Parenting is never easy. But when “back-to-school” season hits, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are or how many times you’ve closed out the summer; life inevitably gets (especially) chaotic. While no amount of planning can guarantee smooth sailing, there are a few things you can do to ease the stress for everyone—yourself included.
Prioritize. Take a breath when you wake up in the morning to figure out the priorities. Who needs the most time to get ready (make sure they’re up and actually moving first)? What absolutely must get done in the morning (put that high on your list)? Of course you want to have everything perfect – but prioritize so that if something’s missed, it’s a low-priority item that won’t cause a chain reaction.
Prep the night before. Make a habit of laying out clothes for everyone the night before. Prep lunches in advance so in the morning you just have to add the ice pack. Make sure school bags are packed and waiting by the door. Anything you can have ready, do in advance. Inevitably, something’s going to come up in the morning – so minimize delays any way you can.
Check the day’s calendar before you even get out of bed so you can build a plan while you’re brushing your teeth and getting ready. All those extracurriculars? Make sure they’re already prepped for, with uniforms and leotards in bags ready to head to the car along with school bags; if they’re already in there in the morning, there’s no way you’ll be racing home to grab them if your day plans shift and you end up out.
Tag team where you can. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Work with your spouse or neighbors or teammates’ parents to carpool where possible. Consider rotating after-school play hosting to get everyone a “break.”
Set limits. We all want the best for our kids. And while a language, a sport, a social activity, and creative expression for each child may seem like a good idea in theory, in reality, that’s at least one event each weekday – for each child – and doesn’t even include weekend matches! Have a discussion with your kids, encouraging them to welcome opportunities into their lives – but also take the time to discuss with them how those opportunities align with their goals and where their own priorities lie. Simple reality: You – and they – can’t do it all. Have that discussion in advance so that everyone can find and enjoy a happy medium.
Give yourself a break. Even the youngest ones are as capable as you allow (and encourage) them to be. Budget an extra 10 minutes so that you can send them to get their own socks and shoes on. Have your three year old dress themselves (with clothes already set out where they can reach them). They may need help, but no sweat – you’ve already built in time! And, enabling them to help themselves will eventually become a habit for them that takes pressure away from you. It doesn’t end at getting dressed: Have them take their own breakfast dishes to the sink, pick out their lunchtime drink – you name it. You can’t do it all by yourself – and shouldn’t have to! Teach them to help you so that you have a free hand to pitch in where needed.
Remember, even the best-laid plans will go awry. And don’t blame yourself when they do. No one expects perfection from you except you. So take a deep breath and cut yourself some slack. You’ll do the best you can do and that’s enough!
Nicole Myers-Pugh is the owner of PCT Cheer & Tumble (www.powercheertoronto.com) and the mother of two young boys. She seeks a healthy life that includes balance, kindness and family each and every day.