Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or working mom, going back to school changes the flow of any routine you got into during the summer. Each new school year seems to be different too. There can be new drop-off guidelines, new start times, and new opportunities for your kids to be involved in before or after school.
If you’re a seasoned “back to school” mom or are just now in the heart of this juggling act, you’ve got to keep things up and running on the homefront and not lose your mind in the process. With my three kids ages seven and under, a full-time job, and a husband’s schedule that allows him to be home most evenings, we have found a few things that work for us.
1. Look at the upcoming month.
We look at our calendar of events one month ahead of time. If you’re not a big planner, try for at least two weeks in advance. This can help with setting appointments, finding a sitter, or arranging for alternate pick-ups from school. It can even help you plan for easy dinners on busy weeks. (For more meal ideas, check out this article.)
2. Look at the upcoming week.
Every Sunday night, we look at the upcoming week. Not only do we look at the events, but we also take a look at meals for the week. I’ll do a grocery pick-up order or delivery if needed. I’ve even started making the kids’ sandwiches at the beginning of each week so I only have to pull them out and put them in their lunch box in the morning. If you have a spouse, this is a great time to go over the week’s events and plans and even talk about finances, pay bills, and get on the same page with everything.
3. Get help with groceries.
Speaking of grocery pick-up and delivery—if you’re not doing it, I highly suggest it. It’s a game-changer! Even if you have just received an order, go ahead and start adding to your cart the things that you remember, run out of, or know you’ll need in the next one.
If you’re a seasoned “back to school” mom or are just now in the heart of this juggling act, you’ve got to keep things up and running on the homefront and not lose your mind in the process.
4. Plan your menu.
Menu planning is probably one of my biggest stressors during the back to school season. So, to help, I do a quick Pinterest check for dinner ideas as I’m putting together a grocery list. Or, sometimes before bed I’ll pin a few things that I’d like to try. I also let each child “request” one meal a week, so that takes care of 2-3 days! Depending on the day and details of the meal, I’ll even have that child help me cook “their” meal. This helps work in a little extra one-on-one time with just that child in a fun way. On the nights we have regular events like church or practices that are weekly, I make one of those a no-cook night. For example, before church on Wednesday nights, the kids get a bath and we eat out before church so that when we get home, everyone goes straight to bed because it’s usually late. (You may also want to consider a meal-kit delivery service! Check out some we reviewed, here.)
5. Utilize bath time.
Speaking of baths, if you can have the kids take baths at night it helps with the morning routine. Also, depending on their ages, they can start to learn the process of bathing themselves. During their showers or baths, I get some things done or prepare for the next day. I also pick out clothes and even have them laid out the night before, making the mornings run a little smoother.
6. Take care of you.
Get up early. Not so you can “do” more, but so you can take care of you. This is the only time I have to myself. I can drink my coffee, do my devotions, pack lunches, get ready for work in peace, and so on. My time in the morning gets me ready physically, mentally, and spiritually for all the day is packed with.
7. Work before play.
In our house, it’s best if homework is finished before anything else “fun” happens. Consider your child’s personality, but if at all possible, you may want to give this a try. When we don’t follow this rule, there is usually a fight later. Just speaking from experience!
Get up early. Not so you can “do” more, but so you can take care of you.
8. Divide and conquer.
Share some of your responsibilities with your kids and figure out what “chores” can wait until the weekend. I only do laundry on the weekends or maybe once during the week. If I do it during the week, it’s only because someone needed something specific for the next day. Otherwise, we do a big laundry catch up day, and I even let the kids put their clothes away if I have a long to-do list. (Disclaimer: the kids don’t always—OK never—put their laundry away as I would. It’s usually more wrinkled than it would be had I left it in the dryer, but that’s what irons are for.) This not only teaches them a little responsibility but relieves me from another task. Giving them more responsibilities frees up your time to get other things accomplished and lowers your stress level. When you are freed up, you can use your time for things like reading that book they’ve been asking you to read for three straight nights or cuddling or even going over their homework with them.
9. Presentable, not perfect.
Even though we can wait until Saturdays to do the laundry, cut the grass, grocery shop, etc., the other time-sensitive chores around the house cannot wait. Baths have to be taken (and in the Georgia heat, sometimes multiple times a day!). Dishes have to be done, trash has to be taken out, and backpacks and lunches need to be packed. I will divvy up the list of things that have to be done between all of us.
Usually, the kids have their assigned chores, and they need to be done before they can watch TV or play with their friends. We also try one big “pick up” time a day. For us, it’s either right before dinner or bedtime. Everyone helps pick up and put things where they go, and when we tag-team it between my husband, the kids, and me, the house is presentable—not spotless—but presentable and functional.
10. Assess your yes.
Probably the best tip I can give is always to be assessing your “yes” outside the home—but also inside of it. As moms, we tend to overcompensate for working or our children being gone eight hours a day by volunteering for things or signing them up for any and every opportunity. At the beginning of school, we are refreshed and ready to take on the world… only to find ourselves feeling exhausted and overwhelmed nearly six weeks in. While it’s easy to blame the extra-curricular things for us feeling overextended, I will caution you about the things inside the home, too. Too many times I look around and my house is straightened up, the dishes are done, and the laundry is folded but all of a sudden it is bedtime and I haven’t even asked my boy what book he got at the library today (let alone read it to him). Or my girl wanted to tell me about something on the playground, but it was while I was cooking dinner so I asked her to hold on a minute… and that minute turned into an hour and a half. (Insert mom guilt.) All the “things” are important but not the most important. I’ll venture to say we’ll never look back and regret having a messy kitchen, letting the laundry pile up, or even having toys all over the place, but I believe I will want that cuddle time back and long to read a story to them one night and miss listening to stories about the playground.
I love the start of a new school year! There’s so much room for growth, and it’s a chance to do life with joy. Be present and happy about it, and for heaven’s sake, use paper plates instead of real ones!
All the “things” are important but not the most important.
For more motherhood articles, start here:
Ask Dr. Zoe – How Can I Prepare My Kids for Back to School?
The Thief I Let In: a Day in the Life of a Working Mom
To the Mom Who Feels Like It Never Ends
Here Are the 10 Commandments to Be a Great Bonus Mom
To the Mom Who Feels Guilty for Loving Her Work
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You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: This Is What Every Mom Needs for Back to School – 051!