Alarm clock, shower, sleepy kids, breakfast, commute, school, work, doctor’s appointment, the big work meeting, parent-teacher conference, that guilty feeling because the tooth fairy forgot to show up, after school activities, karate, yoga, dinner, dishes, kids not wanting to go to bed, huge headache and finally crashing, knowing we’ll have to do it all over again the next day … Sound familiar? It’s way too easy for us modern moms to get overscheduled and overwhelmed both by our kids´ needs and our own. Yet, in order to stay sane, we really do need to find ways to keep all the balls in the air—perhaps by choosing not to juggle quite so many. But what can we, and should we, give up?
I asked Mamiverse moms to share their secrets to keep from being overscheduled, stressed-out mamis, and here’s what they told me:
Limit after-school activities. While it’s sacrilege to some soccer moms, limiting your kids after-school activities is an important rule for keeping you and them from being over-programmed. Super Glue Mom Laura Fuentes tells us she limits her kids’ activities to one, maximum two, per week. This guarantees that her brood has plenty of time for homework, playing outside with friends, family dinners and movie nights. And everyone is a lot less stressed. My kids do just one after school activity, and not every day!
Read Related: Are We Overcommitting Our Kids?
Let the dishes wait. “My mother-in-law shudders at the thought, but if I don’t get to the dinner dishes until the next morning, what’s the big deal? It’s not like they won’t be waiting for me,” says Liz, mom to a rambunctious 2-year-old. “If it’s a choice between doing the dishes and enjoying time with my daughter and husband while she runs around the living room giggling her head off, well, I choose giggles.”
Carpool! There really is strength in numbers. So get together with other moms and dads to coordinate schedules for driving the kids hither and yon. If you drop the gang off at the movie theatre, another parent can pick them up. The same goes for sports practice, band, etc. “You have to get to know your kids’ friends’ parents,” says Mamiverse reader Emmalene. “And don’t wait for them to suggest carpooling—bring it up yourself. You may find they’ll leap at the idea.”
Ask for and accept help. Asking for or accepting help from family members, either with housework or childcare, doesn’t come easily to the modern mom. But the fact is that just a few generations ago, and especially in Latino families, tías and abuelas often pitched in to help raise the littlest family members, iron clothes for work, or mop the floor. If your mother, suegra or abuela is nearby and has free time on her hands, she may welcome the opportunity to feel useful and help out. And she may be waiting for you to ask. “I admit that I’m always a little embarrassed when my mother in law comes over to clean my house,” says Lauren. “But I’m always glad when she’s finished!”
Ask your spouse to pitch in. This is a tough call for some mamis, especially if they are stay-at-home moms and their husbands work. But remember that you, too, have a full-time job—taking care of the kids and household! So you can and should expect your husband to pitch in and help. Maybe you forge a deal that he makes dinner two nights a week, or handles the grocery shopping. Maybe he plays with the kids for an hour when he gets home from work, just so you can have a little down time. “After I enlisted his help more at home,” recalls Aimee, a stay-at-home mom of two, “even my husband has to admit that he now has a better understanding of just how much I do during the day.” I’m with Aimee—my spouse takes over dinner when I’m on a deadline and I do the same for him. We are a team, after all!
Make and freeze meals. The downside to making a week’s worth of dinners in advance is that you spend Sunday afternoon or evening in the kitchen. The upside is you spend a lot less time there during the week. Mamiverse Food features a Make-Ahead-Meals section, including the ubiquitous casseroles. “Thawing and reheating a made-ahead casserole or stew, served with crunchy bread and a healthy salad means you’ve got a crowd-pleasing meal and minimal clean-up afterwards,” says Mamiverse Food contributor Fernanda Beccaglia. “Your freezer is your friend!”
Find time for you. Okay, I understand that mommy “me” time is an elusive thing. But if you don’t have time to get to the spa, go for a run or get that weekly mani-pedi, there are other ways to carve out a little down time, every day. Meditate for 10 minutes while you wait in the carline at school. Read in bed for a half-hour before shutting off the light. Let older kids entertain themselves with toys or TV (no, it won’t kill them!) while you Skype with a friend or catch up on emails. I used to run while pushing the stroller, and now that my kids are tweens, I walk the dog while the kids ride their bikes or skateboard with us.
Whatever you do to keep yourself and your family from being overscheduled, remember that you’re doing it for your spouse and kids as much as for yourself. Worried that other moms will judge you because you don’t volunteer at church and school, coach the volleyball team and organize food drives? Eh, let them judge. And think how jealous they’d be if they saw you with your feet up, relaxing—maybe even with a glass of wine in your hand—enjoying precious downtime with your significant other and kids.
Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of pieces intended to help busy moms keep their cool all day long, brought to you by Secret Clinical Strength.