How do you feel about sending your kids back to school in a few weeks? Are you ecstatic, anxious, fearful or stressed? I overhear a lot of moms remarking about how excited they are to be sending their kids back to school; about getting their peace and quiet back so they can finally read that book, write that book, or just be able to do housework without interruption. I remember the days when my kids were very young and it was a blessing just to be able to go to the grocery store alone or spending some quiet time in my bathtub with Calgon. Heck, just being able to have a little potty privacy was a relished act. Can I get an AMEN? So what sets me apart from those who are excited about sending their kiddos back to school? Why am I so stressed about it? Why are some moms NOT looking forward to kids going back to school? Who are they and why are they so stressed about it?
School days tend to be a lot more stressful for moms who work outside the home
I think it’s safe to say that all moms experience stress on a daily basis, whether you’re a career mom, work-at-home mom or take care of kids at home mom. I just happen to think that school days tend to be a lot more stressful for moms who work outside the home. This is definitely a growing population. In today’s economy, many kids live in a dual income household or with a single parent. While some moms are able to use their naturally-occurring creative juices and craftiness to make and sell things on Etsy (so not me), the rest of us must work outside the home. So in addition to all the routine things that need to get done like planning and preparing meals, grocery shopping and getting kids ready for bed, moms who work outside the home stress more about time. We stress about getting out of bed on time to accomplish the morning routine which may include exercise, and then we stress about kids getting to school on time or missing the bus and mom being late for work. Traffic adds a great deal of stress whether you’re going to work or coming home. And what about getting kids picked up on time? If mom has little ones in daycare she’s got to get them picked up by 6:00 p.m. or else risk having to pay the daycare workers overtime (ugh! something else to stress about). Getting kids picked up from school on time is a whole other factor for stress. Kids do NOT like to be the last one picked up and they will surely let you know about it. Then when mom gets home between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. she’s got to get a relatively healthy meal on the table fairly quickly. I mean don’t all the nutrition articles say we’re not supposed to eat too close to bedtime for optimal weight management? Then there’s helping kids with homework and spending some quality time with the little ones before bathing and bedtime. Uh oh, don’t forget the dishes from dinner! Heck, mom is lucky if she can get five minutes of Facebook time before she goes to bed. If your toddler has recently transitioned to a big kid bed they may be getting up frequently during the night, so there’s another stressor. Once mom is in bed, ready to get her much-needed 8 hours of sleep, because that’s what doctors recommend, dad is moving in on her territory. Really? Now? Ugh!
De-stress Tip #1 – Let Your Kiddos Take the Bus
If this is your child’s first day of school in pre-k or kindergarten you are stressed about it! Am I right? If your child has been teased or bullied in previous years at school you are worried about it. And if you are like me, mother to a child with special needs going back to school, you are stressed! When my daughter turned sixteen last summer she indicated she wanted to start taking the bus home from school. As stressed as I was about that, I decided I could not baby her, coddle her and hover over her. She’s autistic but she needs to learn how to be independent and I need to learn to “Let it Go”…okay don’t breakout into song here. She actually did quite well at this last year. I gave her a key to keep in her backpack (actually attached to her backpack so it wouldn’t get lost). For several days we practiced using the key in the front door. Something that started out as a struggle soon became a new habit for her and it’s just a new part of her school routine now. I was able to add an hour to my workday since both my kids were taking the bus home and now I don’t have to stress about racing through traffic to pick them up after school.
De-stress Tip #2 – Plan and Prepare Meals in Advance
Lunches are easy to get prepped and packed the night before (this includes mom’s lunch for work) and get your kids involved in doing that for themselves. Racing to get dinner on the table after work has always been a big stressor for me. Especially when I want my family to eat at a reasonable hour and not feed them junk. It’s so easy to just throw a frozen Stouffer’s family size lasagna in the oven for an hour, but doing that every night is extremely unhealthy and boring. Set up a Pinterest board and collect recipes for “Five or Fewer” ingredients, “Quick and Healthy”, “Freeze Ahead” and my favorite…”Slow Cooker” meals. I love my slow cooker because it cooks while I’m at work all day and it’s ready to eat when I get home. MYTH: You don’t have to cook a new meal every single night of the week. I actually used to believe this when I was newly married. My mom never taught me to cook and no one ever shared the rules, so you can see how stressful this was, not to mention expensive and wasteful. Now, I tend to plan and cook a different healthy meal only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays we eat leftovers because the girls have youth meeting at church. Fridays are usually a pasta or pizza night. Saturdays Robb likes to grill (so I just make a couple of sides). Sunday is kind of up in the air. Either I’ll prepare a new dish or we’ll eat leftovers…heck, sometimes we just snack on Sunday nights because we ate such a big lunch and this is how we clean out the fridge. If there’s a lot of prep work involved, do it the night before and store the prepped ingredients in the fridge. I’ve met moms who prepare several meals for the week and keep them in the freezer, which is awesome if you have the freezer space. Put a calendar up on the fridge and allow everyone to make special requests. If your kids are old enough get them involved and teach them how to cook. My life is a lot less stressed now. Who ever said mom had to fix a different meal every night of the week must have been Martha Stewart.
De-stress Tip #3 – Don’t Buy Every Single Item on the School Supply List
Something else I used to stress over is the extremely long list of supplies we have to purchase at Walmart before school starts. Some of these items are ridiculous…and ridiculously expensive.
2 reams of copy paper?
2 sets of dry erase markers?
100 #2 pencils? Really?
Whom are we supplying, the federal government? One year when Sydney was in elementary school in a self-contained life skills class her school gave me a list of supplies. I totally stressed out buying every single item on that list and the teacher ended up sending most of it back home. Apparently, there was no special supply list for students like my daughter in life skills and the teacher ended up giving me her own list. I’ve also wasted time downloading a list I found on the school district website only to find those lists were outdated or not approved by the individual teachers themselves. From that point on I waited until the first day of school to find out from Sydney’s teachers what she needed and I have come to the conclusion I need to start doing the same for Samantha. When Sam started middle school last year she had a different list for each subject. I ended up buying everything on the list only to find half of it is still sitting in a bag in her bedroom closet today. She said they never asked for it and she didn’t know what to do with it. So your next back-to-school tip is not to stress about getting everything on the supply list. Just get the basics like pens and pencils and wait to find out about the other stuff. Hate shopping? Walmart is introducing a ShippingPass to compete with Amazon Prime by offering unlimited 3-day shipping for as little as $50 a year, although I don’t believe streaming movies is part of the deal. This will be especially helpful for securing those hard-to-find items on your supply list or the things that tend to disappear quickly from store shelves like manilla paper.
My Problem…I’m a Perfectionist
Oh I’ll admit it! One of the reasons I have allowed myself to get so stressed is that I struggle with perfection. I’m a perfectionist, as is my mother and I suspect my grandmother was as well. I try to be the perfect mom, wife, employee, etc., to the point that it stresses me out when I can’t do it all. I look back at my mom when we were kids and wonder how she was able to work outside the home, keep the house clean, get us to school, do the laundry and prepare a wonderful healthy meal every night without appearing stressed. I just figured if she could do it, then I should be able to do it. Well guess what her big secret was? A housekeeper! Yep, that replaces tip #1 above if you fall within a certain income level (which I don’t). Also, my mom did not drive us to school every day. Most of the time we walked…up hill…in the snow (just kidding).
Because I am such a perfectionist, I tend to focus too much sometimes on Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. I love this verse and I repeat it often. Problem is…I don’t apply it properly. Sometimes we need the comfort of another verse in order to create balance. That other verse is Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In other words don’t take the Philippians 4:13 verse so literally that you insist on doing everything and being everything to everybody just because you think God’s going to give you the strength to do it all. Instead, allow the Lord to give you strength to get through those things and take your worries to Him and allow His perfect peace to give you mental and emotional rest from your daily anxieties.
I hope these tips will allow you some freedom from stress and anxiety. Just remember, I can’t remove your stress or prevent it, but I can help you manage it better. As moms, you need to stay healthy and take care of yourselves for the sake of your family. You are the Chief Operations Officer at home and you set the tone. Stress can not only cause you to get sick but it can cause you to yell at your kids, neglect your spouse, depression and more. Being pro-active is half the battle. The other half is being prayer-active.
Oh, and about the husband invading your territory thing…that is something the two of you just need to schedule on your calendar in order not to stress about it.
Have a special tip for de-stressing when the kids go back-to-school? Please share.