The sunset of summertime often brings with it changing routines. Clients awake from their beach haze. New teachers care for and educate our little ones. Cooler weather arrives. We pull out different wardrobes. And a different life energy fills our household.
Since we recognized the pattern of our own traditional downward September spiral, my husband and I have been more conscious about how we think about this month of the year. How we plan for it. And what we don’t plan.
Simply being acutely aware of this time of transition helps us set more realistic expectations.
If you’re interested in staving off some of the stress that can come with this time of change, I commend to you the following five strategies. They have made a huge difference in my own life.
Five Sanity-Saving Strategies for September
- Anticipate the State of Feeling Unsettled. My kids (now ages 5 and 7) returned to school this past week. Day #1 they had sparkles in their eyes, a skip in their step, and the giddy, nervous excitement of starting something new. In the past, I might have said, “Whew! That went smoothly!”, declaring the transition complete. And then, I would have gotten angry when, on Day #5, the meltdowns began. Anticipate that even if there weren’t tears the first day of something new (and there may have been), change is a process. Don’t underestimate the time new routines take to settle in. Just like going back to work after maternity leave, transitioning to a new season is a evolution, not an event. Knowing that jumbled feelings are completely normal and very human can go a long way to helping you ride their wave.
- Build in White Space. Yes, yes, I know that “don’t overschedule” command is easier said than done, particularly in a season when work demands can increase and soccer practices and birthday parties suddenly appear back on the calendar. But you can take the time now – before September starts – to block out quiet time for yourself and your family. Think hard about what activities you say yes to for your kiddos (check out: The Kid Activity Conundrum). Practice healthy strategies for saying no to things that don’t’ fill you up. And build some “white space” (more on that here) into your own schedule.
- Weekly Meetings Rock. How to build in time for quiet and manage the chaos of working parent life? For years now, my husband and I have sat down on Saturday evenings for our “weekly meeting” with our so-called Saturday Basket. This started as a way to know who was on point each day of the upcoming week if one of our little guys got sick. And it has evolved into an amazing tool for consolidating chaos. More here on what exactly we talk about during this weekly meeting.
- Plan a Date with Your Significant Other. If you have a partner on this parenthood journey, pick a date in September to go out, re-connect, and re-group. Talk about how this change of seasons is going for you. How your kids are coping with any changes. And what you’re excited about. Take a few hours to relax, play, and re-live some of the summer memories you made. Think creatively about when and where to go. Hint: the date need not be at night! (See Fitting in Date Night as a Working Parent.)
- Talk to Other Working Parents. Time and time again, my community has saved me. From feeling like I’m the only one struggling. From beating myself up. And from sinking into depths of working mama overwhelm. Are there other working parents at your office? Is there a parent professional group at your workplace? Plan a lunch to talk about September transition strategies. And most importantly, as Dr. Sonia Luthar reminds us in An Expert Tells Moms: Do THIS Instead of Self-Care, “the advice we should be listening to is not ‘take more care of yourself’” but rather “prioritize being taken care of.” Now is the time to reach out, connect, and rely on our friends and loved ones to get us through.
None of these strategies is rocket science. But if you take the time to consciously implement even just one or two of them, I feel confident your September will be more sane.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.