From the moment my daughter got out of school in May to the end of July, was a complete blur. It was a blur of summer camp, work, travel, deadlines, proposals and pool parties. The fact that she was going back to school in three weeks had not even occurred to me. When it did, I panicked. Where did the time go? I frantically realized I had no idea what day school started and had to ask another mom. Her brisk response of “August 20,” was what I like to call the “working mom fail” response.
The guilt of not knowing when my child starts second grade and feeling completely overwhelmed set in. Where do I begin? I’ve got to sign her up for fall activities, get a new backpack, lunchbox, some new clothes and also manage my job, meetings, travel and various work expectations. As working parents, I think we feel there is no easy way to do all of this and keep a clear head and stay on task, but I have found five great tips for surviving back to school as a working mom:
Spare yourself the crazy, frustrating hours of back-to-school shopping. There’s no need to throw everyone in the car in 100-degree heat to head to your favorite retail superstore and fend off your kiddos’ requests for toys and candy while you try not to forget anything on your list. It is not worth it. Modern technology allows us the ability to order online for backpacks, clothing and supplies. Think of the time and energy you will save by sitting on your couch watching movies with your kids while simply swiping “check out” on all of their school supplies.
This can also apply to grocery shopping too, which is becoming more and more common. Download the app for Shipt or Amazon Prime and let them do the grocery shopping for you. Do it a day or two before school starts. The kids can make their requests so they get to put some creativity into their lunchbox choices. Other positives are that it isn’t expensive to shop online and it saves money because you avoid over-buying in a store.
Let the Laundry Lie
Where does your laundry lie? Mine sits on a bed in the guest room. Clean—unfolded—but clean. The point here is, let your laundry lie. It is okay to let some things slip during back-to-school time. You will have so much on your plate as it is, don’t let the mundane domestic stuff get to you. Not having everything completed or accomplished around the house is okay. You will not get a ticket or a fine for letting some things in the household fall behind. Give yourself permission to know that it is okay if you don’t get everything done. It is completely normal, and you will eventually catch up.
Get Your Routine Back
In the summer our routines are typically off. As I mentioned, it can feel like a complete blur when so much is going on. Activities, summer camps and work will run you, instead of you running them. No shock there. Bringing structure and school back into your life can be a struggle, but welcome it because it brings the return of normalcy.
Give yourself a cushion returning to the routine by practicing earlier bedtimes and waking times week before school starts. This will get us, parents and kids, back on schedule. Also, create a family calendar with upcoming school activities and your work schedule to make sure that all planets are aligned, and if not, this gives you time to create a family management strategy.
Be Guilt Free
I think the hardest thing about being a working parent during back-to-school is missing school events. The hallmarks of the beginning of the school year like the Fall Festival are big events for the kids. Missing them can make you feel disconnected from their lives and the guilt can take over.
This is also difficult because you miss the chance to meet other parents and classmates at these events. You start to feel like a constant outsider because you are the mom who isn’t around enough. Don’t beat yourself up or hold yourself to an impossible standard. Double check that you are doing everything that you can to accommodate both school and work. Then, let that guilt go, knowing that you are still present in your kids’ lives, even when you can’t physically be with them.
Connect with Other Working Moms and Dads
I have a lot of wonderful friends who are stay-at-home moms. They tend to keep me grounded and I rely on them a lot for my sanity. But working mom and dad friends can be super supportive too because they are most likely experiencing the same emotions and situations. For overall complaining, coping and time management ideas your working parent friends will happily listen and help you. In addition, their schedules will most likely parallel yours, so for all of those 2:30 p.m. play dates you have missed, you can now do play dates on schedules that accommodate the work day. The silver lining here is that you get to solidify strong relationships with other parents who will stand by you when you need support.
Managing your time—especially during back-to-school season—will never be perfect or foolproof, because working outside of the home can bring on some added stress. It is a balancing act that can cause disruption as you get adjusted to the new school year and schedules. Know that you are not alone, and we are all muddling through it together.
Holly Caplan is a mom, workplace issues expert, career coach and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World.