This week marks the start of school for many families. I personally couldn’t be more thrilled to get back into a consistent routine.
It was kind of a hard summer—navigating the constant journey to find a good work-life balance while juggling a bunch of other stressors. (Anyone else feel like their kids were constantly sick!?)
I think it’s hardwired in us–from our own years as kids–to believe that summer is going to be filled with fun and lots of downtime.
But let’s face it: Nothing much changes for moms during the summer. We still have to feed kids, do the dishes, fold the laundry… Along with the added burden of figuring out child-care, booking camps, and dealing with kids who fight and whine when they get bored at home. (At least that was a lot of my experience this summer!)
In thinking about how I want this fresh start to a new school year to go, I came up with a list of personal goals and thought they’d be worth sharing for other mamas who may be striving to find a better sense of balance:
- Go to bed earlier: The summer sun, warmer weather, and lack of school nights leads to later bedtimes. But back to school means needing to wake up earlier. I’m not a morning person, and I know from experience that exhaustion and rushed mornings lead to stress and burnout. (If you need tips for a better bedtime routine, click here.)
- Get up earlier (and DON’T HIT SNOOZE): I plan to break my habit of hitting snooze. (I think my record was for over an hour and 45 minutes the other day). Ideally, I’d love to get up at least a half hour before the kids. As above, rushed mornings are a recipe for a stressful start to the day.
- Meal plan, grocery shop, and eat healthier: Anyone else think meal planning is one of the biggest burdens in life? Several years ago, I took the Gottman Relationship Checkup (an inventory used in couples therapy to assess relationship strengths and challenges). I identified that meal planning was one area of my life I was NOT satisfied with. It’s a stressor.
I recently started using a meal planning app that might honestly be life changing. (I’ll weigh in more after I get into a routine of using it more consistently). It allows you to store recipes (easy to import from the internet, or you can enter manually), schedule meals, and generate grocery lists, which you can access via the app while shopping at the store or schedule for delivery. (Note: The app I’m using costs $40/year. I’d normally turn my nose up at an app with a high fee, but my sanity is absolutely worth $40…and it really has been useful!)
- Figure out how to make packing school lunches easier: This will be a work in progress, I’m sure. But I’m putting it in writing: This year I commit to having a repertoire of options that actually get eaten.
It’s really hard keeping up with the ever-changing and differing food likes and dislikes of my three kids. And there’s nothing more frustrating than unpacking a lunch box at the end of the day and wondering, “Did you eat ANYTHING?” So yeah, my goal is to figure out a better “system” for school lunches. If you have any tips, please share them with me! 😁
(Note: One thing that I found helpful last year was insisting that the kids take their own lunch boxes & water bottles out of their bags and bring them to the kitchen counter right after school. Anything to save precious moments of mom’s time.)
- Be consistent and FLEXIBLE with exercise: I don’t mean flexible as in able to touch my toes (see next bullet point) but more in the sense of valuing consistency over rigid rules around what exercise should be.
So many of us moms fall into the trap of not exercising because we don’t have time. But we all can make some time, and a ten minute workout is worth something.
There’s research galore on the benefits of exercise in terms of both mental and physical health, and I personally feel so much better when I regularly get in a good sweat. But success with consistent exercise requires flexibility.
Can’t do your preferred method of exercise this week? Consider a walk with your kids as your exercise for the day.
We were late to the party but finally joined the Pandemic Peloton craze and got into Peloton. (Try app free for 60 days) What I like most about the app is that you can filter exercises by time length. Got 30 minutes? Great! Only have 5? There are options and one minutes is better than none, and the guilt that comes with doing nothing.
- Stretch: Okay this is weird but last night I had a dream that I was in a dance class (I have no plans to take a dance class, but probably came from me thinking about what activities to sign my daughter up for this semester…a topic for another day). In the dream, I couldn’t do a move well because my hips were tight (It’s true, I often hold tension in my hips). The solution (in the dream) was to exaggerate the move and really stretch out my hips.
Which reminds me how important stretching is. Our bodies react to stress and trauma by storing tension at a cellular level.
Do a quick scan of your own body. Where are you holding tension? How can you release it, maybe through stretching. (Also on the Peloton app)
- Make time for mindfulness: I love teaching mindfulness skills & relaxation techniques to help people reduce stress and better manage anxiety. This year I hope to be better at practicing what I preach!
- Maintain a better work-life balance & be there for my kids: I’ve never worked as much as I have the past couple years, thanks to the mental health crisis and shift to telehealth that COVID brought about...along with my desire to keep finding ways to support moms in my community.
I really love my work and enjoy supporting my clients, but there were more than a few times last school year where I dropped the ball with my own kids.
Failing to read an email from the teacher, not showing up to school events, or being cranky when helping with homework are things I want to avoid as much as possible this school year. (It was a super punch in the gut the other day when my daughter asked, “Do you ever actually listen to me?” - Opps. I was reading an email while she was talking.😬)
This is going to involve setting some boundaries with myself–being able to say no to projects and invites that don’t align with my goals and staying committed to shutting down the computer at the end of my work day.
Earlier today, I prioritized copying the school calendar (important events, days-off, & early dismissals) into my work schedule so I can show up for my kiddos (And convince the teachers I'm not a total hot mess parent! I swear, I was SO organized before having kids!)
These are a few of my goals and commitments to myself as I enter into a new school year as a working mom. I hope they inspire you to stop and consider what shifts or aspirations you can make to feel more grounded, balanced, and fulfilled.
If you need a jumping off point, start with this exercise I often use with clients:
- Print out this values inventory.
- Go through and highlight or circle any values that feel particularly important to you.
- Review your selections and narrow the list down to your top 10. If you find you’ve selected words that are synonymous or closely related, choose the word that means the most to you and eliminate the others.
- Narrow it down once more, landing on your top five or six core values.
As you move forward, ensure you are setting goals, making choices, and operating in ways that are in alignment with these values.
None of us will ever hit the mark 100% of the time with all our goals (perfection is impossible!), but taking time to assess how your life is going, set some goals, and strive to live in alignment with your values can make a huge difference in your overall happiness & wellbeing.