5 Tips for Working Moms to Survive the Back-to-School Hustle

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Yinz. Last week was a complete whirlwind for this working mom. I was away at a work training and came back to realize all the things need to be done to get into the back-to-school hustle. Ava and Isla will be starting next week and the Bigs go back after Labor Day. Time has flown this summer!

Luckily, after reading these tips for working moms to survive the back-to-school hustle, I feel like I am ahead of my mom game. For instance, we already ordered all the clothes online, they just need to make it to the dressers (or the laundry pile in our guest room). And I’m learning to stop saying sorry (at work, too) and know that I won’t be able to be everything to everyone (which yes does sometimes include my kids).

One thing I’m working on in the last few days of summer break is preparing for some moments now by writing my kids notes ahead of time. My hope is that I can just drop them in their backpacks when appropriate.

Check out the guest post below for a few more tips for more on how you can survive the back-to-school hustle then comment which is your favorite OR share your tips!

5 Tips for Working Moms to Survive the Back-to-School Hustle

back-to-school hustle

from Holly Caplan, author

From the moment my daughter got out of school in May to the end of July, was a complete blur. It was a blur of summer camp, work, travel, deadlines, proposals and pool parties.  The fact that she was going back to school in three weeks had not occurred to me. When it did, I panicked. 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.

(Bonus ‘lil Burghers tip? Check out Instacart to save $ and hours on local grocery delivery! Join here and get $10 off your first delivery.)

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 every thing 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.

Truth: This is what the ‘lil Burghers’ laundry looks like as of today!

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.

Guess that means no more “sleepovers” and flashlight story-reading at 10:00!

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 fool proof, 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. For more information, please visit her website and connect with her on Twitter, @hollymcaplan.

A Working Mom Bucket List

Happy Labor Day!

Today is the unofficial end to summer, and as a working mom, I can say that I am glad it’s come to an end. Labor Day is typically one of my favorite holidays because of that. It’s a day I can relax and appreciate what others worked for so that we all can work*.

This year, I’m starting to put some things into action when it comes to my career. I’ve come up with a bucket list of things I’d like to accomplish in my work-life, especially since I am not working in the field I went to college for. Hopefully in my next 37 or so years of work (figuring SS will allow me to retire by 70), I will…

  • Become a certified Business Analyst
  • Become a certified Salesforce.com Developer
  • Become a certified Salesforce.com Service Cloud Administrator (on top of the Admin cert I have for Salesforce currently)
  • Take on a leadership role, hopefully in IT or Customer Relations (would love social media / web chat support)
  • Get certified to teach spin class
  • Get a Yoga 200-hour certification
  • Open a yoga studio…and an ice cream shop…for people who love their bodies but love food too. 😉
  • Write a book

These things would be my personal work bucket list. It’s evolving, but because I work for a company that allows and encourages growth, I see windows and doors that could be opened beyond this. That’s how I went from being a temp to a QA analyst to a metrics guru to support to a BA in a short period of time.

While this isn’t exactly related to raising the kids, it sort of is. I want my kids to have dreams and work toward them, regardless of what may stand in their way. Last night I asked Arianna and Evan what they wanted to be when they grow up (which you may have seen on Periscope). Arianna wants to scoop ice cream and Evan wants to be a tattoo artist. If that’s what they want to be, I know they’ll kick butt at it (and have mommy as their most frequent customers). Dream Big, kids. Dream Big.

* Contrary to some belief that I’ve seen circulating on Facebook, Labor Day is not a celebration specifically of our military (although they are part of the celebration). It was created to honor the working people and what it took to get here (perhaps you’re interested in The President’s weekly address that discusses this if you disagree).

Ice Cream at Jeni’s in Columbus – an inspiration for my dreams

Welcome Back, Working Mom

It’s been just over four weeks (including a few vacation days and a holiday) since I went back to work after having the girls. There is a whole new reality, going back to work as a mom of 4. On top of going back to work, I changed teams (and got a new, to the company too, boss). Things are going good, but I often find myself thinking thoughts and wanting to share them to give the perspective. Welcome back, working mom.


That look of relief on your face when we’re in our first meeting together since I had my babies? The look that’s full of so glad you are back and I will finally get that thing that would make my work life so much easier? That’s the same look that my babies greet me with when I finally come through the door after I’ve spent my day making your life easier.


My son fell on the sidewalk and was left with a scraped cheek, a black eye, and a knot on his forehead while I was at work. I was relieved that I was not there because I’m not wired to deal with these things at all. Oh, I deal with them. By crying with my babies. By cuddling them, letting them sleep in my bed, and checking on them every minute to be sure they are ok.


Everything is an emergency when you wait until last minute. I’m balancing a tight rope of what’s best for me (and my family) versus what is best for my job. I don’t want to show weakness as a woman, especially as a working mom, so I often find myself digging in my heels, praying my milk won’t leak everywhere, and dropping everything for someone else. Then I rush home and give my all to the kids. Admittedly, the big kids are missing out on mama because I have to focus on the ‘lil birdies first. We’re making it work, but at what cost?


It’s insanely hard to schedule a life of meetings around pumping, but I am doing it. I have to. My pump doesn’t sound like a printer, though. People don’t have dot-matrix printers anymore. When your 4-year-old calls you out for pumping while calling home to check on them, you realize that conference calls and pumping won’t work at the same time in this day and age. Guess I’ll be sticking to answering emails or writing documentation while I pump.


Living life in snippets really isn’t that bad. It gives me time to focus on the now. I’ve become reliant on lists – paper lists – to get through each day. Printing my calendar has become a huge help because I decided not to get email on my phone on my return. Work stays at work when it can. Home stays at home, except when I am walking in between buildings. Snippets of hellos from friends gets me through, too. We’re all in this together.


There was a fire alarm, a real-life bring the fire trucks out alarm. I had to think about my safety versus saving my milk and my pump. It was really difficult to wait out the firemen checking out the building and not think about my liquid gold or the fact that I really needed to pump, but I did it. I went straight to my pump and hightailed it out of there just as the alarm rang again. Perhaps I should start thinking about carrying the milk with me? Oh, just one more of the many things I have to carry around!


People keep asking if I miss the kids. Of course I do. But I missed work, too. I was made to be a working mom, a mom who works outside the home, for my own sanity and worth. I think working makes the time I do have with my kids that much more precious.

Take Me To Work

Today is Take Your Child to Work Day and for several reasons…

...here are two of them!

…plus Arianna not being 9, she won’t be participating this year. But if I could take her to work, these are the things I’d love for her to know:

* Mom doesn’t love being away from you and not being able to volunteer in your class or take you to the bus stop.

* Mom does love helping her co-workers resolve their problems. That’s why I push you so hard to think about how to fix the things in your life that trip you up.

* Your art is on my desk…but I need updated pictures of you. That’s partially why I ask you to look at the camera all the time.

* When I work late, it’s not because I don’t want to get home to you. It’s because other people need mommy to meet deadlines or help them. I am going to try to get better at finding a balance when I go back, but I like helping people so much that sometimes I forget my other priorities. Forgive me.

* If wiping bums and spit-up, not showering, and eating lean pockets on the go could pay me what my office job does, I’d be home with you to make all the crafts you’d ever want. It doesn’t, and while money isn’t everything, it does make for our time together quite nice. And let’s be for real. Daddy is so much better at the stay at home parent thing. I couldn’t last…and not because of you kids…because I get bored in the quiet times (like when you are at school and your sisters are sleeping).

* Work can be fun for adults, but don’t rush this growing up thing. You’ve been asking questions since you could talk, so I am sure you’d make a great Business Analyst; however, leave the big time stuff to us adults for at least another 12 years. Enjoy being a kid.

* Do what you love. I still don’t know what exactly I want to be when I grow up, I just know that I’ve found a job and company that keeps me motivated and happy 98% of time. This is super important for your future happiness. Don’t do it for the money or fame.

If I could take you to work, I am sure you’d see why I like what I do but why I like being your mom, too. Help me remember that every day here forward. Be my motivation and my reason to work harder and be the best me…and I will do the same in return.