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Jugl’s Top 5 Ways to Survive Back-to-school: the Least Wonderful Time of the Year for Working Parents

The depiction of parental joy in this now-classic Staples commercial is NOTHING LIKE what I experience each back-to-school season!!!  You???


(Note: this classic commercial is from Staples and is over 20 years old.  We thank them advance for not getting mad at us for using it!)

I definitely did NOT have kids when this commercial came out in 1996, but every year since my kids started school, I find myself thinking of it and shaking my head.

First of all, it’s HILARIOUS (in a messed up Freudian kind of way perhaps?) that in my memory the commercial stars a mom, not a dad.  Is it a dad because there would be a stigma attached to saying that a mom would be happy to get her kids out of the house???

But I digress…

I refuse to participate in the “mommy wars” (the “us” vs. “them” disconnect between mothers who work outside the home and our equally awesome sisters who are not currently in the workforce).  However, I do find myself having maximum jealousy this time of year.  While moms (and dads) who are not currently in the workforce find themselves suddenly in possession of 6 or 7 hours a day of newfound discretionary time if their kids are past kindergarten, I feel like I am DROWNING!!!!

In my professional life, work has always kicked into high gear post-summer.  In my old role, investors were back from vacation and planning year-end allocations.  In the Jugl world, we are working our patooties off to try to get our beta refined and into your hands.  We are also working our way through our disappointment that we didn’t have the product in the shape we wanted it to be for back-to-school (that’s a different blog post for another time).

So, my to-do list has all the work stuff plus extra back-to-school insanity such as:

  • Make sure everyone has clothes and shoes that fit and are appropriate for school
  • Order all books and supplies
  • Find the list and remember to buy random items that you would think the school has covered like ziplock bags, tissues, and paper towels
  • Register for sports/activities/tutors
  • Fill out a gazillion forms (bonus: some require signatures from doctors)
  • Figure out who’s driving to said sports/activities/tutors
  • Attend back-to-school night
  • Get email from at least one coach the night before an activity starts saying the sports/activities/tutor schedule has changed
  • Figure out who’s driving to said sports/activities/tutors (again)
  • Negotiate new bedtimes and routines
  • Set up newly required electronic devices (don’t forget to dust off those contracts)
  • And….you get the point

The list is endless.  When I look at my to-do list, I want to curl up in a ball.  Every day is like a constant game of whack-a-mole.

On the one hand, I am grateful.  These are no doubt #FirstWorldProblems of reasonably affluent parents with reasonably healthy kids.

On the other hand, I get so frustrated that so many organizations that supposedly cater to families seem so disrespectful of the time and effort that goes into planning as well as the challenges that single parents and dual working parent families face.  I sometime feel like the expectation is that we all (especially the moms) just sit around and have nothing else to do in the world but drive our kids to and from wherever they have to be on a moment’s notice (I mean, I sometimes wonder how those of you with more than 2 kids do it!  Do you have some kind of Harry Potter-style apparating skill that you’re not sharing with the rest of us?)  Some things can’t be helped (cancelling or ending practice early due to lightning), but other changes are more head-scratching, especially when they involve paid coaches/professionals and not just volunteers doing the best they can.

We can’t fix that, but we can give you this:

Jugl’s Top 5 Ways to Survive the Least Wonderful Time of the Year for Working Parents:

  1. Have a system that you can rely on.
  2. Have a weekly plan to plan in advance.
  3. Cultivate your “village.”
  4. Keep your sense of humor.
  5. Let the non-essentials slide.

Delving into these:

Have a system that you can rely on.

Jugl will be that system for you soon, but in the meantime, our best tip is to capture all your scheduling obligations in one place and share it with your family and other people who are intimately involved in your family’s “Jugl.”  Also, that place is NOT allowed to be in your head!!!

Have a weekly plan to plan in advance.

We at Jugl are big proponents of Calendar SundayTM. This is when you sit down once a week (we like to do it on Sundays, often with an adult bevarage…) and go through the next two weeks on your schedule.  Map out the plan for all the kid’s activities (what events, what they need to bring, who is driving), confirm evening plans and travel (including with your partner, if applicable) to determine whether you need extra babysitting hours, etc., work on meal planning (we pick 2-3 recipes), etc.  The key is doing it two weeks at a time.  The week that is about to start is usually pretty firm: there may be a few additions or changes, but the events closer in time tend to be front of mind.  Planning NOW for the week AFTER that is where Calendar SundayTM shines.  By focusing on what is coming at you the FOLLOWING week, you can avoid the massive pain of preventable last-minute fire drills.  It is WAY easier to find a babysitter/ask a friend for help/switch around a carpool or event/etc. if you have a full week’s notice.  It only takes a tiny bit more time to get the two-week habit set up, but the time and stress it saves you by not having to drop everything when you realize at the last minute there is a conflict that you could have reasonably foreseen is immense.

Cultivate your “village.”

It takes a village to raise a child.  Sometimes you will just need help.  Make sure that you find people who are able to help you and that you help them as well.  Services can be helpful here, too as you don’t have to feel guilty for asking too many times!  Also, part of cultivating a village is being helpful.  If you see a friend who seems overwhelmed reach out and see if you can help.  No one can handle this alone (and even if you could, that’s WAY less fun).

Keep your sense of humor.

We all screw up.  I like to own it and laugh at myself.  I like to tell my kids and my friends about it so we don’t all feel this intense perfectionist pressure.  Also, once you’re out of the moment (and assuming everyone is now home safely) it usually is pretty funny.

Let the non-essentials slide.

Back-to-school is not the time for taking on extra non-time sensitive projects (unless they are fun and you find them re-energizing in which case more power to you).  Just keep your eye on the things that have to get done in September and push the rest to later in the year.  Now’s a great time to start an “Indoor Tasks to be Done When the Weather turns bad and I No Longer Want to Go Outside” list.

We want to hear from you Jugl’rs!

What do you do to survive the Least Wonderful Time of the Year for Working Parents?

Email us at [email protected] or share your best tips with us via one of the social channels below.

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