Photo Source: Pink Sherbet Photography
– A Guest Post from Kelly –
It happens everyday at the same time…
The kids come piling in from school. There are book bags strewn here and there, crumpled papers tossed on the kitchen island and artistic fingerprint paintings are shoved in my direction for Mom’s loving approval.
Have a listening ear.
This is also the time when my kids are ready to share about their day. They want to talk about what went well and what didn’t go so well. After 24 years of raising children, I’ve learned that kids generally tell the stories of the day once or twice. If my ears aren’t ready to stop what I’m doing and listen, chances are I’ll miss it.
I could miss the chance to touch my child’s heart: to encourage them to keep trying, to help them to work through a social problem or to help them with that math homework. They are also starving and ready for a snack. It’s over this snack that the best relational work is done.
With 6 of my 9 children in public school this year, the “3-6pm” zone is going to be a very busy time, every single day.
Have a meal plan.
Without some forethought and planning, I can easily find myself completely “behind the eight-ball” come meal time. Errands and chores that didn’t get done before “Zone-time” will likely not happen. Football practices and other after-school activities can deter my homemaking efforts and yet require my time and attention.
Meal Planning becomes all the more important with school-aged children. I can’t afford to be unprepared at dinner-time. Even if we’re talking about hamburgers, hotdogs and tacos, simple meals are better than no meals. Your host, FishMama, is a professional at meal-planning and you can learn a lot from her. Freezer cooking is also a wonderful idea to keep you on top of things.
In my home, dinner happens in the morning or even the night before. Decisions about what’s for dinner are hopefully in the meal plan or the freezer, so laying out meat, cutting veggies and general meal prep needs to happen early. By “Zone-Time”, it’s all over if dinner isn’t already happening.
Have a snack ready.
Snack-time is really a big deal in our house and the kids (unfortunately!) love my homemade goodies. Time has to be made for this kind of thing, homemade cookies don’t just show up. Prioritizing becomes paramount in how I spend my time during the day. This IS something that I’m good at and try to help other moms be comfortable with.
For me, personally, it’s worth the time to make cookies (or whatever) for the kids after school. They look forward to them and whatever makes your kids long for home is a ‘good thing’. They also seem to share more while munching on something they love.
Have a plan.
Chores must be scheduled in order to keep the household running smoothly. My public school students aren’t required to do much in the way of chores through the week, but on the weekends they must pitch in. They can then catch up on their laundry and clean their rooms, and may be asked to do some outside work to help Dad.
Whatever I need to get done needs to happen early in the day. Shopping, doctor appointments, food preparation and housework all need to be done in the early part of the day. I have more energy early and it seems that I can accomplish more this way.
Getting enough sleep is also critical. Turn off the TV and the laptop and get your sleep!
Boundaries must be clear in terms of how much outside activity your family can handle. I can get pretty grumpy if I’m in the van too much, I prefer to be at home as much as possible. Be firm with your children about what the expectations are with sports, parties and other activities.
Handling papers once from your child’s book bag will keep you from getting buried under a pile of paper. Zone-time is when I look, read and make a decision. Most of it winds up in the trash. Kid’s pictures are hung on a frig for a few days and then pitched. With 9 kids, you can image how many pictures we get a week! No room for sentiment there.
Some families love to run and be on the go a lot, others do not. Be realistic about the pace of your family and it’s effects on relationships and the overall health of the household. “Whatever is best for ALL of us” is something we try to live by.
Any family with school-aged children is a busy family, but I believe that regardless of what your life consists of, balance is attainable.
Balance doesn’t just happen, it is created as you make decisions among the hundreds of options thrown at you each day, in terms of what’s important to you. Balance in your life is unique to your family and lifestyle, but it is what keeps us all from the looney bin.
Do some thinking about the flow of your school days and brain-storm for solutions now so that you can have a smoother school year.
— Kelly Morris is a wife and mother to 9 children, 6 biological and 3 adopted, living in small town Ohio. She can often be found blogging, writing, reading, cooking, gardening, digital scrapbooking and drinking good coffee. Kelly authors “The Morristribe: Creating Balance for Busy Moms” and loves helping other moms find balance in their lives.