MAY HONORS MOTHERS? I’M CALLING BS: How to Survive the Hardest Month of The Year as a Working Mom
3:18 pm my phone rang. It was Dixon, my oldest son. “Mom, are you coming to get us today or is Daddy?”
“I am. Why?”
“Well, I’m just wondering when you’re going to get here.”
“It’s 3:18. I have til 3:30 to pick you up.”
“Okay, love you. Bye.”
3:22 pm: “Mom, they just wanted me to call and see if you were on your way.”
“What do you mean? We just talked. I’m almost to the school. I have til 3:30 to pick you up!”
Can you feel the mom guilt seeping in? My children are the two standing on the sidewalk almost every single day – the last to be picked up, one of one million reasons to beat myself up about being a working mom.
Today marks the first day of May and the month I used to love – May flowers, gorgeous spring weather, picnics and Memorial Day beach trips. Now, I lovingly refer to it as the most hellacious month of the year. Field trips, end of year parties, play dates, baseball season in full swing, teacher gifts, service projects, lock-ins, field day and jamboree – you name it and it is SHOVED into May. So, as we embark on the month that is SUPPOSED to honor Mother’s (oh yeah, coach, can we not play a baseball tournament that beloved weekend in May?) I’m doling out my hard-earned advice for how to survive the last month of the school year.
- Take care of yourself first: that sage counsel imparted to us by wiser and more advanced mothers ahead of us. For me, this means eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, plugging in intentional downtime to my calendar, praying A LOT more frequently and drinking less alcohol (notice I don’t say cut alcohol out altogether – I did that one year and nearly lost my mind). It also means specifically incorporating things that make me feel good into my calendar. I enjoy Garage Barre class, so I plug it in. I love to cook and feed my family. Every day isn’t an option with our sports schedules, so I intentionally find nights where it will work and we can sit down together for a good meal. I also feel good when my nails are manicured, so I fit that into my schedule. These are all items that help me take care of me. For years I thought that was selfish. Now, I just know better.
- Say NO more than any other time: balloons need blowing up for Field Day – nope, not me (sorry, Lauren!); service day field trip needs a few more parent volunteers on the same day I have a client meeting – not happening this year; someone reaches out and wants to see if you can do lunch – let’s schedule for June. Cut out everything extra. It just doesn’t need to happen this month. There’s no reason to think you have to say yes just to keep everyone happy. Stop being a people pleaser. Stop thinking that saying no is going to hurt someone’s feelings or ruin your reputation. Your sanity is so much more important.
- Plan well and prepare for hiccups: I live and die by my calendar – one master electronic calendar where everything lives for our family – my work, the boys’ activities, Matt’s schedule, social events, doctors’ appointments, hair cuts, travel and everything else. Matt and I sit down on Sunday nights and plan our entire week: who is dropping off and picking up from school each day, when do we each want to go to the gym, what day(s) do we have baseball practice this week, who is handling the dentist on Wednesday, should we put Thackston in extended on Thursday since Dixon has basketball practice so that we can stay at work longer – you get the idea. It all gets laid out for the week. Then, I take my notebook and write a priorities list for home and one for work – just for that week. After I have all of that on paper, I time block it onto my calendar – it’s all plugged in so that I can make sure it happens. But, I only prioritize 2-3 items per day because I know that stuff is going to come up and I’m going to get distracted or taken away. It’s much more manageable that way. The other thing I specifically do in May is to have extra help on standby. And, when something comes up, I’m not ashamed to ask. For example, last Saturday Dixon had a baseball tournament. I had been out of town all week for work and drove from Athens (4.5 hours) to get to the ball field for the first game. But, his second game wasn’t until later that afternoon. One of the publicists who works for me was getting married that evening – 45 minutes away. So, rather than panicking, I secured our summer nanny to meet us at the ball field so that Matt and I could go home, get dressed and make it to the wedding in plenty of time. We saw the first game, but missed the second game. And guess what? No one died! Plus, Matt and I enjoyed a much-needed date night and time away.
- Make time for family: in the rush of all May activities you can easily lose focus on what’s important and take your stress and frustration out on those you love the most. I mentioned that for me personally cooking and feeding my family actually nourishes me (I’m selfish that way!) but it’s also really important face time with my people. One of my boys’ favorite things for dinner is an impromptu picnic. We take a quilt, spread it out on the floor or yard and grab a ton of different quick bites from the fridge (cheese, fruit, deli meat, raw veggies and the like) and just sit and soak up the time together. There’s literally no cooking, clean up is a breeze and the boys think it’s a novelty. But maybe time just looks like five extra minutes at tuck in or a stop for ice cream on a random Friday because everyone made it through the week. Regardless of how you spend your time together, plug it into May. You’re going to need to love on each other to get through all the rest.
- Prepare your team: I have people who report to me. Your team may look like your mother-in-law and the neighborhood sitter. Everyone’s team is going to be different. Regardless, you need them this month and they need to be ready to jump in and help extra. First, acknowledge your limits in May. Be realistic about all that you can actually accomplish and where you are going to need support. I’ve already told you to say no more, so taking on less this month is going to serve you and your team well. But, more important than anything with regard to your team: draw boundaries. I explain fully to them what the month looks like, how much I have on my plate and where I can be helpful and when I’m not going to be available. The worst thing I could do to them is say yes, I’ll write that, or no, I don’t need you to answer that email, or yes, I’ll make sure to review that before you send and then not be able to keep my word. What do they really need from you? And where can you lean in to them to help you get through this month?
- Grace and kindness go a long way: I fell into the trap years ago of believing that if I took a nap in the middle of the day, I was being lazy. Or, if I messed up, somehow I wouldn’t ever get the opportunity again. Self-talk and self-care are two different things and you need to do both well to survive May. Lead with being kind to yourself. You must set the example first with yourself in order for it to flow naturally to others. When you are stressed and strapped for time, it’s easy to blow a fuse and lash out. Know that this month is a prime target for that to easily happen. Give yourself and others a lot of grace. They are likely having the exact same end-of-the-school-year feeling, limping over the finish line. Team up and celebrate when Memorial Day comes and you’ve made it to summer!
How are you preparing for May? What are your best tips for finishing the school year well?