Truths and Tips for Back-to-School Season
You know all those first day of school photos with smiling kids wearing their back to school outfits, new backpacks and shoes posted all over Facebook and Instagram? There were probably some selfies of moms smiling from ear to ear as she dropped the kids off to school or waved them off on the bus. I’m guilty of posting similar smiling photos, but I do it mostly for grandma’s sake. I will also admit that I love the Facebook memories that pop up at this time of the year of each of my kids on their very first day of school with a smiling sibling beside them pretending to wait for the bus, backpack and all, just so he could be like his big sister. It’s fun to see how they’ve grown from year to year. In last month's blog I even wrote how I craved getting back to a more predictable schedule and routine. In fact, now that all three kids are attending the school where I work, I thought it would be easier. But boy was I wrong and I just want to tell you that if you’re having a really hard time getting into the Back to School groove, you are not alone! Despite the smiling faces in my Back to School photos, I confess that most days of the week this mama feels like she’s barely squeaking by. When did getting Back to School ready get so hard?
I know getting back into a routine is hard. I remember it being hard, but I don’t remember it being this hard. I think this happens every year so I must be getting pretty good at blocking it out. Perhaps I should start taking notes. My kids are all in school now and although it’s nice to be in the same place, but that’s one extra lunch to make and one more kid to make sure is ready for the bus.
Last year I used to focus on the older two and once they were off, I could concentrate my efforts on getting my youngest ready. Now they all have to be ready and that extra time is devoted to spending time with the dog before I leave for work. I’m a little surprised at how much more work it seems getting just one more kid ready and I often think it shouldn’t feel this way because my kids are actually pretty independent when it comes to doing things themselves. They just need a thousand reminders to get it done since they get distracted by the most obscure things when they’re supposed to be getting ready for school. Some mornings it takes them ten minutes to put a sock on. If only they realized how much later they could sleep in if they could just get it done.
To make mornings a little easier on myself, (as in no rushing equals less stress and a happy mommy), I wake up crazy early every morning to squeeze in a workout (to keep me sane) and a shower, take the dog out and be dressed and mostly ready for work before I get the kids up. I really don’t sit down until I’m actually driving to work. One good thing about everyone being at school is that there is no leaving early to do daycare drop offs. There are also no extra stops on the way home for daycare pickups so we’re home earlier.
But once you serve snacks, clean up lunch bags and check backpacks, the extra time is once again devoted to the dog before dinner has to be prepped, served and eaten and bedtime routines start. Usually within this time the four year old is acting up while my husband and I lament about how the terrible twos morphed into the terrible threes and onto the terrible fours. Throw in some sibling rivalry and some fighting over literally nothing, and hen it’s onto lunches, clean-up, maybe some bills or laundry. Then it's finally time for my head to hit the pillow at a time that is usually way too late. We haven’t even been faced with homework or projects yet! Needless to say some days I feel like I can barely keep up. Last week I even began thinking about whether or not I could afford a housekeeper to lessen my load! There are simply not enough hours in the day to get it all done! We’re getting to school on time and my kids are wearing clean clothes and have food in their lunches, but sometimes the steps it takes to get there are not pretty. I hate getting back into routine (even though I like structure and predictability) and to make a tough time even tougher, we all came back from the first week of school with colds. So now the kids are grumpy, because they’re tired from going to school and sick! I already had to take a sick day on my second week back to work and it wasn’t even for me!
There are many different seasons in our life that are hard. For me this is one of those seasons. I feel like I’m barely keeping it together and like no one notices how hard I’m working to keep up with my responsibilities. I know it’s not true, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who is having a hard time with this and I can’t wait to get to a point where I feel like things are easily falling into place again. The good news is we’re slowly getting there. My youngest got himself dressed on his own this morning. The smile on his face when when he marched into the kitchen made it all worth it. My middle child actually listened and rested when I kept him home from school so that he could rest when he was sick. He is getting over his cold very quickly, so him listening and respecting what I asked him to do makes it all worth it. My oldest is making her own lunches and helping out more around the house with less complaints. That makes it all worth it. I was also stressing and feeling guilt about leaving the dog home while we went to school and work after having spent every day with him this summer, but he too is adjusting well to his time alone. He knows we have time to play and train in the morning and that we’ll do the same again when we come home.
So if you’re at all like me and look forward to Back to School, but at the same time know that it is not all happy faces and rainbows, please know that you are not alone. We don’t like to admit when things are hard and we don’t like to ask for help from our kids or our husband because we want to be able to keep it together on our own. It’s a tough time for our kids to adjust, especially if it’s their first time to school, but it’s a tough adjustment for parents too and that’s okay. We know we’ll get through it and we know we’ll eventually let go of the stress. It doesn’t make it any easier when you’re in the middle of living it, but know that I’m willing to admit I’m living it right there with you in my own house. One day we’ll get through the morning routine, get the kids to school and say, “We finally got this Back to School routine down!” My goal is to be saying this some time before June of next year!