Back to school stress, Mom? Here's 4 ways to take care of yourself.

My kids go back to school in less than a week, and to say I’m ready would be the understatement of the year.

But as much as I’m looking forward to a quieter house and returning to all those gentle routines that give the school year much-needed structure, I know that the beginning of the school year can be hard on moms, too.

Combine a sudden avalanche of paper and important dates to keep track of with earlier bedtimes and waking times and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion and stress. Not only that, but if you’ve been living a more relaxed schedule over the last few months, you might be dealing with a serious case of fuzzy focus and post-summer sluggishness.

But there are definitely steps you can take to make the back-to-school shuffle easier on yourself (as well as the kids) and face the fall with energy and focus. Here are some of the tactics I’ve tried with success:

1. If possible, make Mondays a T.I.E. (take it easy) day. If you go to work in an office or your kids go to school in a building, September means you’re getting up early on Mondays no matter what. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit the ground sprinting at 8 a.m. Monday morning. I try to ease into the week by making Monday a slower day: I don’t schedule anything important first thing in the morning, try to avoid regular extracurricular Monday commitments, and keep afternoons and evenings as open as I can for relaxed family time.

As the kids get older and become more involved in more activities I am losing some control over our Monday activity level, but there’s still a lot I can do to avoid having a big “case of the Mondays” (and the accompanying Sunday evening anxiety) every week.

2. Take yourself back-to-school shopping, too. Even if you aren’t going to be heading to a school building every day, the weather will be changing soon and it’s a good time to take wardrobe inventory and maybe invest in a few special new outfits for fall. If you’re on a strict budget, a fun pair of earrings or even a new lip gloss in an autumn-y color can help you feel better about saying bye-bye to the lazy days of summer.

3.  Establish homework and coming-home routines from day one. Want your kids to take off their shoes without kicking them all over the house? Need important notes to end up in your office inbox so they don’t get lost in the shuffle? Hoping the kids will get their homework done without anyone having to cry about it? Give your after-school routine some thought and walk the kids through it starting from the first day.

It may take a few days of  “training”, but when they’re lining those shoes up neatly and filing their permission slips in the proper place rather than destroying the entry way and then waving paperwork under your nose, you’ll be glad you invested the time. (In other words, a week or two of walking the kids through the process is better than the alternative: trust me on this one.)

You may also like: Homework without tears (I mean you, Mom)

4. Start getting up before the kids … even if it’s only by 5 minutes. I hate getting up in the morning. And sometimes it feels pointless to try to beat the kids out of bed by ten minutes…(wouldn’t I rather have that time for lying around?) But even a few minutes of quiet time to read, put in your contacts, or brew a cup of tea can be just what you need to start the day feeling calm and centered rather than frazzled and irritated right off the bat.

Sure, it’s great if you can manage to get up an hour or two before the kids and accomplish a bunch first thing, but if you can’t seem to pull it off, start with baby steps: Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. You might find that you love it so much that eventually, 5:30 a.m. becomes your new best friend — but if not, you’ll be ahead either way.

Next: Back to school reboot: 4 ways to pump up your mom life this fall

Looking for even more ideas for making the back-to-school season low-stress and sane? Fellow Babble blogger Jessica Ashley and I will be doing a month-long series called Back To You, all about how to reboot your life and take care of yourself during the back-to-school season. The series kicks off Tuesday, September 4, so be sure to check in, and subscribe if you don’t want to miss a thing!


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