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My perfect summer day involves cleaning out our closets—no, really

For me, self-care means a guilt-free day to purge my head + home and make room for summer

My perfect summer day involves cleaning out our closets—no, really

Coffee in hand, it's very early in the morning. My husband's just left with the kids for the day. And. I. Am. All. Alone. 😃 You'd think I'd have planned a girls' day or taken this opportunity to pamper myself, go shopping, go out with friends, or go back to bed.

Nope.

I am cleaning out closets and drawers and cabinets and cupboards.

It's not just a physical purge, either. While I work, it is a mental sweeping of half-baked thoughts and hunches, all of which need time to ferment and process, and none of which get their chance with the constant interruptions that come along with minding a household and three littles.

Don't get me wrong: I am not complaining. But I'll tell you this: I am relishing.

What I really love (and need) is this guilt-free day…

… to clean out a few closets so the doors can shut.

... to tackle the things that have been taking up space in my mind for months, always creeping in to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that I have unfinished business, not letting me relax and be in the moment.

... to carve out some mental space, where I can complete a thought and assess where I am right now.

… to rejig priorities, set things up and put things in motion, so I can enjoy the summer with my muffins without the uninvited gremlin of nag shadowing every step and stealing my presence and joy.

I am doing this chore for myself. And. I. Am. LOVING. It.

I can work in my head, and I can rest in my head. Just being able to put two thoughts together satisfies a hint of the old me that is always there, waiting to be noticed and fulfilled.

This isn't about not loving my life and kids. This is about loving myself.

When I clear out the junk—in my house and in my head—I can focus more on what really matters most to me. Everything is in a better light. And it's okay if what matters to me at this moment is a little organization that helps me manage the constant "need-to-do" list that crowds out the present and prevents me from setting my full attention upon the little loves who mean the most to me in the whole world.

So, I look forward to a day like this. When my husband says he wants to take the kids—without me—I say, "Absolutely!"

That's how I find myself... knee deep in abandoned stuffed animals, broken or unused toys, worn out t-shirts and singleton socks.

That's how I find myself... reorganizing the bookshelf, adjusting books by size and titles to appeal to the ages my kids are now, and getting rid of the rest.

That's how I find myself... cleaning out my pantry of rejects and past-dues so I can see better what ingredients are available for dinner.

That's how I find myself... rooting through the bathroom drawers, eliminating used dental floss and cotton swabs (ew), empty toothpaste tubes and broken hair-ties.

I know it sounds silly. But, that's how I find myself.

At the end of the day, I am spent from tossing things and laid flat by decision fatigue. I have not snapped at anyone, no one's gotten into their "special box" to undo all that I've done, and I feel like I've run my course.

I'm ready for bed and the full night's sleep that I've so earned. And I sleep well, knowing that the rest of these days of summer can be met with an eager heart, a patient soul, and a manageable task set that won't crowd out what summer is really all about—fun, connection and memories.

Some mamas are much better than me at prioritizing, focusing or changing gears. They can manage all that their lives hold for them, every day and in every way. But this is what works for me. Acknowledging that and accepting it as my reality also works for me.

Self-care is as individual as each mama, and every mama needs to find what works for her.

We put others ahead of ourselves all the time. And in doing so, we can lose a little of ourselves each day that we don't carve out space to remember we are someone, too. We are worthy and important—we deserve to do what it takes to be our best self, and our children deserve it, too.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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