Back to School

Listening to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast this week, I couldn’t agree more, September is a new start

Here in the UK children are going back to school in the next two weeks. They may have to get used to some new things, like masks in the corridors, or eating at their school desks if they can’t be outside. They may have to learn some things afresh like how to sit still in class, how to write again, how to be around people but not too close. But it’s clear a decision has been made that school is essential again.

I am really looking forward to some routine in our lives. Even though we muddled through home-learning (what we attempted could never be called a homeschool), we never hit a routine more than my son reminding me it was play time each morning. I am looking forward to some time to myself and seeing friends though with the new rules in place, not getting too close or seeing anyone too often. I am also looking forward to a sense of some normality, though it has all changed, the new normal is better than that time we stayed inside our house for three months.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The fact that school is definitely back has led to a few discussions in our household already. Being a Mum of a kid whose special needs mean he resists changes and transitions anyway, I am used to battles about going to school. But Social Story in hand and special visit arranged we are going boldly forward with the “school is now open” full time plan. At times I feign optimism for him, mixed with the dread that sits in my stomach most days now. I am also getting more positive that this will be good for both of us.

It’s clear that the government is scrambling to convince parents it is safe, new policies are coming out every day that suggest what will happen, how things will change, if we have a local lockdown. But in the meantime there are news articles about how safe children are at school. I have been reading all the articles, despite trying to stay away from the news. It’s safe now. We think. Mercifully our children will not get terribly ill if they catch the virus, I just hope that mildness means the same can be said for us and their teachers if they do pass it on.

In a bid to read between the lines I think the answer is we probably don’t know what will happen in the next few months. As it stands, the government seem pretty determined that the schools will stay open come what may. Afterall, they kept the pubs open even though family members couldn’t meet at home in Manchester and Yorkshire in recent weeks, I guess they will do the same with schools. And hope for the best. Because that is where we are really.

So though the news articles haven’t completely allayed my fears, I can’t help but feel a sense of newness in the air. I wonder if despite the challenges ahead for me and my son, I can find ways to lift the anxiety and get back to normal. Gretchen Rubin explains here in the article which accompanied her recent podcast that September is the new January because it can give us a sense of a clean slate. That means that when you make a big change in your life, you can often change a habit at the same time, “exploiting the new” as she describes it. So for me I need to go forward with a more positive mindset about the fresh start at school. And maybe work harder on my habit of not reading the news.

How are you feeling about going back to school?

In 2019 I had goals…

Any fans of the Gretchen Rubin Happier Podcast know Elizabeth and Gretchen reset every year with a list of goal. But instead of over-arching vague ideas, they get you to be specifoc. In 2019 I did it all: I set a word of the year, I set new goals 19 for 2019 and I started a Happiness Project. Habits were changed: more time was spent reading, blogging and cleaning. But despite that I am struggling to feel the sense of achievement I ought to. So I thought it was time to review what I had achieved.

CAREER GOALS

Writing goals: I plotted the first three chapters of my comedic novel and I blogged almost every week but did I complete my first draft of my novel? Reader, I think you may know by now I did not. I am 24 days off my first post on this blog: could I get it in on time for my Blogeversary?

Work Goals: Within months of starting the year, I started a new job. Thank you Universe for finding me flexible, interesting work. I have a lot to learn but I just found out I passed probation and I am a permanent staff member. There’s lots of training coming up in the New Year so this is one thing I can tick off my 19 for 2019.

Blog Goals: It was part way through the year before I started to get a hang of this blogging stuff. I have set up a Pinterest page and I am planning to develop in this area to make my content more. professional in future. This one will go to next year’s list.

A bit more time for me

HEALTH AND WELLBEING GOALS

Selfcare Goals: Are yoga and swimming part of my weekly life? No, they are not. Upholding these goals have been a very long term struggle. The few hours I have to do it, I do not get up and go. Lets be honest, this one will always have to be on my list but I am working on how to make it a habit.

Friendship Goals: I have completed some of my goals to see people more though scraping them in at the last minute by seeing Movies the last couple of weekends of the year. We are yet to have people for dinner but I know we had friends for brunch once, so that counts. I think I need to combine the exercise and friends goals probably to fit it all in.

Activity Goals: I didn’t manage to see three musicals but I did see two and the Tutankhamun exhibit so I am putting this down as a win. I know expensive activities can’t be everyday, but I am glad that the practice of Artist’s Dates is opening me up to a more creative life.

FAMILY LIFE

Education Goals: I am still stuck in the quagmire or applying for the right support for my son. This is a difficult one to have as a goal because I am at the mercy of other people. Despite not being through with this part of the process, I can say I have given this my all, dedicating a lot of time and often too much of my energy to a broken system. So, a win for me if not yet for him.

Relationship Goals: I can’t really tick off these goals but I can move them to the next list as aspirations. My husband’s work has been all-consuming but, just maybe, the light is coming at the end of the tunnel. I think we will see a lot more of each other in 2020.

BETTER HABITS

Phone time: Maybe because these goals were concrete and achievable. I have halved my time of social media. I have been better at saving my photos to the cloud though I need to share them more often with family members still.

A little less time online

Eat lunch at home: The past few months, I have been buying lunch out again but one plus of my new job is a I have a coffee machine at work which reduced my eating out costs. This one is to reestablish habits of earlier in the year.

So overall, I completed 10/19 goals and made some good new habits along the way. My housework goals were separate so I think I will give myself some extra points.

What I have learned is to be specific where I can to help me get that sense of achievement. I also need to review goals more frequently- some I had forgotten I had set! I must order them by priority so that I make time for crucial things like exercise or big things, like finishing the damn draft.

Seems like it’s finally time. Now I need more than goals, going to make my 2020 vision…!

Making Time To Read

First up, it has been a few years since I read as consistently as I have read in the past few months so if you tell me you have no time to read, I’ll believe you. I set a Goodreads Challenge to read forty books this year, so far, I am on track. But I have only been able to do that by making time to read. This has made me think about the strategies you need if you want to read more. Scratch that, if you need to read more.

When I first had my baby (he’s six now), I was still a member of a book club with University friends and would turn up increasingly late and having read increasingly less. My husband’s schedule often meant I couldn’t go, so I dropped out. (Sorry lovely friends, no grown-up time for me) And with that, I have read less and less.

Being a parent is very full on at times. My son isn’t the biggest fan of sleep and my first foray back into reading was listening to audiobooks on my phone, sat on the floor trying to keep him settled at night. He no longer needs me to sit in the hallway just outside his bedroom to all hours. This may explain why some of my brain power has started to return. Just a little more sleep than a few years ago. At that time, I mainly enjoyed books I had read in the past: classics like Pride & Prejudice or Anne of Green Gables, not to mention Harry Potter which whiled away a fair few of those uncomfortable hours sitting in the dark.

I always read a lot on holiday by sharing the childcare, but it shouldn’t have to be one or two weeks a year where I can do this. So, I have been analysing when I can read and making time to do so.

The Evening

The evening should be a good time to read (on the nights my son decides to go off to sleep at a reasonable-ish time.) But as well as trying to overcome the fatigue of my day, clean up the house, the TV goes on when my husband gets back. Even though he has work to do still, he likes a background of rubbish TV. So I could say turn off the TV, but this isn’t realistic for everyone, particularly if you just have one main room in your house like we do. One solution: we have some of those headphones that connect to the television so he can listen, and I can read or write.

There is also the time before bed. I give myself an earlier bedtime than the husband so that I can read. But you know what happens if you’re too comfortable, falling asleep is what happens. I suppose that instead of always saying I should use my evening, I have had to be more realistic about finding little pockets of time to read.

Going out

Not unlike my article on trying to find a place to write, my top tip would be to leave the house. This may seem like the ultimate indulgence, fancy going to do something you love in a comfortable café or even, as does not happen often, having a weekend away. But the thing is if you want to write, you have got to read.

One way I justify taking time away from home to read is by reading in genres that I am writing in. I say genres because I cannot decide and have several works started. Creative butterfly that I am, I am as happy flitting from one book to another as I am writing one book and then another.


As I read more, I learn more about the genres that interest me, whether psychological thrillers, fantasy, historical or literary. None of this research is wasted. Not least because it makes sense to spot trends in publishing whether the bloody books ever get written or not!

Organisation

Another massive change I have made since the beginning of the year is organising my house more. This has partly been inspired by Marie Kondo but also by great Youtube influencers who share their routines (see suggestions below). I find that having simple routines in place has really helped to keep on top of the basics around the house. By gradually working through the categories set out by Kondo, I am quite literally making space in my life for what I want more of. In this case, the time to read.

I have been much stricter about always having something to read. Instead of using some of my commute or housework-time to listen to podcasts, I juggle this with reading. Although I think that there is amazing story-telling to be found in Podcasts so I don’t discount time spent doing this (even if it doesn’t count towards my Goodreads total!) I have my kindle app, I have my kindle and I have (gasp) real books. I have identified those books that I want to read through the Goodread apps and then I flit between them.

Flitting may not be for everyone but the truth is that on the ten-minute bus journey to work, I have a few minutes for a self-help book by Gretchen Rubin or a lightweight comedy. I can’t bear having to cut off a scene of great tension so these I keep for times when I have escaped with my book and have a set half an hour to read.

Motivation

As part of my resolution to read more, I have set up an app on my phone telling me how much I use my phone. The statistics are horrifying! But now I can see the Kindle usage go up, I feel better about the whole thing. Though the stats they give you may show you spend way too much on there generally, it has made me more mindful about what I want to use the phone for. Keeping up with friends and reading being two priorities

Although I still think social media can help with your goal to read more. There are some great book lovers #bookbloggers and the #writingcommunity on Twitter and an invaluable source of help and support. Not least to increase my TBR (to be read) pile. As well as my reading challenge, I have shared the books I have read online. All of which adds some much-needed accountability.

If you’re a Mum like me, how do you find time to read? Do you feel guilty if you take the time? I listened to a great podcast recently, Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival also shared how she makes time to read. An important point she makes reminds us if we want our children to grow up readers, it’s good for them to catch us reading. Happy reading!