Navigating Back-to-School Stress as a Working Parent 

By Amy Kuhs

My oldest child started school last week. I’ve had this date on my calendar for months. You would have thought I’d be more prepared. 

Instead, the LITERAL DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED, I was running to the store to pick up a lunch bag, then going back an hour later to pick up the proper ice pack inserts for it. Browsing Pinterest for healthy lunch ideas beyond string cheese and pretzels. Then stressing about how there are entire blogs dedicated to turning school lunch into fancy art on a plate and contemplating whether or not I can successfully sculpt my child’s face into a block of tofu he certainly won’t eat. Attempting to figure out auto-pay setup for before-school care. Texting other mom friends to make sure I have read the school drop-off instructions properly, then panic when it’s obvious I haven’t. Second-guessing if my kid needs new shoes. Getting lost in the depths of his closet because doesn’t he have a pair of never-worn shoes around here somewhere? Having anxiety about how we haven’t spent the entire summer practicing buzzwords. Scheduling last-minute haircuts. Being late for said haircuts. Bath time briberies.

The list goes on. 

My career requires extreme organization. Planning ahead. Tracking of each and every detail and deadline. I love it for all of those reasons. But once I shut my work laptop for the day and shift my focus and attention to my family? Absolute chaos. 

This is what I personally find most challenging about parenting – navigating my work-life balance between two extremely different environments. And deciding where my line is when it comes to priorities. Then learning to be at peace with when that line must move. What else can you do? 

Luckily, I work for an organization that is supportive of working parents and provides flexibility when I need it. Most recently that support for a flexible schedule was appreciated when my oldest was exposed to head lice while my youngest brought home a case of strep throat he couldn’t wait to share with me.  

In addition to support from the workplace, I personally find it helpful to have a few close mom friends who are always accessible via a group chat. We turn to the chat to ask questions, air frustration and keep a general check-in with each other. There’s no expectation for groundbreaking advice – instead, it’s just nice to lean in for commiseration and some motivational support (plus the occasional ridiculous GIF).  

Another thing that doesn’t hurt? SELF-CARE. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Personally, as someone who is part of the Vitality book club, all I need is some alone time equating to at least one chapter in whatever book I’m reading. And by “alone,” I simply mean a period of time on the sofa where the two littles are not hanging off of me. Some nights that is a tall order, but still a must for my sanity. 

At the end of the day, every parent is going to struggle with changes to routine. But the important thing to remember is that there’s no one right way to do something. Sometimes it’s messy and not ideal. Things will be forgotten. Tears will be shed. A sports practice may accidentally get skipped. An extra glass of wine may occur. But every day we will get it a bit more “right” for how our family does it. Or almost every day (fingers crossed). 

Amy Kuhs serves as the Director of Product Marketing at Vitality, leveraging over a decade of experience in sales and marketing within the wellbeing industry. During her free time, Amy enjoys activities such as running, hiking, and surpassing her annual reading goal on Goodreads. Currently, she is training for her 11th half-marathon and attempting to learn how to play tennis at a very mediocre level.

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