While this is the last of my series on preparing for fall, I happen to believe it is the most important. This post is important if you teach with Montessori, use an online school, or send your children to be educated by someone else during the day. Moms, listen up, the new school year cannot succeed without you. You can write all the best lesson plans, buy at the best materials, and load up on .15 crayons, but if you do not take time to prepare yourself the school year will not live up to its full potential.
I like to think of this process in terms of a body- mind- spirit of preparation. Prepare the whole you so that you can be wholly prepared for what this school year has to throw your way.
Prepare Your Body
Parenting is a contact sport! I'm quite sure that over the years I have earned far more bruises from parenting than my time in taekwondo. Your body needs to be well fed, well hydrated, and well rested to function at its best. Moms are notoriously poor about taking care of our own physical needs. Rest, especially, can be hard to come by. Take at least a moment before the school year starts to think about how you will meet each of your physical needs this year. Make a spot on your schedule for a favorite activity or exercise. Maybe you can fill that in with a weekly hike with your children while the weather is still nice. If you find getting out on your own important, make it a priority item on your calendar.
How much rest would you like to get each day or week? How can that happen? Scheduled bed times and wake up times will likely be interrupted by children, but by being self disciplined to go to bed by a certain time each night you are more likely to find yourself well rested. By being creative with enforcing rest times for older children in the afternoon, maybe you can spend a half hour or an hour each day resting with a good book (or even napping yourself) to help refresh your energy.
What is the hardest part of being well fed and well hydrated for you? Do you succumb to skipping breakfast or have a hard time remembering to drink water throughout the day? Identify one area that you could work on and develop a plan to make it happen. Maybe purchase a new fun water bottle to keep close during the day or get in the habit of packing a special breakfast for yourself each evening. Don't look to be perfect, look for one area to improve and find a way to make it happen.
Prepare Your Mind
When I think of preparing my mind I think of being mentally as well as physically organized. When I have an idea of what is coming it is easier to adjust to changes when they happen. When I'm flying by the seat of my pants already, small changes can bring huge mommy meltdowns. These days, being mentally organized requires physical assistance. We have a *command center* on our refrigerator that I sometimes jokingly refer to ask my external brain.... our family's days outgrew my brain's capacity many years ago! What is your command center? Any tweaks that could help manage your schedule? How do you communicate with your family regarding schedules, particularly changes? The larger your family is, the more people are affected by even the smallest changes. Organization is a huge daily mental task for moms so be intentional. It doesn't matter what your plan or system is, it only matters (for your own mental health) that you have one.
Along with being mentally organized, mental preparation involves mental stimulation. Moms have interests and hobbies. Those interests and hobbies are a part of us and we need to nurture them. Sometimes this can mean studying a new subject, reading books, or even taking a class or working towards a degree. Sometimes this means a hobby like blogging, a job, or volunteering for a cause that is important to us. There is a balance point of course. During certain seasons enjoying our hobby or activity might look different than we would like, but I firmly believe that by being creative we can find a way to integrate most activities on some level.
For example, I love to compete but at this stage in my children's lives it isn't practical or fair for me to run around to many tournaments and keeping my body in competition shape would require too much sacrifice in terms of the ebbs and flows of my childbearing and child nourishing roles as mother. On the other hand, I can spend time reading about taekwondo history & philosophy, teaching, working on my own basics and self defense, and generally taking care of my body the best I can right now to make competing possible in another season of my life. This keeps me physically active, mentally stimulated, and lays the groundwork for when another season comes along.
Prepare Your Spirit
I saved this for last, but it is by far the most important. When all of the above seems impossible, it is your well prepared spirit that will pull you through. Give yourself a spiritual check up. Do you need some fortification? How's your prayer life? Have you offered the upcoming year to God and prayed for guidance in making choices regarding activities? What inspirational texts have you read? Do you have a patron saint or scripture theme for your family, your children, yourself...maybe even especially this school year? How are you ensuring you continue to grow spiritually?
I find that without intentional periods of quiet, my spiritual growth suffers significantly. These periods don't need to come in the form of prayer, worship, or adoration specifically (although its great when they can), but I need time when no one is touching me, hanging on me, or insisting on needs that be met immediately. In all honesty, my children are young enough, this really only happens when I make time to leave our house on my own. Sometimes I can even combine this time with some form of running or activity, but my spirit needs quiet to refresh and reset itself.
One thing I used to be quite good at and am aiming to improve on this year is getting to daily Mass alone on a somewhat regular basis. It is good of course for the kids to come to Mass as well, but when I bring five children to Mass alone, I usually end up leaving feeling more like I survived a marathon than feeling spiritually refreshed. Of course I lean greatly on knowing that I still receive spiritual benefit from daily Mass, but it is not quite the same as when I am able to go alone. The same goes for praying an uninterrupted rosary! We should of course pray with our children and bring them to church often, but sometimes to truly refresh ourselves we need to make intentional time to do these activities of faith alone.
We all have seasons where these things go more smoothly and seasons where we struggle. What kind of season are you in right now? As we prepare to start a new school year, it is a good time to evaluate where we are. Not only is the coming school year an opportunity for your children to grow and learn, it is an opportunity for yourself as well.