We’re officially in ‘Back to School’ season, which means if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, chances are anywhere from late July to early August, and after Labor Day, summer is coming to an end (or has ended) and a new school year is about to begin (or has begun). And for many moms, the new school year brings a kind of stress that only the school year can bring!
A recent survey from Care.com polled 1,000 parents on what is most stressful about heading back to school.
The top stressors for parents during the school year are:
- Getting kids up early in the morning (76%)
- Managing school traffic and getting to work on time (60%)
- Spending enough time with kids (58%)
- Helping kids with homework ( 57%)
- Spending enough time with partner (49%)
- Packing Lunches (40%)
- Finding after school care or program (28%)
As you read the list, were you nodding your head?
How many of these can you relate to? And what things or activities would you add to the list?
As I read over the list, I can relate to a lot of these! I’d add the stress of managing and driving the kids to post-school activities and making dinner every night.
As you reflect on what is most stressful for you, I want you to ask yourself:
Is there a solution or something you can do to reduce this stress?
If so, what would it be?
Stress comes in many forms: actual stress as in getting the task done, and stress because of a lack of time, lack of support, or lack of resources.
Stress can also come in the form of our thoughts. Meaning, do you have high and unreasonable expectations of ourselves and think things ‘should’ be done a certain way. Or, do you have negative thoughts in your mind, critiquing and judging everything you do? If so, this is going to increase your stress.
Or maybe, the stress you’re experiencing is magnified because you’re not taking care of yourself-not getting enough sleep or eating healthy-so everyday tasks seem overwhelming.
Or perhaps your stress is related to mental exhaustion, so the idea of organizing or setting a schedule or delegating to your family feels challenging and overwhelming,
So much of mothering is anticipating what everyone needs, organizing what needs to be done, keeping a schedule, and making things happen for your family. And a new school year can amplify stress, making all of the everyday details feel overwhelming.
But here’s something I want you to ask yourself: Is there something you can do differently to reduce and manage your stress with the most stressful parts of the school year?
Let’s imagine that every morning you have a tough time getting out of the house on time. You find yourself repeating yourself, begging for help and cooperation for your family to listen to you and what needs to be done. Is there something you could change in the morning routine? Perhaps get ready before your kids are up, pack lunches and backpacks and lay out clothes the night before or set your alarm fifteen minutes earlier.
If you dread making dinner every night because you have no brain power left by dinner time, then maybe menu planning on the weekend for the week would reduce the stress of making dinner. And maybe including your kids in the process of prepping dinner and adding in chores for clean up would open up some time for you. And perhaps being more flexible about not cooking every night would reduce your stress-making breakfast for dinner one night and leftovers another night could take the stress out of doing a sink full of dishes and prepping a meal.
And if your stress is no time to have dinner as a family or downtime in the evening because after school activities are out of control then limiting each child to one after school activity per season may create less chaos. Or if you’re craving more quality time with your family because the school year is so busy, then scheduling a family night, free from phones and screens, once or twice a month would be great to make special family fun, and bonding happen.
Here’s the reality of modern life: we’re all busy, often too busy.
Sometimes we create our stress and chaos by overscheduling, not taking care of ourselves, or being mindful to check in with ourselves, pausing for a moment and asking: do I really want to do this? Am I in a pattern of just doing, not paying attention to how this is impacting me or my family? Am I being mindful about taking care of myself and paying attention to how stress is coming into my day to day life?
As ‘Back to School’ season begins, be sure to take the time to reflect on the biggest stressors in your life, the ones that take away from joy. Before the chaos begins, or even if it’s already started, take a moment, and focus on a few things you can do to reduce the stress that comes with the school year.
I’d love to hear how this post has inspired you to take care of yourself as the school year begins. What is your take-away or goal after reading this post?
© Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2019