The other day, I walked into an exam room to see a 13-year-old boy with a sore throat. His mom was with him and looked very fatigued. Concerned, I asked her if she was okay. “I’m exhausted, actually. I’m so ready for the school year to end.”
Parents these days are incredibly busy. With many kids participating in sports, music, dance theatre, and a multitude of other things, families are constantly on the run. Weekends are often spent carting kids from a game to a birthday party to another event. And then at the end of the year, there are projects due (and often, a run to the craft store to get supplies), tests, recitals, and of course, exams. All of this on top of work. In many families, both parents have full-time day jobs. And, with almost half of our country having single-parent homes, it is even more stressful where one parent is taking on the bulk of this.
By the end of the school year, many moms and dads feel like they’re clawing their way to the finish line – desperate for summer to start. We are completely burnt out.
As a pediatrician, I often talk about how to reduce stress in our kids. One of the main ways to do this is reduce our own stress as parents. It’s not easy, especially at the end of the school year. But here are some ways that I do it, as a working mom with two kids.
1. Exercise the power of “no.” By saying “no”, we create more time for ourselves. Does your child really need to go to another class birthday party? Or another playdate? Ask yourself if it will make a real impact. If you can cancel one item on your weekend list, it will give you the power to breathe, and your child some free time.
2. Take a moment to adjust your perspective. It seems overwhelming right now (I know this personally – as a mom, I’m living it!), but it is only a few weeks until the beginning of summer. Is there anything that you can take off your immediate to-do list and delay it until the summer? Can the weeds in the lawn can wait, or that door you want fixed so badly? All of us have a little more time in the summer – so put off what you can.
3. Breathe and create balance for yourself. Divide the driving with your partner if you can. Build in some downtime for yourself. Go for a run, hang out at a coffee shop, or just call a friend. Taking that break will replenish you, so that you have the energy to take the kids to the finish line.
And lastly, when you hit that summer break, don’t overschedule it. Schedule in some ‘do nothing’ time for yourself and the kids. It will help you all re-energize yourself and you will be ready to go, by the end of the break!