Back to school is a relief for many work at home moms and dads. You get hours free of your sweet young distractions, hours of work time that can be hard to come by during the summer. But sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes back to school comes with a bunch of new obligations that continue to make working at home a challenge.
After all, back to school means back to sports of one sort or another for many kids. Some schools require parents to volunteer. They may even require the kids to do volunteer work, which usually means you have to go along with them. Add in any clubs or other activities that your kids may want to join that need a little bit of your time, and you can find large chunks of your week taken away, and little to do about it.
That’s me this year. Sure, I could tell my kids no soccer this year and not have to worry about getting them to practice and games, but that’s not the choice I made. I can’t tell the school we won’t volunteer – it’s a charter school and this stuff is not optional. The charter school is the only one within walking distance, so if I wanted to get away from that I’d lose time transporting my kids to and from a more distant school, and dealing with the awful traffic that entails. Thank goodness clubs through the school only require occasional chunks of my time.
But the big one for my is my daughter’s preschool. A parent participation program is what fits in our budget, so there goes a chunk of my time when the older ones are away. It’s my hope that the time together in preschool will keep my youngest happy to let me work other times, but these things are rarely that simple.
Coping with work time being torn into bits takes some thought. It takes dedication to using your work hours when they’re available and not dawdling it away on unproductive stuff.
One thing that often works for me is to take a notebook along any time I’m going to be stuck sitting with nothing to do and no internet access. Quiet time is good for brainstorming, so you already have ideas when you get into a place where you can really work. This makes sitting around waiting for soccer practice to be over much less of a time suck.
You should also do what you can to divide up school and sport demands with your spouse. My kids in soccer both have practice at a time where I have to take them, as their father isn’t home from work yet. However, he gets home shortly after my son’s practice starts, so he can grab a bite to eat then trade places with me. This way I’m not the one doing everything.
We hope to do similarly with the school volunteering stuff. If there are opportunities to volunteer on the weekends, that’s mostly going to be him. If he can get the time off to chaperone a really awesome field trip, great, but most times that hasn’t worked out in the past, so we don’t assume that will happen this year.
Saying no to your kids sometimes helps too. If it’s too expensive or will take more time than you can give as a work at home parent, you may have to tell your child that a particular activity isn’t going to happen.
You may also be able to work things out with other parents in activities outside of school. Pick ups and drop offs can be traded. Most kids’ activities you really don’t have to be there every minute once they’re past a certain age. Take advantage if you need the time for yourself or your work.