Salute to Spouses Blog

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Shorter days, longer hours

By Allison Marlow

Mommy zombies are everywhere.

School has barely begun and already my friends are bleary-eyed, hunched in defeat as they drive from tumbling to cheer to scouts to tutoring to here to there to everywhere.

This kid needs money for homecoming. This one needs band shoes. That one has the wrong color folder for science. Another can’t find the three brand new uniform shirts we purchased in July.

There are notes heading home to pump you up for fundraisers! To warn you that one preschooler has already been diagnosed with foot and mouth disease. To gently remind you, to remind your kindergartener, to please not wipe boogers on the classroom walls. And someone in the band wore flip flops to practice. This, the text sent to every band parent screams, is not ok.

My friends have begun disappearing from texts, from Facebook messages, from weekly walks. They are too busy. The school year has taken over.

Like a giant monster, it has consumed them.

I get it. It’s easy to become lost in the swell of back to school neediness. We have five children. They are all involved, they all need something. Every. Single. Day.

And it took every single day of the first 10 years of being a mom to learn that cutting myself out of my schedule is not ok.

I didn’t exercise. I didn’t eat well. I didn’t worry about scheduling time for my own needs or to spend time with my husband. Heck, between his deployments, my job and the kids, there were days I didn’t schedule enough time to pick up the house.

And the monster consumed us. It exhausted us. It made us irritable and mean.

Now, I keep a written list of what I am going to do that day. At the top of it is my daily 2-mile walk. I make the trek, and cross it off. I plan the day before what our meals are going to be – including mine. No more running in and grabbing a handful of Oreos and heading to work. I make myself breakfast, a good breakfast and eat it alone in the quiet after the kids have caught the school bus. It’s delightful.

And sure, we still hustle through the day, and the hours between the end of the school day and dinner are insane to be certain. We still drive here, there and everywhere. But, time for homework is set aside when the running is over. We make a point to find that 30 minutes squashed between the activities to eat together, even if one person is finishing their meal at that point and the rest are just beginning. We are all together.

And bed time is a sacred time. Anything scheduled past 8 p.m. on a weeknight, doesn’t happen. The door is shut. The kids are sent to bed. My husband and I stop worrying about the dishes or the project we are in the middle of and sit down and spend time together. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour, but it’s our time.

This is hard to do. It’s hard to shut off the internal voice saying we have to be everywhere, do everything, volunteer for everyone. That daily list of to do’s stares me in the face. Some days it saves me from myself. Other days it feels like punishment, keeping me from what I should be doing – keeping me from everything pulling me in the other direction.

But now, as a mom of five, I exercise daily. I eat better, though Oreos still call my name. I actually get enough sleep.

As we sail the chaotic waves that is fall and back to school time, keeping myself and my own needs at the center of that crazy schedule has made all the difference.  

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