When back-to-school overlaps with back-to-work
September is bittersweet for all parents, and for working mothers, it can be particularly stressful. On one hand, longer school hours mean more time to get things done at work. On the other hand, fall is often a time when workloads increase after the quieter summer months, and the September school calendars are busy with back-to-school events, parent coffees and organizing play dates with your children’s new friends. It is overwhelming for everyone, but for a mom tasked with prioritizing her own career responsibilities and her children’s needs, it requires some careful planning.
Approach the back-to-school season one week at a time, and have a weekly calendar that everyone in the family can see. This will help ease anxiety and allow you to get into a rhythm. It also helps give family members a sense of what is coming up in that week. Within your weekly plan, develop some systems that help you to prepare. Grocery shopping once a week and cutting up fruit and vegetables in advance can help tremendously with the morning and evening rush of packing lunches and making dinner. Creating responsibility checklists with your children will also lighten the nagging and help them to become more independent, freeing up more time for you to work and to parent!
One of the most common frustrations of working parents is that they feel out of touch with their child’s school because they cannot attend certain meetings or volunteer as much as parents who have more flexibility. Technology is helping to close this gap, with advances like live-streamed PTO meetings and SignUp Genius providing instant access to things that used to require you to be physically at school. Tune in when work allows and read all the e-mails from your child’s teacher and the school. These things will keep you in the loop, and when October rolls around and things calm down a bit, you will find it second-nature to stay on top of communication.
One of the biggest challenges for working parents who can be plugged in all the time is remembering to turn work off during family time. In the early weeks of school, it is particularly important that we unplug and be fully present with our children at the dinner table and bedtime. E-mails and phone calls can become constant distractions if we let them. Creating rules and following those rules is the best way to separate work from home and manage your priorities.
Give Yourself a Break
Even with the best attempts at planning ahead to effectively balance home, school and work, the beginning of the school year is full of surprises that can throw parents off track. Travel schedules for working parents, along with quickly increasing school and after-school schedules for children, can mean that things slip through the cracks or get done at the last minute sometimes. Take a deep breath and give yourself a break when something goes wrong; every new day brings opportunities to improve, and our children learn a lot from how we handle mistakes and setbacks.
Whether you work part-time, full-time, from home or outside the home, having young children and managing a career requires a careful balance. September often feels out of balance and is a time of transition for everyone. Stay calm, focus on what is important each day, and you will make it through September and hopefully have some quality family time in the process!