The new school year is exciting, but it can be stressful as children and their parents go into overdrive trying to juggle homework, activities, housework, outside jobs and more.
People like my daughter, Jess, make it look easy. The busy wife and mom of an active first grader, Jess runs her own business, The Vocal Studio of Jessica Hitchcock, in Clarks Summit while being soprano section leader in several regional choirs and performing as a soprano soloist.
But her life doesn’t magically fall into place.
Jess makes a deliberate effort to put her planning and organizational skills that she developed as a student to work for her adult life.
“Most mothers are stressed about not having time to do everything. Being a mother is the most demanding job in the world, and it frequently seems there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done,” Jess says.
How does she get it done?
“I plan every minute of my day,” Jess says with a smile.
Here, in part, is Jess’s guide for a (somewhat) stress-free school year:
Look at what is scheduled for each day that has a set time and cannot be changed. Jess sees when her daughter, Rachel, needs to be dropped off and picked up from school, and taken to her activities. She figures that into her work schedule, which is different every day because she does not work 9-5.
See what needs to be done that doesn’t have a set time. This includes housework, laundry, errands, etc. Since Jess works primarily in the afternoon and evening, she tries to get these things done early in the day.
“Put them on your calendar and consider them an obligation that cannot be changed, like your work hours,” she says.
Build in time for yourself every day. Make time to relax and pursue your hobbies.
“I will not fill every one of my days to capacity,” Jess says. “If you try to do too much without relaxing and pursuing your own interests, you will burn out.”
Sometimes it is okay to take a whole day off.
“Some days are so busy with my job or with my daughter’s activities that I don’t get that time to myself, and I notice a difference in myself – I become more stressed and shut down, which can affect my work as well as my relationships with my daughter and husband,” Jess says.
She notes that it is important to follow busy days with low-key days that are “necessary for mental well-being. And yes, if you’re like me you probably have to physically pencil them in on your calendar or they won’t happen.”
Consider school your child’s “work.”
“Going to school every day, on time, and getting good grades is our number one priority, Jess says. “We do homework as soon as Rachel comes home from school, and make sure everything is completed before she can go play.”
Next priority? After school activities. Jess teaches her daughter that commitments to her ballet, jazz and children’s choir classes should be taken seriously.
“Attendance at these activities is considered as important as school attendance. When the time comes I will treat practicing with the same importance as homework,” she says.
Free time is even more important for children than adults. Jess and her husband, Adam, try to avoid activity overload for their daughter during the school year.
“We saved things like swimming lessons and a gymnastics clinic for the summer, when school and her other activities weren’t in session,” Jess says. “I always make sure my daughter has as much free time to play and relax as possible.”
Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who lives in Glenburn Township with her cat.