It's been called the second shift: That action-packed period when school lets out, or — if you work outside the home — when the official workday is over. While the rest of the family is changing gears, you are kicking it into high since you still have plenty of homework to do: driving carpool, supervising schoolwork, and feeding the troops, plus preparing for tomorrow.
Organization is the answer to reducing stress. First, take a critical look at how you spend your time in order to figure out where it's going and what's eating it up. Hint: going to the grocery store four times a week should signal a problem. Constantly searching for lost items — your son's baseball cleats, your car keys, or important school papers — is not a sign of efficiency either. Then find a system of organization that works for you. Some moms carry a calendar in their handbags. Others scribble random lists. Technologically savvy types store information in handheld devices.
And try these tips to help you reclaim those lost hours. Then you can slow down along with the rest of your family!
- Keep Your Cool After School: Having your own inbox is an easy way to keep track of notes from teachers, papers requiring your signature, and other school-related stuff. You can use a basket, plastic container, or whatever else you have on hand. Train your children to empty out their backpacks as soon as they get home and put anything you need to see in that spot immediately.
- Homework: To do or not to do right away? Some families believe in work before play, but some kids need a transition period before hitting the books. You can use a timer to let kids know playtime is over. Or set a timer for 15 minutes of homework first. Then allow your child to have some fun. It may take a little experimenting, but with persistence you'll eventually get into a routine.
When homework is completed, train your kids to put it in their backpacks right away. No more missing papers the next morning! If necessary, attach a sticky note to the backpack to remind your child not to leave home without key items like library books or musical instruments.
- Carpooling: Prepack your car with items that will help you turn what Donna Goldberg calls void time into self-renewal time. (Void time is that period when you are stuck in the car waiting for a child to finish soccer practice or a flute lesson.) Listen to a book on tape, chat on the phone with a friend, read the paper, or catch up on tasks such as paying bills or making doctor's appointments. Stand beside the car and shape your biceps with a pair of dumbbells. Or build some cardio into your day with a jump rope.
If you're waiting with siblings, be prepared to quell hunger pangs with granola bars and bottled water. Have them work on homework or create a work of art with crayons and coloring books. Overall, streamline extracurricular activities to reduce waiting, driving, and stressing. If possible, limit children to two activities apiece and share transportation with other families whenever possible.