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Back to School, Back to You

School is back in session and after-school activities are starting to kick in. Suddenly, besides the before-school shuffle and the after-school shuffle, stay-at-home parents suddenly have a lot more kid-free time. But time is tricky - there never seems to be enough of it no matter how much you have. And somehow, even though the kids are in school again, their needs and schedules always take priority. Sound familiar? If so, this might be a good opportunity to make time for you a priority as well. Before your newly kid-free schedule starts filling up to overflowing, put a few ‘want-tos’ at the top of your priority list.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Journal. Journaling can help you get in touch with your personal priorities. Just remember: there is no right way to do it. So whether you scrawl page after page at a rapid clip, cut and paste images into a blank book with inspirational quotes, play with images you admire on Pinterest or keep carefully scrapbooked records of all that has recently transpired, reflective time will calm and centre your mind.

Energize. Take a yoga class, a dance class or swim laps. You can also run, walk and bike outside and enjoy some of the most beautiful weather of the year. Exercise the way you should (aerobic exercise plus strength training) and the way you want (enjoying the season outside on your way to the gym) and double the payoff.

Learn. Feeling bored at home? Perhaps there’s a class you’ve been dying to take. With the kids back in school and so many classes offered online, there’s no longer room for excuses. Online classes are also a great way to connect with like-minded others who might not live in your neighborhood. You can find just about any kind of class in a wide range of prices, so hop online and start searching.

Earn. If the economy isn’t rebounding fast enough to create the quality of life your family enjoys, a part-time job might be just the ticket to increasing your household income. After a few classes in the same field, you might be able to turn a skill you learn online into a part-time, work-at-home income. Just be shrewd about how much time and money you invest up-front before you start counting on profits. Plan ahead to determine what you can reasonably earn from your investment, so you can manage your expectations accordingly.

Accomplish. Make a list of all the major strides you intend to make between now and the end of the year. Then break each project into steps. Clip the master list to a clipboard you can keep handy. If you check even a few things off the list each school day when the kids are out, big projects will eventually get done. If you are not a list maker, just try to get three things done each day, including one thing you really would rather not do, and you’ll find yourself more productive in no time.

Express. If you are so busy nurturing everyone else’s creative growth that you start feeling out of touch with your own, remedy the situation with some singing, art, dance, writing or whatever ways you enjoy expressing yourself. Why not set up a special work area for yourself at home or rent a space in a co-op or studio with access to the kind of equipment you need? Be sure to work your creative outlet into your weekday schedule.

Enrich. The concept of the “Artist’s Date” in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, suggests spending five bucks on yourself in a way that stimulates your creative juices. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself wandering around a store, with five bucks burning in your pocket to spend on yourself for a change. Take an hour and try it.

Connect. Now is your chance to schedule some playtime with your friends. Who do you genuinely miss seeing or speaking with? Get back in touch via videophone, cell phone, a coffee shop chat, a spa visit, a lunch date or a shopping trip. Don’t delay. The pre-holiday rush will be here before we know it.

Indulge. You don’t have to do anything, if doing nothing is what you really need. That novel you never finished this summer? Curl up on the couch and relish every word. That family album you swore you’d complete in time for ordering holiday gifts? Finish it up. Relaxing means different things to different people. Ask yourself what would make you feel happy and relaxed, and then do that.

Books for well-rounded parents

Not sure what you need most? Pick up one of these books for inspiration:

• Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
• The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by Cheryl Richardson
• The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
• The Balanced Mom: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Self by Bria Simpson
• Organizing Your Craft Space by Jo Packham

The kids are occupied and growing their horizons. Now it’s your turn. Happy back to school!

Christina is an author and freelance journalist who has been reminding moms to make time for themselves for over a decade. Her latest book is The Writer’s Workout from Writer’s Digest books.

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