Keep Calm and School Year On
10 ways to stay on top of things this year
If you’re like me, and a lot of parents this time of year, you are settling into a great shift in your daily routine. The sunshiny days free of bedtimes and alarms, and full of easy dinners off the grill, beach towel-filled laundry baskets, and choose-your-own-adventure schedules have made way for the preparation and management of your children’s school requirements and after-school commitments.
The adrenaline and anticipation propel us and our kids through the first few days successfully. Clothes get pressed, healthy lunches get packed, forms get filled out, supplies get … supplied. The kids get to bed on time and wake up easily. We celebrate with photos and after-school treats. We feel on top of things!
However, the memories of last year—the frantic rush, the exhaustion, the wondering what it’s all for ;)—still haunt us. We want to stay on top of things, enjoy this season of our children’s lives, and not turn into crazy lunatics when we should have stepped out the door three and a half minutes ago but one kid can’t find his shoe! (eh hem.)
Well, I think we can do it. We can remain unfrazzled and ahead of that eight ball. This is our year!
Here are 10 steps I’m taking this year in an effort to keep calm and school year on. What would you add?
1. Nighttime is the right time.
An hour of preparation after the kids go to bed and before you, yourself, crash can be so worth the extra push. Make lunches, write notes, pack backpacks, lay out clothes, prep breakfast, shower, run the dishwasher, tidy up… do anything and everything you can think of that would make the next day easier the night before. Before you go to bed, be sure to glance at your calendar so you know what’s on tap and make a list of the top three most important things to get done the next day. You’ll sleep well knowing you’re already ahead of the game.
2. Cook in batches.
Some days are going to be busier than others. When you have time to cook a nice meal, cook more than you’re going to need… like double or triple what your family will eat that night. Roasting chicken? Save the left overs for tomorrow, when you’ll repurpose that chicken into chicken tacos or fajitas, and the next day when you’ll slice it for lunch box sandwiches. Chopping onions? Chop a ton and bag the extra to pull from the rest of the week. You get the idea. Think ahead each time you roll up your sleeves in the kitchen.
3. Finish the laundry.
Not that the laundry is ever really finished… but each day you can truly finish one load of laundry. Get that load washed, dried, and (and here’s where a lot of us can stumble) completely put away. If you do this for just one load each day, you’ll be on top of the mound and not overwhelmed.
4. Power up the morning.
You can tornado through a bunch of small tasks first thing in the morning between sips of coffee, while your kids eat breakfast. Start a load of laundry, make beds, gather what you’ll need for errands or work, etc. Small, mindless tasks can be whipped through before you head out the door.
5. Streamline shopping.
Organize your shopping lists by store; for example groceries, hardware, toys, office supplies, etc. Maintain separate lists so that when you find yourself in a particular store, you won’t forget what you need. Additionally, take advantage of online grocery delivery services and, of course, Amazon and other online retailers to save time.
6. Get out into nature.
Ten minutes is great. Twenty is utterly rejuvenating. Whatever time you can carve out, make a point of stepping away from your screen and your to-do’s, and getting outside. Don’t look at your phone while you’re out there, look around you instead. Appreciate where you are in the moment, summon gratitude, and breathe.
7. Just say no.
Every school and organization your children are a part of will ask for volunteers. Add this to the demands of your work, your family, and your friends, and you know you can’t possibly say yes to everything. Know your priorities and learn how to tactfully decline all that does not make the cut on the regular.
8. Schedule fun and nothing.
All this hustle and bustle can get old fast if there isn’t space for freedom, creativity, and fun. Block out space in your calendar where your family has absolutely nothing scheduled. These are the moments that lead to impromptu family fun and creative exploration that is vital to your children’s lives.
Also, be sure to have fun on the horizon at all times. My personal favorite thing to look forward to are family vacations and getaways, but just a simple trip to the zoo or a planned picnic in the park can give everyone something nice to anticipate.
9. Slow down, Sally.
If you’re always trying to rush and multitask, you know what will happen. You’ll drop balls, make mistakes, and, eventually, burn out. It may seem counterintuitive, but slowing down may actually make you more productive. Stay calm, smile, and dare I say, enjoy what you’re doing. You’ll be happier and will like the results of your work.
10. Be kind to yourself.
Of course, mistakes will be made. You’ll forget a permission slip here and there. Your child will end up with the wrong lunch. You may be late for something or forget completely that your youngest has dance on Wednesdays. It’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up when these things happen. You haven’t ruined everyone’s childhood experience. We moms can be so very hard on ourselves. Be kind to yourself and you’ll be a gentler parent for your kids.