7 Back-to-School 'Mom Rules' I Refuse to Follow

zen mom

It's starting already. Every store I go into is chock-full of school supplies and I haven't even had a chance to get to the beach yet.


Here's the deal: If I'm dressed for summer, I don’t want to see notebooks and pencils staring me in the face every time I set my flip-flop-clad foot into a shop. I also don’t want to discuss the PTA or which sport my kids are playing in the fall or how we’ll deal with getting up in time to make the bus. 

I’ve been doing this parenting thing for over a decade. I’ve had seven back-to-school seasons. It didn’t take long for me to realize back-to-school prep just isn’t for me. 

Here are the seven back-to-school “rules” I break every year, and why I won’t stop. It's my summer, and I’m stickin’ with it.

1. Buying new clothes.

Were your kids naked all summer? No. They left the house in clothes every day. While September may conjure up thoughts of cool breezes and apple picking, that’s just not how it works. In most parts of the country, the first month of school is sweltering. Especially in unair-conditioned classrooms full of lively kids.

So, yes, their summer-sprouted bodies will need new fall clothes, but they don’t need them in August. We buy our new clothes well after the school year is under way (and when the stores have moved them to the sale racks). The occasional exception in my house is the sneakers, because the new school year serves as a reminder to check that their feet haven’t outgrown their shoes. (They usually have.)

2. Buying new school supplies.

Okay, granted, I’m very fortunate that our PTA hosts a school supply sale in the spring every year. Every notebook, pencil, crayon, and marker each kid needs, by grade level, is waiting on their desk on the first day. However, there’s a host of other things advertisements tell me I need. Backpacks, insulated lunch bags, water bottles, etc. My kids rarely need new versions of these every year. A good backpack can last for ages (go with the machine-washable ones because bananas WILL be left in there for days). Lunch gear and water bottles have a shorter shelf life, but I definitely don’t need to spend my summer shopping for them. They can wait 'til mid-year when I’m not trying to maximize our outdoor time.

More from CafeMom: 7 Budget-Savvy Moms Share How They Save Big on School Supplies

3. Volunteering for ... All. The. Things.

As a WFHM, I can often be found on the pick-up line or (gasp!) grocery shopping during the day. If you’re part of a school community and are in the produce aisle mid-week, you may as well be wearing a sign that says, “Hey! Look at me! I have nothing to do at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday! Please ask me to organize a bake sale!” It can be tough saying no, but I’m getting better at it every year. If a volunteer gig will mean I’m not spending precious quality time with my kids or I can’t focus on my work during the day, I don’t take it. 

4. Signing the kids up for All. The. Things.

When I was 8, I went to school. That’s literally it. When I got home, I ate a snack and rode my bike up and down the street with my neighbors. Now our kids have so many options, it’s insane. The average 8-year-old I know takes an instrument, plays a couple of sports per season (averaging four or five days a week of practice and games), and/or is enrolled in dance lessons. That’s not including the more ambitious ones who take acting classes, languages, and other enrichment programs.

I honestly wish I could say we do none of those extracurriculars, but that’s not true. I do believe in letting the kids try new things to discover what they really love. But I’m so over signing them up for everything they want to try. It’s not worth the constant go, go, go our lives can become. I try my best to limit their activities so they get to enjoy some downtime every day and we can have dinner as a family most nights.

5. Prepping the “school routine” early.

You know a really great way to get the kids back into their school routine? Send them to school. Before then, don’t tell me I need to put them to bed early and set the alarm for practice runs. I’m going on my eighth year as a parent of a school-age kid and I can promise that approximately 95 percent of parents -- and teachers -- are easing into things that first couple of weeks. There’s plenty of time to adjust to a new routine after the first bell rings. Before then, soak up as much summer as you can.

More from CafeMom: 50 Awesome Summer Activities for Bored Kids

6. Packing Pinterest-worthy lunches.

When my kids first started having lunch at school, I scoured the Internet for complicated (and oh-so-cute!) lunch-packing ideas. I cut sandwiches into adorable shapes with cookie cutters. I filled bento boxes with homemade frozen smoothie pops and turkey roll-ups. I made sure there was a perfect nutritional balance. Not so much anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in the importance of nutrition. Kids need to eat well for so many reasons. But I’m also a big believer in not washing leaky smoothie juice out of lunch bags and finding squashed week-old bananas in the bottom of a backpack. Now I pack only what’s easy to make during the morning rush and what I know they’ll eat during their (unfortunately) very short snack and lunch breaks. If it happens to be a little carb- and cheese-heavy (it always is), then they’ll have fruits and veggies waiting for them when they get home and a healthy dinner on the menu.

More from CafeMom: 7 Make-Ahead School Lunches That Will Save Your Mornings

7. Diligently filling out reading logs.

Okay, I might make some teacher enemies here, but reading logs really irk me. As someone who loves books and stories with all my heart and soul, I will not make my kids log their reading time. We’ve read books nightly since they came out of the womb and both of my kids have a true love of reading.

But the same kid who lounged in the hammock reading for an hour at a stretch one summer came home with a reading log and complained: “Do I HAVE to read now?” “How many minutes have I been reading for?” “Can I take a break and do more later?”

When reading is required, my kids completely stop enjoying it, and one of life’s greatest pleasures feels like a chore. I get why those logs exist. Not every kid likes to read and reading has so many benefits for a child, but for a lover of books they’re only impeding the progress. I'm not alone here. This study agrees with me. 

More from CafeMom: 103+ Ideas to Get Kids Started on a Fun Photo Scavenger Hunt 

Bottom line: If you're stressing about getting ready for back-to-school, stop. Enjoy every last drop of sunshine.


Image via iStock.com/ArtMarie

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