School Stress - The Mommy Edition

In just a few weeks, my 4-year-old’s preschool starts once again. As her excitement runs wild, my anxiety is jogging right alongside it.

Between work schedules, daycare, preschool, soccer, tumbling, family events and, on a very rare occasion, a social life, our home turns upside down the day school starts. Trying to stay on top of everything can be overwhelming for any parent, so instead of burying my stress under a king-sized Kit-Kat, I turned to two experts to help solve my most pressing organization dilemmas.

I can’t keep these stinkin’ schedules straight! It happens at least twice a month. A big event is a day away, and – big shock – my husband knows nothing about it. “But I wrote it on the refrigerator board,” I insist.


“Right there!”

“That’s just our kid’s name. How am I supposed to know what that means?”

According to Julie Hough, owner of The Ordered Home and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, a kitchen board is a simple way to keep the family organized – as long as it’s used and used properly. “To keep track of everyone's busy schedules, use one calendar that is large enough to accommodate the whole family's activities," she said through e-mail. "After writing all the activities on the calendar, assign each member of the family a different colored highlighter and highlight each person's activities with their color. Everyone in the family will be able to see at a glance who is doing what, when.”

Now if my iPhone could magically transfer my tasks and schedule to a white board, that would be great. Hey app designers – get on that please.

My kids’ paperwork has infiltrated my kitchen! Every night, my little ones come home from daycare accompanied by notes and flyers. Once preschool starts, those pieces of paper quickly take over my kitchen counter, and when I actually need one of them, it’s usually covered in spaghetti sauce.

Hough recommends a table-top filing system to keep everything organized and in easy reach on the kitchen counter. “Each child has a hanging folder, labeled with his or her name. Inside each hanging folder are individual folders of all the areas of the child's life that generate paper (classroom notes, school office, report cards, soccer, piano, boy scouts, etc.). When the papers come home and it's a paper you need to keep, you have a home for it.”

And all the artwork Junior brings home you just can’t bear to throw away? Said Hough, “Art portfolios, hard-shell mailing tubes, and under-the-bed storage bins are all good options for organizing and storing children's artwork. Whichever option you choose, I would suggest having one per child, labeled K-5th grade, 6th-8th grade and 9th-12th grade.”

Evening meals are a pain! In the immortal words of Ms. Jessie Spano of Saved by the Bell, “No time! There’s never any time!” Never is that more than true than dinnertime. Trying to get a healthy meal on the table in 20 minutes is difficult – that’s where meal planning and batch cooking come to the rescue. Yes, it’s a pain to spend that extra time on weekends working on menus, hunting through cupboards for ingredients and cooking extra for the week ahead. But when you’re facing down three hungry family members on a Wednesday night, it’s worth it.

Another dilemma: The kids are famished by the time they get home, and I usually toss a few crackers their way to curb the whining. Registered dietitian Stephanie Margolis, a curriculum specialist with BJC School Outreach and Youth Development, suggested healthier, easy-to-prepare options, like carrots with hummus, sugar snap peas, sliced pears or grapes. And that junk food I usually reach for to appease the little ones? “What you see is what you eat,” she said via e-mail. “Place healthy foods in an easy-to-reach location and hide those unhealthy treats high (or don't even bring them in the house)."

It’s getting all A&E Hoarders up in here! If you’re expecting a baby, here are two things you should remember: 1) Your husband will need more sleep than you ever thought he did, and 2) Your house will never be clean again.

When my house is a disaster, I tend to fixate on the chaos, which distracts me from spending time with my kids. I asked Hough how I can better manage the mess.

She suggested sticking to simple housekeeping goals during the first month of school – cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuuming – and leaving bigger projects for the winter months. She also recommended keeping a cleaning schedule for more involved projects to pinpoint times which are most convenient for dusting and other non-immediate projects.

And finally, to get the family involved, “Consider establishing a ‘5 Minute Tidy’ routine each night. Get the whole family involved. Assign everyone a room, set the timer for 5 minutes and GO! You'll be amazed at how much clutter can be put away in 5 minutes. Ahh, to not wake up to clutter. Now, that's the way to start your day!”

Starting the school year is stressful for everyone. But for mom, it can be particularly cringe-inducing. By keeping a level head and an eye on organization, easing into those first few weeks will leave you more time in the evening to spend with the family.

For more information on organizing your home, visit or call 636-399-9725.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting


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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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