Summer is drawing nigh, and the start of school is just around the corner.
I remember (you know, when I had to walk to my one-room school house…in the snow…up hill both ways) when school didn’t start until after Labor Day, but those days are long gone. As it stands, we’ll be back in the full swing of things by the middle of August. Some of you have kids that started school THIS WEEK!
Perhaps you’re one of those moms that savors summer: loves the lazy start to the days and genuinely enjoys all local splashpads. Hats off to you!
Maybe you’re a working mom who has had to manage all the weight and responsibilities of your career while also commandeering childcare and trying to make sure your kids have plenty of fun activities to keep them entertained.
Or perhaps you’re like me: a work-from-home mom that has been squeezing your to do tasks in between popsicle breaks and play dates and fighting off the mom guilt (it’s real!) of too much screen time.
Regardless your scenario, I’d imagine you’re a mixed bag of emotions right now. The end of every summer signals another year…well, if you want to be super depressing, gone. There’s a reason we often quote Gretchin Rubin’s reminder “The days are long but the years are short.” Whether you’ll be wiping tears as you drive away from the carpool line or doing cartwheels away from the bus stop, I've created this Back to School Series full of tips that will help carry you through the transition. I’m including some of my favorite practical hacks, but consistent with all things Untangled, there’s some mindwork that’s going to need to be done.
1. Start adjusting your routine now.
Summer means long days and late nights, and while the fireflies, fireworks, and smores are totally worth it, most after-dusk memories have meant sacrificing a schedule-friendly bedtime routine.
Studies show that kids between the ages of 6 and 13 typically require nine to eleven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. So if everyone needs to be starting the morning around 6:30 AM, shoot for a bedtime of 7:30 PM. If your kids have been going to bed at 9 and they have two weeks left until school starts, begin backing down the time in 30 minute increments. This gives them plenty of time to adjust and allows you to begin approaching the adjustments you’ll need to make with grace.
Fun fact: grown ups need sleep too.
2. Recognize the power of planning.
You may have heard me say it before, but I am literally the only Type A gypsy I know. I’m motivated and ambitious, driven in so many ways . I make lists of things I’ve already done just to be able to check them off. That said, the idea of scheduling routines and structure into my life can give me heart palpitations and make my hands clammy.
If you, too, bulk at the thought of a calendar system, know that I completely understand where you’re coming from. But hear me when I say: planning provides freedom, not bondage.
Planning is the strategy behind your goals. When you’re intentional with the time that you’re spending throughout your week, you are ensuring that both you and your family are living intentionally and making value-driven decisions.
To read more about planning and why it’s important, stay tuned. The third post in this series will include my suggestions for creating your ideal life calendar. The science behind the process is fascinating.
3. Prep like a boss.
Someone has to be CEO of your family in this season, and if you're reading this post, odds are the responsibility falls on you. You get to rock this thing like a boss.
First of all, if school starts tomorrow and you are just now starting your research, do not…I repeat, DO NOT get on Pinterest. Pinterest is a procrastinator’s worst nightmare. There are mothers who have been gearing up for the start of the 2019 school year since April. You’ll see beautiful images and time-saving brilliance that could make you feel way behind if you start comparing.
You don't have to compare yourself to bloggers who have been doing this for years, and you don't have to compare yourself to the mom you see at "Meet the Teacher" who seems to have already become best friends with all the third grade teachers.
You’re not supposed to be Susan (unless of course your name is Susan). You're supposed to be YOU. Start where you are and go from there.
Preparation, by definition, is the act of getting ready for an undertaking. It gets you ready for what’s next. Your most important task right now is to figure out what you need and want most and then prep like a boss in order to make it happen.
Want easy mornings? Prep for it. Could mean: Easy breakfast options. Laying out clothes the night before. Putting a backpack and shoe station by the door.
Looking to make family dinners a part of your family culture? Prep for it. Could mean: Communicating the expectation with all family members. Creating a meal plan that’s on rotation. Setting dinner for the same time each night.
Desire to be more involved in your kid’s school? Prep for it. Could mean: Putting all the important dates in your phone as soon as the school calendar comes out. Scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher to let him know your availability. Make friends with current members of the PTO and ask how you can be involved.
Want to be more present during the afternoon hours? Prep for it. Could mean: Putting your phone on the charger as soon as you get home Creating an availability schedule that lets your friends and family know when you’re able to take calls.
You get the idea. It’s up to you and your family to decide what’s important for you according to your values and vision.
4. School Supplies for Everyone….including YOU
I’ve always loved school supplies, so it’s no surprise that this is one my favorite parts of sending my kids to school. (Tied for first: a short break from hearing the word “mom") Now days, the lists are super specific, which is great until every store in your metroplex runs out of manila paper. It’s still fun for me to check off the list, smell the crayons, and plaster vinyl name labels on all the notebooks.
When my oldest first started full-time school, I decided to create a tradition of buying myself something new when we go back to school shopping. This doesn’t have to mean buying a Louis Vuitton backpack or a brand new pair of blinged out Dolce & Gabbana sneakers (although it can…you do you). I opt for a leather journal or a brand new box of my favorite pens. Last year I went to Target and picked out a new pair of sunglasses and a planner that fit inside my purse.
These things serve as a treat, yes, but buying yourself something at the start of a new season also sends a signal to your brain that informs it that you are ready for the transition.
5. Tackle mom guilt head on.
As if you need the reminder, mommy guilt is a thing, and when it hits, it hits hard. If you’re not aware of the triggers, your kids' new classroom will drop you right back into a junior high version of yourself: all awkward, out of place and less than.
It happens in subtle ways: you snap at your kid at Back to School night, forgot the two boxes of tissues that were at the bottom of the supply list, or notice that you’re the only one at drop off in pajamas.
But it can also be more blatant, with your inner critic scolding you loudly for being a working mom. Maybe someone mentions that they missed you at the PTO and you immediately regret not rearranging your client schedule to make it. Or you berate yourself for not having a job outside the home (as if managing a household isn’t job enough!)
Recognize these triggers for what they are. These are knee-jerk reactions in your brain: a defensiveness to an insecurity that already exists and has probably been there hiding under the surface for some time.
One of the easiest ways to tackle mom guilt is to come face to face with your worst fears about yourself and begin practicing acceptance.
Are you worried about being scatterbrained or being perceived as scatterbrained? Accept beforehand that you will likely be forget something important during the year. Afraid that you’ll be too hard on your kids when they come home tired, exhausted, and grumpy the first couple of weeks? Prepare yourself for the fact that they will and you might too. We're all just human afterall. Use the fear as a prompt for preparation. Equip yourself with a plan: not just to prevent the infraction, but to rebound from it if and when it happens.
If you feel guilty for not being as __(fill in the blank) as other moms, ask yourself what you want to do about it.
The goal is not to eradicate all guilt, but rather to learn the difference between unproductive guilt (i.e. shame) and efficient guilt: the kind that can prompt us towards intentional development.
If you find that you keep bumping into guilt about things you can control, then work to come up with practical solutions that might work in your favor. This is the time to try and test new methods.
Parenting is not a competitive sport, and you are not being graded on your performance. Parenting is a practice: skills forging in the messy middle of now and not yet. Your job is not to be perfect, but to keep showing up for rehearsal.
Stay tuned for more...
Later this week, I'll be talking about the importance of creating margin...white space around the edges...that will serve you as you adjust to your new routine.