The first day of school is always bittersweet for me. As much as I miss the unhurried time of summer with my children, I also look forward to having life a bit more structured. With all three of my boys occupied from 7:30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon, I can get huge amounts of work done during the weekdays.
In the excitement of my newfound time without kids, I find myself signing up for Bible studies, volunteer opportunities and promising everyone I know that "we can now have that lunch together that we've put off all summer." Then, add my children's homework, after-school sports and other activities to the schedule and we've got one busy family!
Perhaps you can relate to my tendency to overcommit. Have you ever found yourself so busy that you burn out by October?
Family experts are unified in their concern that busyness is one of the greatest threats to marriages and kids today. A couple extra harmless, or even altruistic, commitments on your schedule can mean added stress that may be detrimental to the health of your family.
So, this school year, will you resolve — with me — to do things a bit differently? If so, here are a few suggestions to help manage your school year schedule well.
1. Fill out a weekly calendar of commitments before the school year even begins. Don't forget to write in Bible studies, sports practices, piano lessons and time to get homework and house work done. After you've added in all your commitments, take a look at your schedule. How much margin does your family have? Realistically, how many nights a week will you have dinner together?
2. Never immediately say "yes" to a new commitment. If you are like me, you will impulsively give away your time when your child wants to get involved in something new or when someone asks you to volunteer. One more commitment doesn't seem like such a big deal in the moment, right?
If you have a difficult time saying "no," come up with a catch phrase that can buy you time to seriously consider adding that activity. Try using phrases like, "I'd love to get involved, but I need a few days to see how that would fit into our family's other commitments," or, "That sounds like a lot of fun. I'd like to run it by my husband and get back to you."
3. Protect your evenings and weekends. Obviously, all of your kids' activities are going to be after school, in the evening or on the weekend. Be aware of how precious those evening and weekend hours are, however, and guard them jealously. If possible, reserve at least three weeknights and weekends as "family time." You need this protected time to connect with your kids, maintain family life and simply to rest.
My mom routinely reminds me of an expression that kept her sane through her years of raising six children: Every time you say 'yes' to one thing, you say 'no' to something else. Be intentional about what you say "yes" and "no" to this school year!