I’ve written before about “Mom’s New Year”–the fact that August is a much better starting point for fresh start enthusiasm because January doesn’t really work for me with all that resolution hype. Given the schedule of our life right now, January feels more like the middle of the year. There’s still half a year of school left then, our “We got this!” attitude only has five more months of steam left (let’s be honest–we are surviving off reserves in February), and setting new goals is the last thing I want to do when I’m still mourning the twinkle-light tear-down and the fact that I won’t be able to watch The Family Stone for another year (personal rule). But August? Oh, I’m there. The kids are going back to school, our schedules are shifting, and there’s an ever present momentum you can’t help but feel, especially if–say–you stop to inhale the deliciousness that is a box of #2 pencils, right there in the middle of the Target back-to-school aisle, while the parent who’s frantically searching for a yellow 3-prong, 2-pocket folder walks past you, staring at you because You Crazy. Hell yeah I’m crazy. This is my new year. Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play.
It helps that I’m excited about the new year, and thinking about goals and changes for myself this month is, actually, more fun and motivating than intimidating. But I also think taking time to step back and purposely create a to-do list just for me (that doesn’t include setting orthodontist appointments or buying backpacks) before the school year starts is vital for survival right now. Because those first few weeks back to school–back to dance schedules and soccer practices, homework help and library trips–can damn near snuff out your own soul, with so much time and attention focused on everyone else that you lose what fuels you in the first place. Have you been to the back-to-school aisles in Target lately? Or attended a middle school orientation? It’s like a plane dropped oxygen masks, 250 kids are grabbing for them, and there’s none left for you. Hold your breath. Or...before this all begins, stop and think about what intentional things you can do to make sure you are fully fueled, cushioned from the stress that will try to bring you down, and holding a good grip to your own goals–those “when the kids go back to school, I’m going to–” statements you’ve been telling yourself. Don’t let them slip.
While I know that making a list doesn’t necessarily translate into getting ‘er done, list-making is a powerful intentional action for me that starts the momentum needed to get things done. So, while I have a separate to-do list hanging on my wall right now with things that pertain to school and a few supplies I need to buy to make sure the kids are ready, this is my list just for me. My Mom’s Back-to-School list. Feel free to take any of these for your own list.
1. Organize a “Me Space”
It can be your bedroom, your office, a breakfast corner in your kitchen where you sip coffee and look at catalogues every morning, but you need a designated space that’s just for you–a place that inspires you where you can retreat to write, read, take a nap, paint–whatever. Before the kids go back to school, take some time to make this place special–rearrange it, tape an inspiring quote to the wall, open up the light. This week, I did a thorough clean-out of my office, cleaned up my desk, threw a bunch of paperwork away, bought a few organizational helpers, moved some artwork around. The new space makes me so excited to work and write and get some new things done with more time in the day without kids.
2. Find a Workout Partner
After a summer of pleasure, I’m looking forward to focusing more on keeping my body healthy and staying active. To make this goal more fun at the beginning of the school year and to keep me accountable, I’m sharing it with a few friends. I’ve set up one day a week to run with a friend after kid drop-offs, signed up for a workout class another evening of the week and have designated what part of the day will be for running (if you don’t designate the time, it’s not likely to get done). Want to take it one step further? Find an upcoming race, invite a friend to join with you and train together.
3. Adopt a Water Drinking Plan
Say what? A water drinking plan is a new school year goal? YES! Because I am the worst at remembering to drink water, and it’s such an important part of feeling good and staying on track with how I want to take care of my body. There are a few simple things you can do to help keep yourself drinking water throughout the day, and it can be as simple as buying the cutest water bottle you can find to carry with you throughout the day. Download the Daily Water or Hydro Coach app to track your water intake and ping you with reminders to stay hydrated. And a great motivator for me is making a big jug of infused water in the morning to keep in the fridge (add grapefruit slices or cucumber and mint leaves).
4. Treat Yourself
Just because I’m out of school doesn’t mean I’ve lost the excitement for back-to-school shopping. While you’re getting the kids set up with school supplies and new gym shoes, splurge on something for yourself to go into the new year as well. I bought new candles–a few of my favorites–last week because lighting them in the morning while I’m hustling around the kitchen making lunches and guiding the kids through their out-the-door routine helps keep me centered and makes me happy.
5. Book & Journal
One of the goals I try and always keep, especially when schedules are more demanding and staying centered is important, is making sure my morning ritual does not begin with my phone. Having a really good book I can’t put down and a clean journal helps me keep this goal. I just picked up this book after a friend said she tore through it in one sitting.
6. Pick a Date Night
Demanding schedules and monotonous routines are prime opportunities for relationships to suffer. Brett and I made a lot of intentional efforts this year to stay connected and have fun together, and I don’t want to lose that. It can be as simple as picking some calendar dates to go out to lunch together (I forget about this opportunity a lot!), booking a babysitter for a Friday night out or designating a night to stay up and watch a movie together after the kids go to bed. But put it on your list so that you make it happen.
Honorable Mentions: I kept my list pretty short and doable so that it doesn’t get overwhelming, but I have two honorable mentions I’d like to make happen this year–hiring a housecleaner, even just to come once a month to deep clean and taking lessons of some sort–picking up some long lost childhood piano lessons, learning a new language, cooking…whatever it is, it will be just for me.
Bring it, school! I’m ready for ya.