Transition time! Back to school means back to a routine. I happen to LOVE routine, and my children thrive in a structured environment. Even during the summer we still have our “routine”, but it’s definitely looser!
We all need structure! Kids do better when they know what to expect and adults do better when we feel like we have at least some control. Having a child with autism taught me just how important it is to have a routine in your life. Of course, there will always be things that come up in our life that are out of our control, but for the most part, when you know what to expect, life’s chaos is a little more manageable.
So with the kids going back to school, how do we as parents keep our sanity when it feels like now there is even more demands and responsibility?
Most of you know, I am a mom of 3 boys (15, 8 & 6), and I work full time as a legal assistant in addition to my healthcare practice. So yeah, I understand what it means to be busy and overwhelmed!
For me, I am a planner, a list maker and a calendar filler-in-er. I keep a calendar on my phone of literally everything that is happening in our life and at home I have a big color-coded white board that keeps track of appointments, events, shopping lists and meal planning. This has been such a great tool for our family. I am the kind of person that NEEDS to see everything that is going on – at all times!
When school starts it adds more time demands, events, and activities. All the more reason we need to plan ahead!
What exactly do I plan? I look at my calendar and make note of any appointment or event that will interfere with dinner time, that way I know when I am meal planning it better be something quick and easy on those nights. I plan my meals out anywhere from 1 week to 1 month, depending on how bad ass I am in that moment.
Now, when I say meal plan I am just talking about dinner. Breakfast and lunches are easy for us.
I do all of my grocery shopping on the weekends and according to my meal plan. I make sure there will be leftovers to make easy “throw together” meals for other dinners or lunches. Be sure to look ahead at your meals… do you need to take something out of the freezer? Do you have all of the ingredients? DID YOU SOAK THE MF BEANS, BECAUSE LORD KNOWS I DIDN’T!
I know a lot of people struggle with meal planning but I have been doing it for so long it has just become second nature to me (minus the bean thing). I promise you, it is not nearly as hard as people make it out to be! If you need help, let me know!
Personally, for me the most important routine is in the evening because I work until 5:00pm, so by the time I am done, I don’t want to have to think anymore. I am very grateful that I have an amazing husband who jumps in whenever I need help. Again, this is where the calendar comes in handy. In the Meal Plan section, we know what’s for dinner and who is cooking, so there is no questioning. He gets home at least an hour before me so he preps dinner if I need him to, or he starts cooking if it’s his night.
Learning to ASK for his help was a huge thing for me. I used to (ok, still do), feel like it’s 100% my responsibility to do all of the “motherly” duties. But hey guess what, did you know that men actually co-parent these days and are equal partners in the household?! Crazy, right?
So I was like completely losing my shit about 6 months ago and my husband said to me, “Just tell me what I can do for you. It hurts me to see you like this. Just let me help you.” and me, I’m like, “No! I am a strong, independent woman who can work full time and take care of the kids, and the house and shop and cook and, and, and….”
And yes, I COULD do all of those things. But do I truly want to? NOPE! But I had this GUILT about asking him for help because somehow that made me a failure. Fucking bullshit right? But I think that’s how most of us are programmed.
And so, I began asking him to go to the store after work, or having the kids clean up before I got home, I asked my oldest son to help out more, and best decision EVER – I asked my husband to cook dinner a few (or sometimes five) days a week. Life changing!
Another thing that I think is important is a reasonable bed time for the kids. 7:30 is bedtime at our house. Let me rephrase that… they “go to bed”, but they are usually singing, making up stories or talking nonsense to each other until 8:00 or 8:30.
I have had so many people look at me in disbelief when I tell them my kids go to bed at 7:30. But let me tell you why… Yes, they are early risers, but it’s not just for them. It’s because I need my quiet time! I need a minute where no one is asking something of me. I need to zone out and most importantly, my hubby and I need time to connect and talk without a little person interrupting to tell us that his brother is breathing his air or to look at the amazing thing they did on Minecraft for the 16th thousand time. I get it! Nice boxes, kid… (K, seriously I do appreciate their creativity but you know what I mean!) I am a highly sensitive energetic person, so at the end of the day I have literally absorbed all that I can possibly handle and I NEED calm, quiet space, otherwise I feel like I am being attacked by lightning bolts and it feels like my head might explode… and no one wants that.
Now, in addition to that… are you tired of hearing everyone talk about how important self care is? Well guess what? Do you know what else you need to help you not lose it? SELF CARE. Take time to do something that is just for you. It doesn’t have to be anything big (and most of us suffer from parent guilt any time we try to do anything for ourselves…) Do what makes YOU feel better. For some, maybe it’s exercise, yoga, or a massage. It could even just be taking a bath or shower to unwind and wash the day off of you. Ladies, maybe even shave your legs… am I right? Whatever makes you feel like you have at least a moment of peace, and you can breathe again. Breathing is good.
Finally, be ok with saying NO!
No, Janet. I can not bake cookies for the bake sale. No, I don’t want to go to your kid’s birthday party. And HELL to the no, I do not want to babysit your kids.
OK, so you probably shouldn’t really say those things, BUT you could say something like, “ I am so sorry, I wish I could but I am busy this weekend.” Or, “I’m sorry, I can’t this time, but let me know next time.”
Do not overextend yourself! Only do what is a “hell yes” in your heart, or at the very least, an “ok, fine because I know I will feel better if I do it AND I DO have the time/energy to do it.”
Do not ever feel guilty for saying no if it’s not in the best good for you and your family. We all need a break. A day to do nothing. A moment to just frickin relax. ALLOW IT. If we don’t take time for ourselves, we get cranky and resentful and that’s just no good for anyone because not only are we mad about it, but we are mean to our loved ones and then we feel guilty about THAT TOO – when the whole thing could have been avoided if you would have just said no or took time for yourself in the first place!
Alright parents – we got this! Ready. Set. Go!