Beating the Back-to-School Blues
Years ago (before I had children), Staples ran a back to school commercial that showed parents dancing through the aisles while the track to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” played in the background. To me, that commercial was hilarious. But now, two children later, I’m no longer sure. After a three-month summer vacation, having them in someone else’s hands between the hours of 8 and 3 comes as a well-deserved break. Yet, at the same time, back to school is not for the faint of heart.
Between the PTA meetings, orientations, class breakfasts, curriculum nights, and after-school nonsense, a working mother has to wonder: when are you supposed to work? A friend of mine has a daughter who just started kindergarten. On the first day of school, her daughter had 30 minutes of school…from 11:00 to 11:30. On the second day of school, her daughter went to school for an hour…from 10:00 to 11:00. While this may be strictly a New York City phenomenon, in what universe is it convenient to drop your child off for one hour in the middle of a working day?
And then there’s scheduling after school activities. When I was growing up, there were about three choices for what I could do after school…and that included the choice of coming home and doing nothing. Today, there are literally hundreds of options. And this is as much a blessing as a curse. You’re trying to schedule four different activities per child, yet after-school activities (particularly travel sports) appear to be run by the only people in New York who don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of a time. Is baseball practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or is it just on Fridays? Is play practice going to be Mondays or Wednesdays? Just tell me the schedule. Meanwhile, my child gets shut out of tennis because I’m waiting to hear what day baseball practice is. And then the one yoga class that’s available takes place precisely in the one hour of the week that my child has some mandatory other activity. Scheduling is a nightmare, and the more children you have, the bigger the nightmare becomes.
And once you master the calendar logistics, you have to address the social issues. Your child doesn’t want a play date with the child whose mother is hounding you for one. Or, you’re trying to sign up for a group activity for three second graders, and they don’t have a single day and time in common. And your good friend’s child is a bully. And, your child is the only one that doesn’t have the FILL IN THE BLANK.
Isn’t this enough to make a sane person come undone?? Read on for a few of my tips for a Stress-Free September. And, as always, I love to hear from you. How do you cope with back-to-school madness?
Tips for a Stress Free September
1. Have a glass of wine. A chilled bottle of Pinot is as essential during this time as pencil cases and notebooks.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no…to heading the benefit committee, to play dates your child doesn’t want, and to activities that are inconvenient for you.
3. Do volunteer—for something fun and easy. By volunteering to plan the parents’ night out, you can ensure that its location and date work for you. By volunteering to plan the 6th grade graduation party, you can win points with your child without suffering through a year-long commitment.
4. Start your schedule by locking in the activity your kid likes most. Once you know when that meets, you can branch out from there.
5. Back up all homework on an external hard drive or flash drive. Saving these files externally will protect documents from being accidentally deleted by other family members.
6. Overscheduling is a myth, especially if your kids are old enough to have discovered the computer. Put it this way; if they’re playing tennis or doing ballet, they’re not i-chatting.