Whelp can we all agree that this summer went by entirely too fast?! With only a few days left in July, it is time for me to start prepping to send Charm back to school and finding balance between life and parenting. Her school supplies list has been emailed out, orientation days are set, cheerleading messages are going out, and it is time to go uniform shopping.
While I am switching back into adult mode, Charm is still off enjoying her last summer adventure. She is squeezing in all of the fun and games at summer camp before she walks into 5th grade. Can we pause for a moment to soak in the fact that I have a fifth grader? I’m still trying to figure out exactly how this happened so fast! Last year of elementary school, I’m not ready!
This school year I have to find ways to reach her in ways that she is receptive to learning instead of forcing information on her.
If you read my post Fourth Grade Blues, you know Charm and I had a pretty rough year – if you didn’t, check it out here. We both happily exited 4th grade and didn’t look back to reflect on it! Recently, when I did try to take a moment to reflect on it with her she said, “do we have to talk about it?!” Fourth grade was rough because Charm did not want to do all of her homework. Quick homework assignments were turning into hours of work from the time she got home until shower and bed time.
Soul of a wanderer
She was not focusing well in school; her teachers call her a daydreamer. When I ask her what she would daydream about she said, “lunch”! *shrugs* Charm minds everyone’s business but her own. She thinks she’s always right, and she is usually wrong; which makes her argumentative.
Math is her enemy; I’m pretty sure she thinks it’s a torture mechanism that keeps her from frolicking on the playground. Reading is her friend, but hates to write about what she reads. She is a minimalist, does just enough to get by! Charm is a visual person so she likes making short videos. She’s theatrical; she loves to dance and move about. All of which are great, but does absolutely zilch for her needing to sit at a desk all day to learn math, reading, and social studies.
Summer time for her is like breaking out of a life sentence of solitary confinement at the local penitentiary! This school year I have to find ways to reach her in ways that she is receptive to learning instead of forcing information on her. I am so open to suggestions!
Nevertheless, it is time to regroup from summer adventures and refocus on how we are going to tackle the school year. Once she returns from summer camp, she has two weeks to wrap her mind around going back to school.
This year, Charm is joining the Cheerleading team; something she has talked about wanting to do for years. I am praying that this will be something that can motivate her to perform better academically. She told me that she hates that people think all cheerleaders are dumb. She wants to prove that cheerleaders can be brilliant as well. Hopefully this means she’ll take this as a challenge to improve her grades to kill the stereotype? We will see.
PhD year three
Not only do I need to prepare Charm for school, but it’s time for me to get ready for the fall semester. For the last two years, I have been taking a full-time graduate student course load at UNO. Which means, in addition to working all day, I also sit in class three nights a week, wanting to break free, and feeling a lot like Charm; except I’ve done this to myself! For the second summer in a row, I took two classes for my PhD program; I haven’t had any downtime from school! This fall, I am entering my third and final year of classes before I start writing my dissertation.
Our schedule is packed tight
Charm and I run a pretty tight schedule throughout the week. Our mornings start at 5am, and we are going nonstop until 9/10pm. I often feel like there is way more to do than there are hours in the day. Our typical weekly schedule:
- My morning usually starts well before the sun rises. I either go for a run before I have to get Charm up or catch a couple extra minutes of sleep before getting her up.
- Charm catches the bus near our home. If I did not run before, I do so after I put her on the bus; or I go to the gym.
- If it isn’t a run/gym day, I eat breakfast, relax, and get ready for work. This is usually what my Mondays & Fridays look like with my current Marathon training schedule.
- I have evening classes after work Tuesday-Thursday.
- On the nights I don’t have class, I pick Charm up from school and we head home to do homework and cook dinner together.
- Homework and dinner pretty much take us to shower and bedtime.
- If I am lucky, I go to bed when Charm does…Rarely am I lucky.
- Once she’s tucked in, I prep for the next day by setting her clothes out, cleaning up, and doing any homework of my own.
- A couple of nights throughout the month I also have board and committee meetings for a local nonprofit I volunteer with.
This schedule can be quite tiresome, especially with the workouts that I do in the mornings. Burn out is real and painful around the middle of the semester. We welcome all of the holiday breaks with open arms! Weekends are also really important to us. The week can be so busy that some of the only quality time we have is in the mornings waiting on the school bus when we pep talk each other up for the day. Other than that, we are counting down the days to the weekend. I wake her up every Friday morning saying, “we survived another week boo!”
Milk weekend freedom
Weekends are golden around our house. Friday nights we usually will lay out on the cuddle on the couch and binge watch Netflix together, Saturdays are for play, and on Sundays we prepare for the week ahead of us. Charm knows Sundays are for cleaning, homework, and laundry. By that I mean she spends four hours “cleaning” her room, but is actually putting on a performance with the broom as her microphone…
Find fun quality time
This time of year also kicks off running season with our favorite community organization Youth Run NOLA. Charm and I have been volunteering with them since 2015, and this will be our third season as part of the team. We love this organization and all of the adults and kids involved. I love it even more because I get to spend quality time [running] with Charm and kids from my community! (Have I mentioned how much I love running?) Usually a couple of Saturdays out of the month are spent with our YRNOLA family.
The question I get all the time is how do I balance Charm, Work, School, Military, Volunteering, and any sense of an adult life? First, earlier this year, after 8 good years, I left the military to focus on Charm and school. Also, I should throw out there that some days/weeks I don’t balance it well at all. Some days my pep talk to Charm is, “we just need to make it through the week.” The best advice I can give is that we just take it week by week.
Sometimes ya need to think small
If I get too bogged down in everything that I need to get down in the next few weeks, meetings I have coming up, or assignments that are due in coming weeks, I would never get things done. Instead, I would be overwhelmed with anxiety trying to figure out where I am going to pluck the hours from to fit it all in! Some days, after I have done a billion things and I am worn out, once I tuck Charm in, I just lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling. In that moment, I could be washing dishes or completing my own homework, but I steal these moments for myself to just regroup. I know mentally and physically when I need those moments, and I know that the dishes and laundry aren’t going anywhere.
Also, one of the greatest helps is my co-parenting relationship with my ex-husband. Traditionally, every other week Charm spends with her father. These weeks I am able to put a lot more attention into school work of my own. Unfortunately, all of this year her father has been away majority of the time on military work; it’s just been me and Charm roughing it out together. She looks forward to his return to the city.
How do I balance:
- Make a weekly schedule & put it somewhere you can see it. I have a weekly schedule that I have made in excel, and I also have a daily planner that I carry with me.
- Make a to-do list, put it where you can see it regularly, and prioritize the items on it. For example, I prioritize assignments by their due dates.
- Post-it note and reminders.
- Meal plan/prep on the weekends. Plan meals for the week, grocery shop on Saturday, and prep some meals on Sunday.
- Set alarms and calendar alerts in your phone. This is the only way I remember meetings.
I’m a planner, winging it can be bad for my anxiety
- Set goals! It could be weekly, monthly, or yearly goals. I find that when I have a goal to work towards I appreciate the grind all the more.
- For example, I knew when I started my PhD program it was going to be four, long and hard years. I had to stay a full-time student with a 3.5 GPA to retain my scholarship. So, in 2015, I set a goal to complete this degree no matter what. When I get exhausted, I remind myself this will be over before I know it!
- Running: I am able to hold myself accountable to training by picking a race, signing up for it, and putting my energy into preparing for it.
- Meditate and workout. People are always like, “I don’t know how you do all that and still have the energy to work out!” People, I am able to do all that because I do workout! It’s what saves people from me getting cranky! Meditating reminds me to be mindful and helps me live in each moment instead of thinking about things weeks away. It doesn’t mean I ignore things, but it brings me to a peaceful place of understanding, “yes there are things to get done, and they will get done in their own time”. And, the endorphins from working out are what keep me sane and happy.
My therapist is my life line
- Get a therapist. Whether that be one consistent friend you can bounce things off of (equally, b/c you don’t want to be that person always talking and never listening) or an actual professional, it helps to have someone to talk to.
- Schedule your downtime. I am guilty of scheduling a billion things, but forgetting to schedule time to just sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Now, Sundays are supposed to be my ‘Don’t leave the house’ days. I felt amazing when I started telling people, “Can’t, sorry, Sundays are my days to not do anything!”
Schedule in fun shit!
- Find time for a Saturday Adventure. I love hearing Charm say, “So what’s our next adventure”. Saturdays are for adventures, and that may just be playing in the yard or walking the dog!
- Do not be afraid to tell people NO, or to remove people or things to your life that stress you out.
- Most importantly, take care of yourself. Nothing you want to do in life will get done if you aren’t in good mental and physical shape to do it. That means sometimes you may have to call an audible on the play and change things up. Take sick days when you need them. Get enough sleep or take naps. Take mental health days when you need them. Skip a workout.
Get rid of things that don’t make you happy
It is easy to balance my schedule when I am involved in things that I am passionate about. Of course, I love my daughter, our conversations are amazing and her insight is simple. I am never bothered with hanging out with her all day. Running is my sanity, so volunteering with a running organization brings me joy. The fact that it’s also a safe space for Charm to be in makes my life so much easier.
I’m an advocate of education, working in higher education, using my degrees, and pursuing a final degree in education. FOMO is overrated. I no longer care about what I’m missing while my friends are out when I can’t be there. I surround myself with amazing, caring, ambitious men and women who challenge me everyday. I’ve learned to avoid the comparison trap; what’s for me is for me, I don’t need to keep up with anyone else’s pace!
How do you balance your life?
I’d love to hear some of your tips for keeping your sanity and getting things done!