One of my favorite podcasts and tagline is: “The Lazy Genius: Be a genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don’t.”
If ever there was a time to “Lazy Genius” our lives, my friends, that time is now.
This pandemic has lasted far beyond what any of us imagined. I was hopeful my daughter would start at her new elementary school in person. Instead, my husband went from working-at-home to working in an office, my daughter began our district’s virtual-instruction option, and I just navigated a day of back-to-back virtual meetings for both me and my 7-year-old, while my 3-year-old climbed on my back and tried to “borrow” my earbuds.
I thought the spring and summer were exhausting, but so far? This. is. Worse.
Whatever strategies you hacked together to survive spring and summer (with quarantining, social distancing, and all the other words you are sick of), you will likely need new ones. Whether your whole family is still home or some (or all) of you are back outside the home, when school starts, it brings a new season. And new seasons need new rhythms.
Maybe all of this stay-at-home stuff has been a dream. Maybe it’s been a nightmare. Either way, with back to school in full swing, we have the opportunity to craft something for our families that works for everyone. And that starts with sharing the load.
Sharing the load: challenge or opportunity? Yes.
This is a challenging time. None of us has ever done this before. It’s okay and normal to think life is stressful and hard right now. And yet—you’ve heard it before and may have even said it to your children—a challenge is actually an opportunity in disguise (or mask. Ha!).
Now is a great time to re-evaluate how you and your spouse operate when it comes to running your family’s life, sharing the load and responsibilities for “all the things.”
Even if you already divide up responsibilities equally, take a look at everything on your collective plate and make sure you can both reasonably handle your load.
When the lockdowns first started to hit in the spring, everything but the absolute essentials were stripped away. As schools and extracurricular activities re-open, for some, schedules may go back to something like normal. But for others, normal just isn’t an option yet. The budget is a little leaner, or you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself or kids back in activities yet, or both.
Still, life must go on: children need educating and caregiving, parents need to work, groceries need buying, clothes need laundering.
So take a minute to take a breath and think true thoughts. First and foremost, God is still God. He is still patient, attentive, and in control. Being aware of such weakness in and around us—while extremely uncomfortable—is a gift that reminds us His grace is sufficient, His power made perfect in weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). Take time to reflect and re-evaluate.
While you’re breathing, think about what is truly most important to you. Is it the i’s being dotted and the t’s being crossed? Or is it that you and your family offer real presence to each other, along with kindness and grace?
I personally struggle with a brand of perfectionism that nags me to “have it all together” (or at least appear to). In other words, I’d like for the jots and tittles to be in order and to relate to my family with unending patience and grace. Unfortunately, especially in times of stress and crisis, both are not always possible.
If we each take time to think about what’s most important and what may be a challenge to that value, when the times come to make tough choices, we’ll be prepared to choose from a place of our deeper priorities rather than stress.
Take time to ask yourself the following:
- How do I want to feel at the end of this?
- What do I want to be true of me, my family, when this season is said and done?
Then ask, what are some other values that remain important in this season? Nice meals or saving time with convenience foods? Physical exercise or time with a journal? Introvert time or keeping up with friends? These aren’t necessarily the most important things but are nice to focus on when possible.
Hold a “staff” meeting
Pencil in time to have conversations with your spouse about sharing the load for back to school. (I sort of think of this as a staff meeting.) If you and your spouse are as mentally drained at the end of a weekday as we are, schedule a chat for the weekend.
You’ll want to take time to share the values and priorities you came up with individually. You won’t necessarily nail everything down into a rigid breakdown of who does what every day. But once you understand where each of you are at, you can make some goals and tentative plans to start sharing the load.
Make lists of things that need to be done each day, week, and month. Then go over it together. Is there something on the list you would like to do, are naturally more comfortable with, or logistically set up to do? Maybe Dad was a theater major and loves to do read-alouds and Shakespeare tutoring. Maybe Mom likes to sneak out to the grocery store with a podcast. Volunteer for those first.
Then divvy up items on the list neither of you particularly want. Make these “assignments” on a trial basis. Remind each other you are for each other, and you’re in this together. You can always re-evaluate and adjust if something isn’t working.
More tips for sharing the load:
- Check-in with each other weekly (or every morning, if need be). Go over tasks and needs specific to the week.
- Ask for and offer help as needed.
- If you don’t already share a digital calendar, now’s a great time to sync up.
- While you’re looking at your schedules, take time to pray over the upcoming week and any areas of stress.
- Create a shared digital note for things like groceries, house projects, etc.
Final thoughts on sharing the load for back to school
Remember this is a just season, albeit a difficult season. Remember to breathe, to pray, and to be kind to yourself and your family.
Take time with your spouse to address how you’re feeling—if guilt or shame are on the list, that could mean you are putting unrealistic expectations on yourself in this season. We need to accept that some of the proverbial balls are going to fall (even when we’re sharing the load). But try to be intentional about which ones those will be: if you have to choose between a gourmet meal and being kind to your family—you won’t regret choosing kindness. Popcorn, mac n’ cheese, and carrot sticks can be a picnic and a time for family connection.
This is a challenging time, to be sure. The load can feel heavy, our hearts may feel heavy. Yet if we’re willing to lean into the weakness in and around us, we might just find an opportunity to experience God’s all-sufficient grace.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Laura Way serves with FamilyLife as a writer and lives in Orlando, Florida with her high-school-teaching-husband, Aubrey, and their two vibrant young daughters. She and Aubrey lived in East Asia for seven years until relocating last year. She enjoys writing about becoming more fully human while sojourning through different places, seasons of life, and terrains of mental and spiritual health at hopeforthesojourn.com.