It’s cold outside. REALLY cold. So cold that I feel like if I let my kids outside I may incur a visit from Child Protective Services. So, the kids are cooped up inside. We had a nice Christmas break, but now the cold, dark expanse of January, February, and March loom ahead. There isn’t much in the way of a break during that time. In addition to school, the house needs to be kept reasonably clean in order to stay off the next episode of “Hoarders”, meals must be cooked and cleaned up, and the kids kept busy and “socialized” enough that they don’t turn out too weird. It’s hard to find the balance between boredom and too much busyness.
It’s a good recipe for Mom stress and insanity.
Here’s a few things I’ve found helpful in attempting to maintain my own sanity. I’m certainly not always successful, but at least it helps! The first four help if you’re feeling overwhelmed and the last three can combat feeling down or bored.
1. Put your kids to work. Unless they’re under the age of three, they should be able to contribute somehow to the basic upkeep of the house. If the housework is overwhelming, have them help out. It’s good for them and good for you. Here is a list of age appropriate chores if you’re looking for ideas.
2. Don’t over-schedule your evenings. One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that we can do all sorts of activities during the day, rather than clog up our evenings with them. Swimming lessons, music lessons, doctor appointments, field trips, play dates with friends, even some sports activities can be done as part of our school day. Many local YMCA’s and park and rec’s have noticed that homeschoolers are a good market to tap into so they offer things during the day for us. That way, evenings and weekends can be used as relaxing family fun time, rather than run-around-like-a-headless-chicken time.
Also, don’t cave in to the cultural pressure to involve the kids in 20 million different activities. We’ve purposefully restricted the number of scheduled activities our kids do. They enjoy not running around all over and I think our family is all the better for it.
3. Put whatever you can on auto pilot. I don’t particularly enjoy menu planning. It stresses me out to have to think about what to make. Not menu planning makes me even more stressed – I have to plan the week out ahead of time, but I just don’t like it. One thing I’m trying is to make up a list of the typical meals that my family likes and put them on a rotation. That way it’s on auto pilot. I just look at my list and fill out the week’s meals accordingly. No stress. The same thing goes for grocery shopping. It stresses me to not know when my shopping will get done, so I try to plan on doing it the same time every week so I don’t have to think about it. Chores, house cleaning, school prep, it all gets a specific time assigned to it so I know it will be taken care of.
4. Just say no. Don’t feel bad in saying no to activities, parties, whatever, in an effort to keep yourself sane. I’m more of an introvert, so lots of social activity drain me. I need time alone to recharge. Even if you’re an extrovert, too many activities leave less time to get other things done, so pace your time carefully. Pray and seek God on how to use your time.
5. Try hosting things at your home. My husband and I wanted to participate in a church Bible study but didn’t want to get a babysitter every week. Our solution has been to host one at our house. We don’t have to go anywhere, the kids are with us to participate as much as they’d like to, we get the fellowship, and we’re serving others. It’s a big win for all!
6. Create time for yourself. Last winter, I found myself struggling with some depression. I needed something bright and colorful to do in the evenings, so I taught myself to crochet. (It’s really not that hard.) I enjoy it because I can choose colors that cheer me up, it doesn’t require much concentration, but keeps my hands busy. I can make things that are pretty and useful, which creates a sense of accomplishment.
Writing is also a productive, fun outlet that keeps me from getting sucked into the winter doldrums. I’ve had homeschoolers ask me how I have time to crochet and write. I think I’d go nuts if I didn’t have those things, so I make sure I have time for them. I get up a little earlier, or have the kids do a 30 minute silent reading time after lunch, which creates pockets of time that I can do something I enjoy that has nothing to do with homeschooling. Since the kids help with the chores, I have evenings free to relax and enjoy hobbies.
7. Plan things to look forward to. It could be a day to stay in PJs and watch movies or read books and play games, or a sledding playdate with friends, or a family weekend out. Sometimes it’s just something small that can raise morale all around.
What do you do to stay sane through the winter?