A Mother’s Survival Guide for May

Mom's Survival Guide to MayThe other day, I overheard someone say it’s ironic that Mother’s Day falls in May. They, of course, said this because May is notoriously a nightmare of a month. It’s the last stretch of the school year and most of us are hanging on to our sanity by a thread. The kids have grown restless…like Lord of the Flies restless…and simply put, we’re all done, teachers, kids, and parents alike.

But personally, I think Mother’s Day falls in May for one reason and one reason only. The holiday-choosing-powers-that-be knew that if moms didn’t get a day in May where they were reminded that their existence isn’t futile, the airports would be jammed with haggard looking women with frantically bagged bags fleeing for tropical islands while their families watched on helplessly.

May is like the last few miles of a very long, very grueling, very uphill-all-the-way marathon. May arrives after nine months of nightly homework, three major holidays, approximately 17 class parties, 63 school programs, 396 sporting events, and 14 field trips. You would think things would start to wind down in May – after all, the worst of it is over, right? Nope. You’ve clearly forgotten exams, final projects, end of school year parties, “graduations” from ALL the grades, ceremonies for ALL the sports, and, of course, Memorial Day weekend (which is just a cruel joke with summer so close at hand). It’s as if the entire school year bottlenecks into this one month, making it a manic whirlwind of activity.

It’s usually around this time, a time when there seems to be more than ever to remember, coordinate, and schedule, I find that I’ve misplaced the calendar that I so carefully kept all through the fall. By May, I’ve usually resorted to writing things down on post-it notes and the backs of envelopes. It goes about as well as you might expect.

But I suppose May is kind of like labor. I have always told friends who were expecting for the first time and experiencing anxiety about labor that it would be ok, because after nine months of pregnancy (aching backs, swollen feet, stretch marks, etc.), they wouldn’t care WHAT it took to get that baby out. That’s not to say labor doesn’t hurt. So yeah…that’s pretty much what May is like. It hurts, but it’s the home stretch – and you CAN do it.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for surviving May:

Remind yourself how organized you were the beginning of the year…then immediately let that go.

So you started to school year off with color-coded calendars and carefully labeled folders for everything. You put cute little notes in your kids’ lunchboxes…and actually made them lunch. You wore clothes you hadn’t slept in to the bus stop. Good for you. You can pick right back up where you left off in August.

But for now, throw that box of store bought cookies on the snack table at the end of year party like a boss. It’s sugar. Kids don’t care. If you still want to stick a note in your kids’ lunchbox, fine. But if it’s simply the word, “sorry” scribbled onto a napkin on top of Kraft single, a bag of croutons, and eight grapes because that’s all you had in the house…know that that’s ok, too. And lastly, yoga pants are appropriate for everything. Bus stops, school meetings, school parties, grocery shopping, and sleeping. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Yes, I know that Linda down the street has been hand making teachers’ gifts since mid-February using herbs she grew in her garden and an inordinate amount of Mason jars. And chances are, she’ll show up with homemade donuts at the end of year party. Don’t worry about, Linda. Teachers are just ready for the suffering to end – a gift card and your heartfelt thanks is more than enough. After all, there are only so many Mason jars one can carry, and trust me, on the last day, teachers are going to flee the school building like it’s on fire, leaving behind anything that doesn’t fit in their purse.

Remember that your kids are as done as you are. Forgive everyone.

If you have elementary school kids, they are probably climbing the walls by now. All they can think about is summer break and are already plotting how much fun they’re going to have every single day. All you can think about is how you’re going to explain to a seven-year old that you missed the soccer camp sign-up, so they’ll be participating in chess camp this summer instead.

If you have teenagers, they are exhausted, stressed out by finals, worried about AP exams, and have complete social burnout. You are sick of their attitudes and outbursts, and have secretly searched military schools online.

It’s ok. You’re all tired. You’re all stressed. And it will all be over soon. Let your younger kids burn their energy off outside after school – they can get to their homework later. Let your teenager sleep in an extra few minutes – they really do need it. And, most importantly, let yourself breath a bit. You’ve done all you can do to make this school year a success – and that’s enough for now.

Last but not least, keep your eyes on the prize.

Just like you got through labor knowing that at the end of it all, there would be a sweet little baby to love – a prize that was well worth the pain – remember that summer is at hand and it will be worth it. Sure, you’ll now have to keep kids occupied all day. Sure, there will be some scheduling and running around and hectic days juggling work and camps and play dates. But there will also be late nights and fireflies. There will be trips to the beach and family reunions. There will be homework-free evenings where you all sit down and watch a movie without worrying about bedtimes. And it’s so close you can taste it. So just put your shoulder and get to the finish line.

After all, by the time summer is over, you’ll be so ready to color code your calendars, label your folders, and put your kids on a school bus, you’ll hardly be able to stand it.