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Moms Talk: Ringing in a School Year Full of Changes

Don't forget to take time for yourself as you and your kids transition into a new routine.

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. -Arnold Bennett (English Novelist)

My husband’s first name is one letter away from the word “change.”  Many years ago, when he started a new job, there was a typo in the memo sent out to employees. Rather than letting them know that my husband had started working there, it accidentally, and a little ominously, informed them that, “Change is coming!”

Our house could have used a note like that this week.

We had a heck of a summer. Trips across the country, hanging out with family and friends, no set bedtime, and no particular wake up time.  Our daughter’s summer days were spent at parks and beaches or just playing in the backyard with .

So this week was a bit of a shock.

It was not just back to school, but back to a new school. (Yes, despite my conclusion in an , when we were given the chance to put her in a choice school, we took it in a heartbeat.) Early wake up time, new building, new people, new patterns, and no more laissez faire parents.

This has led to some distress.

And for me? Back to school has brought more “free” time, the ability to get things done that she hates without listening to whining (hooray for clean toilets and a restocked pantry), and exercise that isn’t chasing a shrieking child down a beach with a bottle of sunscreen. Oh, and early wake up time, new building, new people, new patterns, and no more laissez faire parenting.

And this has led to some eustress.

Psychologists use the terms eustress and distress to remind us that our bodies can’t tell the difference between a “positive” and “negative” change. Going through a divorce and getting married are the same as far as your nervous system is concerned.

And my nervous system thinks I just jumped off a cliff.

Back to school is a transition, and any transition is stressful. I think we did okay with working our way back to , buying the necessary supplies, and ramping up the idea of returning to school without instigating a total child meltdown. There were minimal tears on the first day, she loves her new teacher, and she got a first-day hug from a classmate she’d met at the pre-school work party and potluck.  So overall, I think we did fine on the kid front.

What I forgot about was me.

I had great plans for this first week of school. I was going to finally get the house clean, do all the backed up chores from the summer, get in some great workouts, and figure out my fall schedule (I’m starting a writing certificate through UW… yay!). Problem is, that was just my plan for the first day. Basically, I intended to become Florence Henderson and Donna Reed’s super-achieving love child.

Instead, what I’ve done is cry, flail and oversleep.

So my recommendation for next year? Take it slowly. Warn yourself that change is coming just as often as you warn your kids. Schedule in some revitalizing things for that first week back. A massage after first day drop off would not go amiss. Don’t think that you can flawlessly drop back into your May schedule. Things are different in September. Be kind to yourself while you find your new footing.

The school years are not a circle. They are a spiral, following a similar pattern each year, but with changes every time. Give yourself and your kids the space you need to integrate those changes into your lives, and the transition should be easier.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to cry and nap before school gets out.

Chris Macbeth September 09, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Great article. I was thinking things would be less hectic once school started. However, it seems September is going to be a very hectic month of driving from here to there and squeezing in activities for kids and me. Hopefully by next month I can get to the things I wanted to do around the house.

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