILL slip through the cracks. And that's okay. Your kids will survive and you will too. Do what you can, give yourself grace, and learn the art of saying no.