The first time I saw a mom walk into my daughters’ dance studio with a load of laundry, I looked at her skeptically. She plopped down across from me and started folding her darks.
“Who does that?” I thought to myself.
I went back to mindlessly scrolling apps on my phone. A few minutes later, the woman stood and left the building, only to return with another larger load!
Not being able to hold my curiosity any longer, I had to ask the strategy behind this decision to bring her kids’ clean underwear into Tammy’s School of Dance.
“Well, I used to bring a book or chat with my friends during this time, but then my son started travel baseball, my daughter added a class here, and my youngest takes Tae Kwan Do next door. I just wasn’t home enough to get things done, and it was stressing me out. I also started working part-time, so I became the crazy mom who yelled at her kids because I couldn't do it all. Now, I use my wait time to finish stuff, so I can get to bed earlier or help my kids with their homework, and everyone is happier."
“Genius,” I replied. I mentally skipped forward a few years. I also had three kids close in age, and I thought about the luxury of having them all in the same class in the present moment.
Now that my kids are older, I understand this mom a lot better.
What I have learned as the mom of big kids is that it takes time to grow your children’s passions, and by time, I mean transporting said children to places. And even with a limit of one extracurricular per kid, there may be two practices and a game or two lessons and a recital. Multiply that by three kids and you have a minimum of nine trips in the minivan per week.
It is a fact of life in today’s world that many kids are overscheduled, or so we are told; yet, although my three tweens/teens each do one activity and competitive sport, they also have at least one down day during the week and even more during the weekends.
Do you know who does not have a lot of downtime? The parents. And in my case, because my husband often travels, it means me.
It is exhausting coming home after a long day of work and carting kids around to dirty dishes, laundry, and clutter. And for a mom striving to achieve her own goals, it can be a daily weight dragging you mentally down.
Fortunately, however, there are things you can do to stay sane with your family's hectic schedule.
Know that this too shall pass. As with everything in parenting, the necessity of driving your children to and fro seven days a week is a phase. Sometimes we have to accept our current situation as temporary and embrace the chaos as best we can.
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Commit to the value. For most parents, watching our children grow and thrive in an activity they love is a rewarding experience, and these interests can have a positive impact on kids for the rest of their lives. Many studies show that children who have outside interests and hobbies become happier adults. There is a difference between being busy with “purpose” such as participating in a chess competition or working towards a black belt in Karate and filling your schedule with “busy,” unfullfilling, seemingly obligatory events. Committing to the value of what you are participating in often relieves a little bit of the stress.
Simplify everything possible. So much of what stresses parents out about their kids’ schedules isn’t the actual time participating in the activities; instead, it’s the preparation. Are the uniforms washed or do we have something nutritious to eat? When are we ever going to clean the kitchen floor or pay the bills?
During this busy season, it’s critical to simplify everything possible. Can you afford a housekeeper during swim season? Is there an affordable grocery delivery service in your neighborhood? Can you put an online bill payment app on your phone or keep your bills, checkbook, and stamps handy so you can complete that task while waiting for your daughter to come out of art class? Make life easier wherever and whenever you can.
Use your in-between time with intention. Sure, I thought the lady who brought her laundry into the dance studio was crazy – for a moment – but now I saw that she is a genius. By using her time waiting for her kids to complete tasks she would typically do at home, she freed herself up to enjoy some peace with her family at the end of the day. She wasn’t stressing about finishing the laundry -- because it was already done.
I know many moms who stay at lessons to chat or watch their kids, but the most efficient, relaxed, and happiest moms I see utilize the time to get things done. Grocery store trips, errands, sewing a costume, bills, school forms, work tasks, and yes, even folding your laundry, can be completed in between carting your kids, leaving time later for you to focus on the important stuff – like connecting with your family.
Embrace offers to help. When my kids were little and only needed to go somewhere once or twice a week, it was easy for me to take them everywhere they needed to go. Now that I have two teens and a tween, it would quite literally take three of me to make our schedule work. You have to accept help.
When possible, network with other parents to create carpools to manage the back and forth. Even reducing your trips by two can provide you with a significant amount of time. There are several apps that you can use to simplify the process, and remember to remain flexible as nearly every parent is in the same situation.
Remember the reasons behind this “busy” season. Use the time in the car to connect with your kids – not to harangue them about their behavior or grades, but to laugh and share. Take some time to let your son or daughter teach you about their passion, or even participate in it when possible. Cheer on their successes and offer a shoulder when it doesn’t go their way. Don’t forget the goal is to build life skills and passions to take them into adulthood, not for your child to become an Olympic athlete or professional violinist.
Schedule family time. Seeking downtime for your entire family is often the most sought-after activity for busy parents. The easiest way to achieve this is to plan for it. When you’re in the season of busy kids, a great way to ensure you are still connecting is by scheduling it every week – and commit. It may be Friday night dinners, like at our home, or Sunday-breakfast after church, or even reading together every night before bed. Most parents find by scheduling some free time into their calendars they both provide something to look forward to and alleviate any negative thoughts that you are missing out on this critical component of your life.
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