Choose back-to-school sanity

 

Oh, the lazy days of summer. While we know that summer presents its own challenges like finding affordable childcare, keeping your child busy, and keeping up with that growth spurt that always seems to happen mid-July, it also brings about that sweet vacation time you have been looking forward to using all year, amazing family trips, and memories to be cherished.

And all of a sudden, it’s September again (where did the time go)? It’s time for school shopping, managing after-school activities, school programs, and trying to navigate your child’s education all the while maintaining a full-time job, doing the grocery shopping, keeping the house in some semblance of cleanliness and order, and wondering why, oh why did I say “yes” to the puppy in a weak moment back in June??

On top of all of that, your spouse starts traveling again (September is a great month for a conference, don’t you think?) so you are a single parent trying to juggle work and home and feeling like a failure at both.

It’s a rather dramatic picture I am painting. Hopefully all of these things don’t happen to you at once! Nevertheless, you need some tools in your arsenal to get by in the lean times. Here are a few pointers I have gleaned over the years from watching and listening to moms.

  • Rely on your friends. Being a parent is like easy access into a special group called “The Babysitting Exchange.” You watch my kids, I’ll watch yours, and we will both refrain from losing our minds.
  • Look into free or subsidized community-center type activities, and activities offered by churches. You might check out the Boys and Girls club, Girls, Inc., Catholic Charities; organizations with a positive message where your child can have a good time in after-care and you can be confident they are being well cared-for.
  • Dance classes, music classes, or other creative development type of instruction available for after care. Some of the local dance studios even come into your child’s elementary school (see Tippi Toes and Joy of Motion Dance Center). Look into it at your child’s school.

 

  • Make friends with retired people. Seriously. People in the DMV often don’t have family nearby and every child needs the influence of the older generations.
  • Are you a stay-at-home parent? Start an aftercare business. You’ll be able to be around for your kids and also make some cash. Other parents will prefer their children are in a smaller group, and really appreciate the assistance in that small 2-3 hour window where it’s otherwise difficult to find a babysitter.
  • Teach your children how to do basic things for themselves. Obviously, they cannot drive, or make financial decisions but they may be able to make their own lunches and snacks.
  • For older children; encourage them to participate in sports and clubs. It’s good for their college resume, and it gives you a few more hours in the afternoons.
  • Put yourself on one of those rotating grocery order schedules. Peapod and Safeway are good places to start, but pretty much every big retailer/grocery store offers home delivery these days. Are there things that you order every month, or every week? Make it mindless. Have it delivered regularly so you don’t have to think about it.
  • Hire a babysitter at least twice a month. Put it into your schedule and your budget so you can be sure to have that margin. Use it for some “you” time or a date with your significant other. Do the research and hire someone you like, and you can trust and someone who really likes your kids! You will benefit and so will your kids. It’s like having a second or third parent on speed dial.

Folks sometimes feel about hiring a babysitter the same way they feel about hiring a lawyer. They think "I can do this on my own, why should I hire help?" Sure, maybe you CAN do this on your own but the questions is, SHOULD YOU?

  • Give yourself a “devices free” block of time when you are with your kids in the evening (ideally between when you pick them up and when they go to bed) so you don’t feel like you are missing out on time with them. And so they know you are available and present!
  • Don’t be afraid to use services like Blue Apron or Go Fresh once in awhile. You can’t do it all, all the time.

Being a parent is hard, especially if you also have a full-time job. But you don’t have to be stressed out in September – just get organized! There is no time like the present! Have a trick or a tactic to go back to school without losing your mind? Let us know at [email protected]!

 

Brooke Birkey, Manager Education, Client Services & Communications

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