I’ve just survived back to school season with three kids in two separate schools while in my third trimester pregnant. To say the past couple weeks were easy would be not only a total lie, but wouldn’t even begin to describe the craziness of what back to school season brings. I’ve had conflict, guilt, and many (I mean many) Sarah Jessica Parker ala I Don’t Know How She Does It movie moments, minus the glam, plus fifty pounds.
It has been stressful to say the least. But here’s what I took away from it and what I keep reminding myself during these stormy days, weeks, seasons: “Breakdowns are breakthroughs.” I can’t say I coined this term myself. A mentor of mine years back, before I even became a mom told me this, and I still say it, feel it, and respect it as a mantra in my day to day.
Back to school does bring a whole new level of needs and change to a household though. And if you’re a working mama, the guilt can be intense. Here’s what I am taking away and doing this year when it comes to balancing work life, mom life, and back to school life.
Do as much as possible online and in advance. What do I mean by this? School clothes, shoes, supplies, all the stuff you can prep in advance.I purchased back to school clothes back in July when Gap was having a big sale.I always buy the kids’ shoes on Zappos because they have a huge selection and amazing customer service. Our elementary school has a service where you can order school supplies through them and pick up a few days before school begins. Donzo. This does require a bit of advanced thinking, but damn-the time and stress and energy I saved not having to run to Target or Staples or any other store the week before school started was worth all this well-planned organization.
Organize your calendar with all necessary back to school functions so you’ve blocked out the times you need to either leave work early, go in late, or delegate the task to someone else. Speaking of delegation, I had a split-second moment where my controlling-self debated whether or not I should ask my hubs to take the boys to meet their teachers. It was 10-11am on a Friday, so it really interfered with my work schedule, not to mention I had a jam-packed day. After a brief conversation with a colleague (another working mom), she said, “Let him do it. Division of power and also a good example he is setting for his sons as a dad.” I instantly felt better and wondered why I’d even questioned whether or not I should be the one to go. It’s equally as important for him to be involved and for him to take time off to handle these kinds of tasks.
Just because you work doesn’t mean you can’t participate in school life. I have found ways to contribute to my sons’ classrooms every year, even as a working mom. I take a lunch hour on a work from home day to volunteer in the classroom or I teach the art class once a month. Our school even has take-home projects that parents can do to help the teachers, like prepping things for classroom assignments or donating goods to an upcoming event. I think it’s crucial for the teachers to see how you’re just as committed to your kid’s learning and success, even if you’re not getting face time at drop off and pick up, so figure out what works for you and make it happen. Your kid will also appreciate your involvement, no matter what age.
Start back to school season knowing that being a parent of a kid going back to school is basically like adding an additional, and thankfully temporary, full-time job to your plate. There’s a lot to do, but it’s all due in a short time frame, so your hectic and crazy life will become ‘normal’ (what does that even mean anymore?) again shortly. Give yourself some grace. Watch something funny on Netflix once everyone is asleep. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re 45 minutes late to the one-hour preschool orientation. True story, by the way.
Celebrate the back to school milestone with an evening visit to the ice-cream shop or a weekend date together. Each year is a big step for kids, especially kids just starting school or changing schools. Make memories, take photos, enjoy these moments because I’ve heard they pass all too quickly. And now, I’m crying. #hormones
I’m a couple weeks out from the back to school madness. While it was a whirlwind-between the multiple back-to-school nights, the ice-cream social, the sick kid, the demanding work schedule, the insanity of it all, I choose to be grateful for the craze it caused in my life. Give me a crazy life filled with love and little people any day. I’ll take it.