A few years ago, a brilliant piece by blogger/author/mother Jen Hatmaker made the social media rounds, entitled “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.” It was shared hundreds of thousands of times, and clearly, it struck a chord. Hatmaker chronicled the severe demise of her school enthusiasm from the overzealous preparations of September to the fervent hope it would all just end by May. At one point in the post, Hatmaker suggested that perhaps schools should have students do nothing but recess and movie-watching from about mid-April forward.
Three cheers for that!
Alas, no school or district that I know of has yet implemented the movies and recess May-mester, so we”re left to cope. With that in mind, here are a handful of tips to help get you through these last weeks of school. When I asked parents for their insights on how to deal with the MAYhem, Courtney Carlyle, a working mother of two boys replied, “I can totally help, but am swamped until about mid-week next week with yearbook, sock hop, and Medieval Fest sign-ups.” I couldn’t help but laugh at how perfectly her response sums it up! There is much going on, but there are ways to handle it.
May is a great time to practice employing the word “no” in our overburdened worlds. Heather Ringoen, a working mom of two boys, says that she simply has to say “no” to some things this time of year. “I tried to do and see everything one May and almost collapsed from exhaustion at the end of the month. I learned the hard way that it is not good to go into summer tired!” she says.
Melanie Ricci, a business owner and mom of two, also says that “no” is becoming part of her repertoire. “I have limits and I need to respect them. I am consciously giving myself permission to not have to be available for every school request between now and the end of the year,” she says. Ricci says she’s even practiced her no a few times at home and has loved the sense of balance it’s provided.
Consider saving your valuable “yeses” for activities that are important to your child or celebrate his abilities—not the ones you feel guilted into helping with. Does your child love Field Day and showing off her speed? Is the school asking for volunteers? Maybe that can be your one “yes” for May. Likewise, if your child is a hard-working student but is consistently embarrassed by recognition, maybe the end-of-year awards ceremony is one you can skip.
The teachers, too, are also exhausted and excited for summer. Elena Oster, a fourth grade teacher in Boulder, says that her main goal for the last two months of school is to “keep it simple.” She says that teachers are mindful of how busy this time of year is and try not to add anything unnecessary or purposeless. “Students respond very well to quiet reading time and mindfulness exercises to have a chance to reset before the next activity,” Oster says. It’s definitely advice worth trying at home, too.
Get Out More
You’re not alone in this Sisyphean struggle against the demands of May, which makes it the perfect time to schedule a night out, far, far away from the toil. Although everyone’s to-do lists are long and there seems to be a kid-related event several times a day, find the time (even if you have to forgo something else). Getting together with a friend, your spouse, or your kids away from the fray will provide you with a chance to breathe and subsequently keep going.
Ricci and Ringoen both mention the value of a girls” night out. Ricci says that having a group of people who truly understand you is reassuring and she and her friends “are figuring out how to balance adult fun into the fray of kids schedules.” Carlyle says she planned a family night out at a concert (that would require skipping other activities) that turned out to be the best family night they”d had in a while.
Lean on Each Other
Almost every parent I talked to invoked the splendor of having someone to lean on. Whether it’s your spouse, partner, a grandparent, or a nanny, having someone that you can count on to help handle the load is crucial. Perhaps grandparents could escort your child to a school dance—they might enjoy seeing her interact with her friends. Maybe one of your close friends that your child knows well could support him at his spring recital this year.
Ringoen says that her husband plays a critical role in getting through these months. “I need his help big time as some nights we have to be two places at one time. I also try to line up additional babysitters that can drive for those nights that he can’t help,” she says.
Some people find calm in the acts of organizing and cleaning. Such activities offer some sense of control in the midst of what otherwise is a fantastically frenzied time. May is a great time to think about dealing with the school supplies, books, backpacks, clothing, and other detritus that piles up over the course of a school year. Stick with these three options when approaching accumulation: toss it, keep it, donate it. Everything fits into one of those categories. When summer comes, you”ll be miles ahead of others who might leave that task until summer ends.
Think about what shortcuts you can take to make life a little less busy. One mom—who may or may not be the author of this article—recently ordered sandwiches from the grocery store deli one evening only to cut them in half and plop them in her kids” lunches the following morning. What can you let go of temporarily in order to make time for things that you (or your kids) don’t want to miss? Let the laundry pile up a bit, have cereal for dinner, order take-out a couple nights a week, skip checking your kids” homework. Also, consider what duties you can delegate to your kids to provide some much-needed relief for yourself.
Perhaps the easiest way to coast into summer is to embrace the madness. Melissa Rosenberg, working mom of two, says that she’s spent a lot of time this year contemplating how quickly it all goes. Her oldest is off to middle school, and she says she’s just trying to “enjoy it even though it feels crazy, because it’s over so fast.” Kids grow up, and we might just miss this lunacy someday, so embrace it now before it’s gone.
Courtney Messenbaugh is a freelance writer based in the Boulder area. She is married with three children and a big dog.