When you were a kid, the start of summer was the absolute BEST feeling in the world. You’d toss your worksheets and reports in the sky and run out of that school so fast you’d think it was on fire. Freedom at last! But for moms, well, things pretty much happen in reverse. Summer break is the most stressful time of year. Your kids are around ALL. THE. TIME. And they are bored. And sweaty. And hungry. And looking to be entertained at all hours of the day. And as a working mom, you’re still just as busy and torn and stressed as you always were, maybe even more. Which is why the words “back to school” are like music to your ears. And while it does mean you might get your life back on schedule and return to a state of normalcy (or as normal as life with kids can be), transitioning back to a school state of mind also comes with its own unique set of struggles.
From scheduling to packing lunches to getting to school and work on time to coordinating everyone’s after-school programs and making sure homework is done and maybe (maybe) even having a moment to pee in peace, the start of the school year can be pure chaos. While you are definitely getting your freedom back during school hours so you can actually get work done, you’re also shifting your focus on increasing your many tasks and responsibilities exponentially once the school year begins. And your days are already long and overloaded as it is.
A 2017 study by Reader’s Digest found that working mothers work an insane amount of hours each week. After gathering data from 2,000 mothers with children between the ages of 5 and 12, the study found that on average a working mother officially “clocks in” for the day at 6:23am and “clocks out” at 8:31pm once their responsibilities to their kids and their jobs are done for the day. PS – any working mom knows that you never actually get to clock out, you’re on call 24 hours a day for what feels like forever. But even so, that is nearly 70 hours a week, not counting the time you are expected to dedicate to your children’s school involvement and socializing with other moms and kids. Clearly being a working mom (or mom in any scenario) is not for the faint of heart or for anyone who needs a solid night’s sleep on a regular basis.
Considering how much time working moms actually spend working, and how hectic their lives can be, it makes sense that the back to school transition would be stressful for the whole family.
According to Gemima St. Louis Ph.D., in Psychology Today, “the transition back to school affects not only children but also their families. Family routines will change and many parents re-focus on work as they watch hopefully, but often with anxiety, to see how their children will fare.” And the way to prepare and deal with the back to school transition is crucial not just for now, but for the future as well. “The start of the school year offers parents opportunities both to smooth their children’s immediate adjustment and to help build patterns of coping with transitions that will last a life-time,” she explains.
So where does a working mom even begin? First of all, breathe. Secondly, save this as your reference guide to surviving back to school. Consider it a working mom’s back to school survival guide.
4Make a Schedule and Write it Down
When you’re never in a rush to be anywhere and you have flexibility with your time and your kids’ time, then it’s easy to lose control of your day. Once school starts and work is in full effect, whether you work from home or an office, it’s crucial that you have a schedule and you are able to stick to it. Pre-planning is key. Do an exercise where you write down your schedule from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed at night. We know, it sounds like overkill, but try it. Write what time you need to arrive at school or work, and then back out enough time to get ready, pack lunch, make breakfast, and check everyone’s backpacks to be sure you’re good to go. The same goes for afternoon activities; write down where everyone needs to be and when, map out how long it will take to get from A to B, and make sure that everyone is accounted for in terms of pickups and drop-offs so there are no surprises.
Then write down a simplified chart of who needs to be where and when and hang it somewhere visible (your refrigerator, a bulletin board, next to the bed, the desk etc.) so that everyone is on the same page. If everyone in your family knows what time they need to be awake, ready, in the car, at school, at soccer, doing homework and more then they’ll be more likely to help you stick to that schedule so you’re not scrambling to get out the door on time. Plus, writing it down will make you feel more organized and less overwhelmed about how you’ll manage your time.