Before your children go back to school, the new school year always seems full of promise. It's a great time to get things in order, get everyone on a schedule and get going on some projects (organization, exercise, healthy eating!). I think most parents begin the school year on that kind of optimistic note. Almost no one heads into September thinking, "I'm going to end up running myself ragged and nearly collapsing with fatigue!" But by the time February or March (or even November!) rolls around, that's often exactly what happens.
- Who's in charge? Who's going to control your family's schedule this year? You and your spouse? Your children? People in your church or community groups who want your help with various projects? Your children's coaches or activity leaders? If you want to live a reasonably calm and sane life this year, then you and your spouse must take charge of and control your family's schedule. It's very easy to allow others to take on that power (often before you even realize it!) simply because the two of you aren't managing your family's activities. If you allow anyone else to control your schedule, you're almost guaranteed to be stressed and tired before Thanksgiving rolls around.
- What are our priorities? This year, set priorities for yourself and your family for the coming school year. Talk with your spouse, choose the things you want to define your family's life over the next 9 months, and set those things up as a "frame" for the year. This proactive approach keeps you from reacting all the time to new requests or demands on your time. For example, let's say all of your children are playing soccer this year, you've started exercising and are working to lose 20 pounds, you and your spouse are leading a small group at church, and the two of you want more time to relax and spend time together. That's it - those are your priorities for the year! When you add in work, homework, meals, laundry, housework and sleep - you're out of time and energy, and if you commit to something else, your priorities will suffer. (Some things, like illnesses and job changes, can become priorities without your permission! I experienced that when my mother's surgery and lengthy hospitalization turned my priorities upside down. But those things are the exception, not the rule.)
- Do we need to let go or say no? Finally, take a mental tour of your life and identify places where you or other family members need to let go or say no. Have you been doing something for a long time for a long time just because no one else has shown up to do it? Maybe it doesn't fit into your "frame" for the year, and you need to let go of it. Have you allowed your children to get involved in so many activities that you and your spouse are running on empty trying to get them to every practice, game, meeting and event? It may be time to help them let go of a few things. If someone has asked you to take on a new task (or if someone asks you to take one on during the school year ) and it doesn't fit with your priorities for the year, just say no. I know that's hard for a lot of people, especially women but, believe me, it gets easier with practice!
By the way, these 3 questions can help every couple and family make a plan for the coming year, not just families with school-age children. Our youngest son is in college now, so we're not tied to the school year calendar the way we were for the past 20+ years, but we still need to make plans and set our priorities for the coming year. What about you? Can you take some time to set priorities for the upcoming school year, so that you and your family can live a calmer, saner life this year?
Also published at CalmHealthySexy.