When I left my successful, full time sales job to happily become a stay-at-home mom (SAHM,) I was completely unaware how rarely I would be home. It honestly never occurred to me that I could literally spend 6 hours a day in my car! Turns out, instead of being a SAHM, I was a stay-in-the-minivan mom (SIMM).
As an adult with ADHD, my inability to predict how much road time my new ‘job’ would entail is no surprise. Both adults and kids with ADHD tend to be wonderfully horrible at time management. (“Why, of course I can organize the entire basement, and give it a fresh coat of paint before I head to the carpool line….;-) So with 4 kids in 3 different schools at the time (including 90 minutes round-trip, twice daily), and all 4 darlings involved in at least 1 afterschool sport/activity, I quickly realized that I needed a strategy for management.
Here are a few practical (and not so practical) tips that I picked up along the cul-de-sac. I hope they’ll help you keep your sanity as you prepare to climb back in the minivan for this Back to School Season!
- Survival Tips for Minivan Moms (with or without ADHD):Never, ever try to schedule anything while driving. This may sound like common sense, but if you keep forgetting to book your daughter’s orthodontist checkup, you might get tempted to make that call while you’re driving. And even if you wait until you’re at a red light to put that appointment on your calendar, chances are, it’s going to get messed up. I’ve mistakenly put appointments on our home calendar for 11pm instead of 11am. I’ve insisted that a parent/teacher conference was on Friday when it was actually on Thursday, and I’ve accidentally sent school meeting invites to my old boss. You can laugh off these mistakes, but you don’t want to miss something important – like your first grader’s Mother’s Day Tea – because you were scheduling while driving. Then you just want to cry.
- Get out of the Van!!
- Stretch whenever you can. I mean it. Sitting for long periods of time can lead to all sorts of muscle, joint and blood flow problems. If you’ve had multiple kids, you may be prone to varicose veins and swollen ankles/feet, all of which can lead to the very serious condition of deep vein thrombosis. Whenever you get a chance to park for longer than 5 minutes, a. hop out of the car, stretch your legs and walk around. Added bonus: people will think you’re just really into working out.
- GO TO THE BATHROOM!! Do not try to hold it until you get home. If the urban legend about full bladders and car wrecks doesn’t offer you enough caution, think of all the women with chronic UTIs or kidney stones because they don’t take the time to pee! As a stay in the minivan mom (SIMM), you are not exactly going to use empty water bottles rolling around in the minivan should the urge strike. Try to rotate. Monday: your child’s school; Tuesday: gas station that sells dippin dots; Wednesday: Starbucks …. you get the idea. Make it a point to stop and take care of yourself.
- Keep Backups of Everything in the Van: Pretend you are a contestant on Survivor and ask yourself, “what do I need to succeed/stay alive?” You have a minivan so you have room for everything and everyone, right?! So to help you be prepared, here are the Didier basics (yours are probably not that different) to keep in your home away from home:
- Hydration: Flat of water bottles, G2 or your sport drink of choice.
- Food: Snacks (healthy or not – whatever is on sale or sounds good to you).
- Cleaning: Trashbags, paper-towels and maybe an all-purpose cleaner.
- First aid kit: the usual stuff plus back up doses of everyone’s daily meds (just in case), toothbrush, toothpaste, ibuprofen or arnica.
- Special Self Care kit: tweezers (it’s amazing what you can do with your eyebrows while waiting in the carpool line!) hair stuff, backup makeup.
- Clothes: a blanket, a change of clothes for you and for whatever child comes to mind right now, socks and at least one extra pair of shoes for you (dressy if you typically wear gym stuff), cleats in various sizes, tennis shoes in various sizes, soccer socks, no-show socks.
- Kid Supplies: a basketball pump, a basketball, markers, stickers, paper, a rubik’s cube, a PG-13 movie of your choice, a PG movie, a G rated movie and Veggie Tales or Sesame Street DVD.
- Tools: at least two batteries of every size, a screwdriver (the tool, not the drink) a lighter, a set of birthday candles, several pens, several blank happy birthday & thank you cards.
- Technology: a flash drive, an emergency wifi hot spot, and car chargers for every type of iphone, ipad, handheld tablet or device you can think of.
- Save the Trees and Your Sanity: Put your smart phone to good use and take a photo of every document that makes it past your van’s automatic sliding side doors. Homework assignments, essays, rubrics, spelling words, immunization records, sports physical forms, the kids’ insurance cards, dental cards, emergency numbers, registrations, permission slips, school website codes, login information, the lunch menu, etc. We all know that one of those key piecesof information is going to get lost somewhere, at some point, either in or out of the van. But if you have a picture of it on your phone, you can always print a copy!
- Make your kids clear their stuff (and yours!) out of the van every evening. When we manage to have dinner at home, I enlist my offspring to help clean up the kitchen. Similarly, since we spend most of the time in the minivan, they get to help clean that up, too. It’s often the only way they’ll ever find that homework assignment they did in the backseat on the way to basketball practice, so they quickly appreciate the necessity.
Being a stay in the minivan mom (SIMM) is not easy, and a lot of the time, it isn’t always that much fun. But it is an invaluable opportunity to peek into the windows of your children’s lives. So enjoy the chance to be family chauffeur for a while, and remember these 5 tips so you’ll survive to drive another year!
PS — Always, always Proof Talk to Text/Email before you hit Send! My kids crack up at some of the bizarre things that come through (‘Don’t forget to put the lasagna in the oven’ translated as ‘Don’t forget to put your vagina in the oven,’) but your boss/doctor/pastor may not find it quite so amusing. 😉