By Lisa Thompson – Column
Back to school brings many new pressures on a family that summer has erased from our memories. It can be tough. Not only are there early risers and late-night exercises, but there are also backpacks to be checked, lunches packed and new information channels managed. Cooking dinner every night is getting harder and harder, and planning how to take multiple kids to different colleges each day can be difficult. The act of juggling before school can be stressful for parents and students alike.
There are new class DoJos to sign up for, remembrance groups popping up, Group Me invitations being sent out, and a deluge of flyers and notes being sent home in folders to facilitate communication between parents and teachers . In fact, the various platforms for school, after-school care, extracurricular activities, church, civic initiatives and more can be exhausting for parents. It can be difficult to keep up with all the incoming information, especially at the start of a new school year and with multiple children.
Burnout and information overload is a very real thing, especially for parents who are already responsible for keeping up with their email inboxes and their own social media platforms. The pressure to stay up to date and not miss any information can be debilitating for busy moms and dads.
There are a few ways to deal with the information overload and stress that going back to school as a parent often brings.
For example, this could be the ideal time to take a break from social media. When parents are struggling to keep up with all the announcements and handouts, it can be helpful to mute notifications that aren’t necessary for the schedule or immediate tasks.
Social media often causes parents, especially mothers, to feel internalized guilt and pressure to compare their child and their schedules to others. As such, it may make sense for parents to unsubscribe from Facebook or Instagram, remove the app from their phones for a few weeks, or even mute notifications until the fall schedule becomes routine.
Silencing social media has more benefits than curbing comparison and mothering guilt. It can also help ease the mental burden, keep up with world and national news, and take the weight of the problems society is facing. While it’s good to know what’s happening in the world in general, it’s often weighty to take on any part of the daily news cycle or delve into tragedies and crimes that are often hot topics and much discussed on social media. Every now and then, it can be beneficial to take a psychological break from these apps and websites.
It’s also important to take time as a parent to take care of your physical self. While it can be difficult to do this, parents need to make sure they’re getting enough sleep at night, eating a balanced diet, and exercising to be their best self. If they take care of themselves, they can take care of their children even in a busy back to school.
Erica Cruson, formerly a career-oriented, working woman, recently made the decision to stay at home to care for her young children and become the chief caretaker of the home while her husband met the demands of increasing responsibility as a member of a Texas ministry meets the needs of the Special Response Team for public safety. Erica’s children are 9, 4 and 2 years old. She has found that spending time working out and exercising can be an outlet for her busy lifestyle.
“As a wife and mother of three, there’s always something to do and I’m always thinking about what I need to do next,” said Erica. “It never ends. Just ask any mom! If I go to the gym and put my headphones on, I can switch off completely. All I focus on is my form, my reps, etc.”
Erica and her husband, Blake, work out five days a week.
“That’s my priority,” she said. “With a million things going on, I need to plan my day ahead. The night before, I look at what practices the kids have, what activities are happening at church, and then of course I factor in nap times. My husband and I like to go to the gym together in the evenings when he is not away on business. If that’s the case, I know I have until about 3pm to get everything else done. If I was working full time, I would leave at 5:00 PM. It was pretty much the best and only option with my schedule. It’s a lot easier to buy time now that I’m staying at home. I give big props to working moms who make time to work out. It is not easy.
Erica admits that exercise is just as important to her as it is to her kids.
“It’s important to me because it helps me become a better version of myself,” Erica said. “It’s also part of my lifestyle. If I don’t make time for it, it’s like a task that hasn’t been checked off my to-do list. It helps that I love it.”
Exercising isn’t the only way Erica breaks through the hustle and bustle.
“I’m a big advocate of not doing every activity possible,” Erica said. “My husband works a lot of the time and it is not easy to go anywhere alone with three children. If I’m not up to the challenge, I just don’t go. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation.”
Erica also mentions how important time to recharge is to being a good mom.
“I love my kids, but I really love bedtime,” she said. “When they finally get down for the night, I like to chill with Blake and catch up on our shows. Simple but satisfying.”
The Crusons are a busy young family but seem to have found a balance that works for them. You are proof that it is possible.
Monica McCaleb, general manager of Cass County Fitness, confirms that her gym sees an increase in parental workouts every year when school starts.
“Parents give 100% of themselves for their children all year round, especially in the summer,” said Monica. “Adults and parents are overworked and stressed most of the day, but we need to take care of our own health. Focus on what matters most and set boundaries between work, family, and time for yourself. Set aside 30-minute time slots that you can take for a walk, hit the gym, run at the local high school. Also, always remember to eat healthily; Your body will thank you!
Monica highlights the benefits of exercise that go beyond just physical strengthening.
“Exercise can improve your mood, improve sleep, reduce depression and boost self-esteem,” she said. “Stress and anxiety can rule your life if you sadly let it. Exercise can be a way to distract yourself from daily chores, errands, and life in general. The specific benefits of aerobic exercise can produce the kind of physiological response that can reduce your anxiety sensitivity. So hop on the treadmill and start watching your favorite show and let the anxiety subside for 30 minutes! You have earned it!”
Besides exercising, there are other ways to unwind from the hustle and bustle – just like Monica mentioned. Watching TV, listening to music, cleaning the house, eating your favorite meal, or making time for a cup of coffee with friends are all ways to relieve stress.
Whatever your method, make it a priority.
Monica has one final piece of advice: “The key is to never waste YOUR time.”