Where did the time go? I frantically realized I had no idea what day school started and had to ask another mom. I got a brisk answer of “August 20th,” which I like to call the “working mom fail” response. The guilt of not knowing when my child starts 2nd 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 moms, 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:
1. Order online
Spare yourself the hustle of shopping. No need to throw everyone in the car in 100-degree heat to head to your favorite retail super store, fend off the kiddos requests for toys and candy while back-to-school shopping. 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 and checking some boxes and swiping “check out”. This also applies 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.
2. Let the Laundry Lie
Where does your laundry lie? Mine sits on a bed in the guest room.
Clean, yet 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.
3. 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, camp, 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.
4. Be Guilt Free
I think the hardest thing about being a working mom during back -to -school is missing school events. The hallmarks of the beginning of the school year like Fall Festival or Meet the Teacher are big events for the kids. Missing them can make you feel disconnected from their little 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. Know that you are doing everything that you can to accommodate both school and work and that you are still present in your kids' lives, even when you can’t physically be with them.
5. Connect with other working moms
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. Working mom 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 mom friends will happily listen and help you. In addition, their schedules will most likely parallel yours, so for all of those 2:30 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 women who will stand by you when you need support.
Managing back-to-school time will never be perfect or foolproof, but 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". For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com or connect with her on Twitter, @hollymcaplan.