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.
Anything and everything that you can do to set yourself up for success and take some of the workload off your plate in the morning can be hugely helpful for working moms. Top of the list? Pack lunches the night before school, and if possible, meal prep at the beginning of the week. Because we all know that PB&Js and cheese sandwiches are delicious but they can get super boring five days in a row. You can make meals in bulk on a Sunday so that your kids have lunch ready to go for the next few days or even the whole week. From chicken and rice to baked ziti to chicken salad, fruit salad, and even taco bowls, you can pre-cook everything and have it portioned out and ready to go each day. This guide to kid-friendly meal prep recipes is a lifesaver for working moms.
Set Up Ahead of Time
Similarly, pack backpacks the night before school. Make sure any permission slips or signed paperwork is there, and make sure your kids are on top of their homework if they have any. Kids tend to wait until the last minute to finish their work and projects (typical) but the more that can be done before you go to bed, the better you will sleep knowing their bags are locked and loaded and ready to go for the next day. And lay out clothes the night before, too. No morning arguments about what to wear and no stressing that a certain favorite shirt is dirty as you’re about to walk out the door. Fail to plan and plan to fail. Preparation is everything for working moms.