It’s officially back to school season around here. My husband has started his lesson planning, and we’re in the process of gearing up for doctor appointments, ensuring shoes and clothes fit, and fitting in some last minute fun. And those easy, lazy days of summer are too quickly slipping away. In their place comes the hustle and bustle and subsequent increase in my blood pressure.
Not surprisingly, Little Miss’s feet have grown since the end of the school year, and Mister Man somehow managed to put a hole through the toe of his gym shoes yet again. I don’t know why it shocks me every year that after having spent the summer living in flip flops, I need to replace the shoes that – as far as I knew – were perfectly good just a few weeks earlier, but it does. With less than two weeks before school starts, I decided not to put it off and instead headed to Walmart to pick up some new shoes where I knew they’d have choices the wee ones would like and that the shoes wouldn’t break my bank.
While there, I of course did some other shopping, and I picked up something for me, too. I’m in love with the Skinny Cow products, and the new Skinny Cow Ice Cream Candy Bars (mmmm salted caramel pretzel) and the Dreamy Clusters with their crunchy caramel pieces covered in chocolate, so not surprisingly they ended up in my cart – which reminded me that back to school doesn’t have to be all about the hurry and craziness and instead can retain some of the sanity that I crave.
Because things do get more hectic during back to school as we reinstitute a routine that we may have let go during the summer. There’s more to do, and three hours of gymnastics three times a week isn’t as easy to fit in when there’s school and homework on top of it. Racing for the bus each morning isn’t fun, and somehow my to do list only gets longer even with no one around to interrupt me because I have plenty of commitments of my own during the school year.
But there’s hope. There are ways to manage the insanity, and I plan to take advantage of every one of these.
Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Sanity During Back To School
Hydrate from the inside out. I have found that staying healthy is so key for me. When I’m healthy, I can manage what I need to do and don’t get flustered as easily. I am pretty good about healthy eating and getting to the gym. The key for me is staying hydrated. When I’m hydrated, my brain seems to function better, and I know I sleep better, which means that I have more patience for when things go wrong.
Create a manageable to do list. I tend to be one of those people who suffers from “one more thingitis” where I’m not satisfied with what I’ve already accomplished. I live by my to do list, which is a great way to ensure that I don’t forget about anything important. Unfortunately, I tend to also cram everything into my to do list at once, which means that I’m frustrated at the end of the day when I don’t have everything crossed off. When I create a manageable to do list that spreads things out over time, it’s so much easier for me to do each task and to finish what I truly need to do – and I feel better about it.
When I take a look at what I put on my list, I also realize that there is plenty of it that I can delegate. While I can’t have the wee ones drive themselves to their after school activities, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things that they can’t do – or that I can’t (nicely) ask my husband to do. I’m not the only one who can go to the library. My husband can drop things at the mobile dropoff near his school or even take the wee ones to the libary instead of me. The wee ones know how to use a vacuum and actually enjoy it, so let them vacuum. When the dishwasher has completed its cycle, there are four people in our house fully capable of emptying it. Redistributing some of the work to others and across the course of a week makes it more manageable.
Get into a morning routine. I’m not a morning person, and everyone in my family knows this. I work best when I sleep in as much as I can and then get moving. Then again, it doesn’t seem to matter what time I wake up, as the wee ones are not capable of remembering what they need to do to get out the door. I can only ask “Do you have your lunch?” or “Have you brushed your teeth?” so many times before I explode. And doing it every single day didn’t work for them or for me. Last year, I instituted a daily to do list that I laminated. Each morning, they know to go through the tasks on the list and complete the list. Once they’re done, they have free time to do whatever they choose, which usually means playing on their Kindles. It’s a win all around. They have free time, I’m not frustrated, they get everything done, there’s no yelling, no one’s panicking, and homework isn’t left at home. Breathe in that feeling of serenity!
Have your children make their own lunches. For a variety of reasons, we don’t do school lunches. For one thing, with Little Miss’s dairy allergy, she couldn’t eat the lunch anyway. And Mister Man is a “good” eater, but the food served in school lunches just isn’t for him. Packing two lunches and two snacks every day isn’t fun. And being on the receiving end of complaints at the end of the day about what was in lunch or snack is even worse. Last year, Mister Man decided about two weeks into the school year that he wanted to make his own lunch. Who am I to discourage that? They know the rule that it has to consist of a protein, a veggie, and a fruit, but they have the latitude to make whatever they want within that restriction. Little Miss stated making her lunch the next day, and everyone is happy. The wee ones get exactly what they want in the quantity they want, while I get no complaints. And it’s a great way for them to increase their responsibility in an easy way. When they’re taking leftovers that need to be heated, I will boil the water to put into their Thermoses, but aside from that, it’s all on them. I should have done this years ago because it really isn’t that hard!
Take ten minutes for yourself. This is one of those things that is perennially on my resolution list. When I’m overwhelmed or frustrated or just having a bad day, it’s amazing what taking just a little time for myself can do. And I’ve found that when I do it regularly, I’m so much happier and more productive. Ten minutes in the grand scheme of things isn’t going to keep me from accomplishing what I need to do, but it’s enough time to recharge mentally. For every person, that ten minutes may be something different. For me, sometimes I call a friend I haven’t spoken to in awhile. I may lay down on my bed and just close my eyes for 10 minutes. I may do a quick polish change. Or I may head outside and enjoy the porch swing on my new house that I absolutely adore. I’ll bring a book and one of my Skinny Cow Ice Cream Candy Bars and relax for 10 minutes to regain my peace.
It is truly that simple. Retaining your sanity isn’t rocket science. And it isn’t that hard, either. Most of it is simply changing your focus and ensuring that you’re making your path as smooth as it can be for you and the rest of your family. Back to school is all about change, and that can be hard and stressful. These five tips can help you keep your cool, and that’s a good thing – because when Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy. (Or so my husband claims!)