The kids are in school all day. What are you going to do with all that free time?” I’m sure you’ve heard this. I know I have – as if there is such a thing as “free time”. The truth is, even though the kids are in school for a majority of the day, things are actually more hectic. Most weekday mornings start out chaotic; making sure everyone gets ready, has all their supplies and eats a good breakfast.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the chores don’t stop just because the kids are busy at school. There’s usually breakfast to clean up, laundry, errands and any number of things to get organized for your household. Not to mention the extra stuff that starts up again along with the school schedule: parent committees, school volunteering, different teams and activities your kids might be involved in that, in essence, means you’re involved in.
For working moms, this can be just as overwhelming – the day is taken up by your regular office hours but, unless you have help, all of those chores will still be waiting for you at the end of the day. So much for the free time myth – the question is how to accomplish it all without adding to your stress?
Take time for you – This sounds a little counterproductive. Most moms I know have so many things to take care of for their family they feel guilty even doing little things just for themselves. The truth is, with all of the different obligations you have for everyone else’s needs, you need to give yourself some time to recharge. This might be something as small as taking a walk or meditating, or it might be pampering yourself with a manicure. But make sure in your hectic day, you allow some downtime so that you’re not overwhelmed.
Plan ahead – There are a lot of ways that planning ahead can both free up your time during the busiest parts of your day and give you a little more control and a sense of peace. For instance, if you get the kids’ clothes ready, pack their lunches and make sure all their homework is packed in their bags the night before, it cuts down on the rush to do things in the morning. I have my kids take showers at night, too, so that the bathroom isn’t a madhouse of everyone trying to get ready at the same time. You can also try preparing for breakfast the night before and even pick out your own outfit for the next day. It seems like those things don’t take much time, but even cutting a few minutes from your list of things to do in the morning makes things smoother and more manageable.
Schedule your week – Once I know the kids’ schedules, and my own, I try to sit down at some quiet point on Sunday and go over what’s coming up. This way, I can get an idea of what to plan for dinners and when we can do fun things, like go to the movies or just get out to a local attraction. There are certain things you can’t account for – they might get an overwhelming amount of homework that takes up your evening, or someone might get sick. But looking at what’s coming up gives you a better idea of how to organize your time on the busier weeks.
Be honest about your time – Have you fallen into the trap of volunteering for too many things and not being able to say, “No”? I know I have. Try not to over-schedule yourself with too many commitments, and be honest about your own and your family’s needs. I think it’s great to volunteer, but realize that you can’t be the only one. There are other parents that can take up the slack when you can’t help, and you can always get involved when you know your schedule allows more time.
Chores – Giving the kids chores is a good way to teach them responsibility, but it’s also a good way to take some of the workload off of your shoulders. A lot of moms go ahead and do everything because kids don’t tend to do as good of a job on things, like making their beds or folding laundry. Sometimes it’s okay to not have it perfect, as long as it gets done. Taking a little of the stress away by not doing everything yourself is never a bad idea.
As the kids get older, schedules tend to get more rushed rather than less. I hope some of these ideas help you to enjoy the process with a bit less stress and maybe a few seconds more free time.
Merry balances her writing career, while raising three active children – she often thinks juggling sharp utensils would involve less precision.
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