I never actually planned on being a working mom, and yet, here I am. Thanks to the economy, school debt, and a few other factors, the Maestro and I decided it was better if I started to work more once Sophia entered first grade last year. And so I did.
And I immediately went crazy.
I've always "worked" a little bit-- usually one or two afternoons a week -- no more than five or six students. But now I have found myself with 20+ students on top of another job that requires 7-10 hours a week and suddenly I am putting in 25-30 hours of work. While it's great for our debt reduction plan and our bank account, it also means that I have lost 25-30 hours a week to do all the things I was accustomed to doing as a SAHM.
And so forth.
My clean house regularly goes to pot. My laundry room is usually filled with laundry waiting to be folded (at least I usually get a load washed most days), I haven't read a book since August, I don't even know what the word nap means, I do any creating I want to do at 1:00 in the morning, practicing is only done when a student cancels, and my blog (before NaBloPoMo) has pretty much become an afterthought.
And so forth.
These past two years I have learned a lot about how to make my life a little less crazy and run a little more smoothly. Things that if I'd only just learned as a SAHM, would have meant a less crazy life then, too. I'm not saying I'm perfect at doing these things, or that I don't often need to be put into a straitjacket, but these are the things that MUST be done in order for me to prevent a nervous breakdown.
1. Prepare the Night Before.
Sometime after dinner and before bedtime, make sure that you are completely ready for the next morning. I'm usually ready to go do absolutely nothing at about this time, but it is so important that I do the following:
- Sign papers.
- Make sure homework is finished and put IN the backpacks.
- Pack lunches.
- (In the winter) Make sure all coats, snowpants, gloves, hats, boots, and any other necessary winter gear is found, dried, and nicely put next to the radiator so it will be warm the next morning.
- Have outfits for the next day laid out -- including mine -- complete with jewelry! (I often try on five outfits before I go to bed.) (Better than doing that in the morning!)
- Have my teaching bag ready to go with the right music.
- Fill my water bottle.
- Do a quick straightening of the house.
Nobody likes running around like a maniac in the morning trying to find everything you need for work or school. In the olden days, when I could just go back to bed once the kids left, the morning craziness didn't bother me quite as much. Now I don't have that luxury and things have to run smoothly in the mornings so I can get ready and out the door shortly after the girls do.
2. Use Your Planner!
Whether you use your smart phone, Google Calendar, or a paper planner like me, use it! Have a weekly planning session with yourself (I like Sunday evenings) and make sure you go through your emails, the children's folders, and your husband's schedule so that you get everything on the calendar.
Once you have everything down, actually refer to it. I'm the queen of not looking at my planner often enough and then forgetting something even though I had actually remembered it that morning. Life gets too hectic to not use your calendar/planner. I like to also look at it every night before bed so I can mentally get ready for the next day and what it will bring.
Even though I do prefer a paper planner, whenever I have something completely out of the ordinary, I put it into my phone with an alert. This is one thing my paper planner cannot do, and since I always have my phone with me, it has often saved me from missing an important appointment because I got too involved in something else.
While looking at my planner can often overwhelm me and send me into a freak-out session wondering how I will ever accomplish it all, it's better than never looking at it. Trust me.
3. Limit the Use of Electronics
I have created my work schedule so that I am home just before the bus drops my children off. As much as I would love to decompress from work by catching up on Facebook, my afternoon is so much better when I don't. Besides, our family rule is no screen time on school nights, and I'm not being a good example if I play around on my phone while I distractedly bark out orders to do homework, practice, and chores.
If we have an afternoon where we don't have to be somewhere, I try to do my chores while the children are doing theirs. I try to be totally available to them while they are doing their music practice so I can help them when they need it. And I try to get dinner ready while I am helping with homework. On the afternoons when I allow myself to get sucked into the internet, I am never happy with the outcome, and my children are left feeling ignored.
On afternoons where we are running around to lessons and other extracurricular activities, the same rule applies. It is so important to connect with your children -- to talk to them and be with them and know them -- and giving that sacred time with them over to your iPhone or laptop is missing out on something eternally significant. And yet I feel the pull of that temptation every. single. day. So many times I feel I don't have the energy to listen to my child and I would so much rather escape into my phone. It's not easy at all!
4. Teach Your Children Independence
I am not a morning person. My children get themselves up and ready (I do my part to help them the night before -- see #1) and off to school. They come and kiss me and Joel good-bye and I don't roll out of bed until a half hour or so after their ridiculously early bus comes. So far, this arrangement has worked. Mainly because Bria has become Mom #2 in the mornings by bossing her sisters around and making sure that they are ready in time to catch the bus. Missing the bus is anathema to Bria -- there is nothing worse than having a parent take you to school when you are 13-years-old, apparently.
While I am available to help them with homework after school, they are in charge of knowing what they have to get done. I do not hold their hands in this manner, even though the information is usually online. If they miss an assignment, I hope that the natural consequence of a lowered grade or an unhappy teacher will help them to be better next time. Part of teaching our children independence is allowing them to fail.
Having them take on more personal responsibility means I don't have to do it. And that helps me be a nicer mom. And a slightly less exhausted one, too.
5. Take Time for You!
Yeah. This one I'm terrible at. It's why I'm doing NaBloPoMo in the first place, actually. But I do know better.
What do you love? Make time to do it. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, do it. Go to book club or out with your friends if that is what fills you. If you are like me and need to just go somewhere all alone for a while, do it. You are important! You cannot possibly be a good mother if you are not feeding yourself.
And make sure you get enough sleep, too. (That's another one I fail at, but I'm working on it -- I'm going to try to be in bed before midnight tonight!)
6. Let Things Go.
Let go of the need for a perfectly clean house. In fact, let go of the need for perfection at all. Let go of the need to be everything to everyone. Be realistic about what you can take on, and put God, yourself, and your family first. You do not have to volunteer for everything, sometimes it's okay to let others do their part! Don't be afraid to say no. Remember your priorities and let everything else just go.
Obviously I need this list as much as the next girl. While I have improved a lot in many of these areas in the last couple years, I have plenty more to learn. Sanity is a process...and I hope to attain it fully someday! Tomorrow would be good.
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