How do you feel about sending your kids back to school in a week? Are you celebrating or are you anxious, fearful and stressed? I overhear a lot of moms remarking about how excited they are to be sending their kids back to school; looking forward to 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? Who are these moms that are NOT looking forward to kids going back to school and what stresses them out?
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-from-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 in order to make ends meet. 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 tend to 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 getting kids 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 finally gets home around 7:00pm 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 possible
If this is your child’s first day of school in pre-k or kindergarten you are stressed about it! Am I right? And if you are like me, mother to a child with special needs going back to school, you are definitely anxious! When my daughter turned sixteen four years ago 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. 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 actually able to add an extra hour to my workday since both my kids are taking the bus home and now I don’t have to stress about racing through traffic after work 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 the process. Racing to get dinner on the table after work has always been a huge stressor for me (still is at times). 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. Really? Why didn’t my mom tell me that? 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 try to plan and cook a different healthy meal only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays we eat leftovers because my daughter has youth meeting. Fridays are usually a pasta or pizza night. Saturdays Robb likes to grill (so I just make a couple of sides). Sunday is usually an “every man for himself” night because Robb and I have our home group meeting…heck, sometimes we just snack on Sunday nights because we ate such a big lunch after church 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 whiteboard 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 or Betty Crocker…or a man.
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?
a mimeograph machine
3 French Hens
& a Partridge in a Pear Tree
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 because I take everything so literally, and the teacher ended up sending most of it back home. Apparently, there was no special supply list for students in life skills and the teacher ended up giving out her own list after school started.
I’ve also wasted time downloading a list I found on the district website or one I found on a kiosk at Walmart only to find the list I got was outdated or not approved by the individual teachers themselves. When Sam started middle school four years ago she had a different supply 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. Now, I wait until the first week of school to find out from teachers what they need. So your next back-to-school tip is not to stress about getting EVERYTHING on the supply list before school starts. Just get the basics like pens, pencils, ruled paper, etc. and wait to find out about the other stuff. Hate shopping? Then order online through Walmart or Amazon Prime. Ordering on Amazon is 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.
De-stress Tip #4 – Use a video camera when your kids have conflicting events
So what is it that stressed me out when my kids were both in high school? After school activities, that’s what! My youngest was in athletics and choir and oldest was in choir as well. Both my kids were in opposite schools. Sydney was at Forney High School and Samantha was at North Forney High School on the other side of town. This is not typical for most siblings but because Sydney had to be in a self-contained life skills class she had to attend FHS outside our area. This created a ton of stress and anxiety for me. They were both in choir and the district had the gall to schedule choir concerts at both schools on the same night. What was I supposed to do, tear myself into two pieces? My husband and I had to take turns going to their concerts and hopefully they wouldn’t be too disappointed. We also frequently captured them on video so the other could still watch. So my de-stress tip#4 would be for those of you who have more than one child in school athletics. Your kids will often have games on the same day or night so send one parent to one event with a video camera and the other parent to the other event using their mobile device to capture some action on video for the other parent.
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 was 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 the heck she was able to work outside the home, keep the house clean, 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 would be my #1 tip if you fall within a certain income level (which I do NOT). Also, my mom was not our main source of transportation to school. Most of the time we walked…up hill…in the snow (just kidding). Kids who walk today have it so much easier. We didn’t have backpacks when I was in school and we had to carry at least 5 books home every day.
Even after trying all my tips above, just know that you’re still going to have that one teacher who sends a note home asking you to bring 2 dozen cupcakes tomorrow for a party; or your child needs to bring 100 marbles to school tomorrow to celebrate the 100th day of school. Honestly, they must think we all have nothing to do but shop at Walmart every day. Even though sometimes I do feel like I live at Walmart.
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. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden”, Jesus said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
I hope these tips will relieve some of your 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 cannot 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…being prayer-active is the other half.
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.