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Back-to-school blues: Mom edition

Lisa Steinke, with Liz Fenton, is the co-author of the debut chick lit novel l'll Have Who She's Having and the popular Chick Lit blog chicklitisnotdead.com.

When mom's not ready for school to start

Forget the kids, they couldn't be more excited. Your daughter has the same home room as her BFF and your son got the coolest backpack at the store. But you? You're not exactly jumping for joy.
Banish the back-to-school blues
Mom dropping off daughter to go on school bus

It's been a great summer, and, frankly, you like having the kids home everyday. So now what? Read on for tips on how to get over your back-to-school blues.

So you've got a case of the back-to-school blues. Well, you can rest assured that you're feelings are completely understandable and normal. "Feeling sadness at a transition time is entirely normal!" says Deborah Gilboa, MD. But why do you have them?

Why do you have the blues?

"Our kids still need us during the school year but the roles change. We may play less of a starring role in our kids' lives. Also, the stresses (and perceived stresses) of the school year are greater so this may be a time parents enjoy less than the more relaxed summer time."

Natalie Caine, of Empty Nest Support Services, adds that moms may also be sad because they realize they're one step closer to when kids leave for college. "Mom gets the blues in part because she knows the clock is ticking as far as time together."

Carole Lieberman, M.D., adds another reason for why you might be feeling down. "The more a mom identifies herself only, or predominantly, as a mom, the more likely she is to get the back-to-school blues because it means her identity has been lost, to some extent. Sure, she's still a mom, but her kids aren't around to need her 24/7 now."

I'll take a little me time, please! >>

Why your blues aren't good for your kids

Kids are like sponges. What we feel, they often feel. So, while you may have the best intentions behind feeling sad, Deborah Gilboa, M.D., points out how your blues could be affecting them. "There are three concerns when a child knows that they are causing us real pain by moving on to their next developmental stage," says Gilboa.

  1. They often feel guilty for going through a normal passage, and can look for reasons to not like what they are doing or sabotage the experience for themselves.
  2. When we are struggling, our kids want to step up and be fine for us. This is a lovely expression of their love and empathy, but they may hide negative feelings and experiences, feeling that Mom can't handle them.
  3. Kids may start to believe that they are failing and abandoning us by succeeding at their tasks of growing up.

Banish those blues!

Alright, so the kids are going back to school whether you like it or not, so now is the time to pick yourself off and start feeling better.

Andrea Weiner, Ed.D., offers these tips:

  1. Get busy doing activities for yourself: Many moms enjoy the summertime 
for the less frantic pace school time can produce. This slower pace allows 
moms to spend more quality time with the kids. This is a double-edge sword 
since you put things things on the back burner that you could have been doing for 
yourself but are now focused on the children. When you throw yourself back 
into activities that are meaningful to oneself, it reminds you that your 
identity is not just being someone's parent.
  2. Enjoy the quiet: Feeling that the house is too quiet without the 
background noise of kids arguing with one another, TV blasting in the other room, or doors 
slamming with children going in and outside can feel disarming at first. 
However, this sad feeling of thinking that it's too quiet in the house can 
be turned around and viewed as a spa moment of peacefulness and 
relaxation.
  3. Acknowledge feelings about the sadness or loneliness about the children
 going back to school: Being able to be aware of these feelings and then accept them is a wonderful way to also let them go. The more we resist
 feelings, the more they tend to persist.

Weiner adds that she knows exactly how you feel. "As a parent
, I can remember each year taking my daughter to school after the summer and
 each time feeling sad and blue and shedding a few tears. Those lazy days 
of summer without the pressure of homework and extracurricular activities 
were a welcomed respite."

"And, I
 also saw her growing up and then not needing me so much which would shatter 
my persona as a devoted parent. But then I would remember that my job was 
to help her learn important life skills both academically and socially 
which was a gift. And then, I would wipe my tears and smile."

It's "me" time not "mom time" >>

More ways to make back to school fun

Mom secrets for the first day of school
Mom's back-to-school fitness plan
Back-to-school treats kids love

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