For working parents with school-age children, this time of year is especially chaotic. Your task list is endless, your stress level high. Besides, a lot of the work and worry seems to be coming from one place: your child’s school.
But here’s the good news: There are effective ways to manage the overwhelming demands of drop-off, homework, and parent-teacher conferences while still delivering and succeeding at work. Here’s how to make the system work for you!
- Plan and bundle volunteer commitments. Even with a very flexible job, it’s unlikely that a working parent can make it to every bake sale, fundraiser and field trip.
Here’s what you do: In the first week of school, tell your child’s teachers or the school’s volunteer coordinators that you’re eager to do your fair share, but that you will be doing it all in one go. You’ll schedule a personal or vacation day well in advance and use it entirely for school volunteerism. When the day is over, enjoy knowing that your yearly contribution has been made in full ─ and efficiently.
- Explain the why, not just the when, of time away from work. Instead of telling your boss and colleagues that you’ll be “out of the office tomorrow afternoon,” explain why you are leaving early.
Here’s how to go about it: Say something along the lines of “I’ll be leaving the office tomorrow afternoon for two hours for a parent-teacher meeting at my child’s school. We’ve been concerned about his math scores. We are talking with the teacher about how to support him over the holidays and into next year. I’ll be back online in the afternoon and we can go over the budget draft at tomorrow’s meeting.” This kind of statement makes it vastly easier for colleagues to understand, sympathise and ally themselves with you ─ and does a better job of transmitting your commitment to the job as well.
- Treat teachers as you would a valued colleague. For many parents, the parent-teacher relationship is fraught and unclear: Is the teacher an all-powerful evaluator, capable of changing your child’s future with a few strokes of a red pen? Or a vendor who you need to nudge if you’re going to get decent service? Will there be terrible consequences for your child if you dial into a parent-teacher meeting while on a business trip? The answer to all of those is no — but you do need to develop strong working relationships with the professionals teaching your child.
To do so, think of a favourite coworker, one who you enjoy being grouped with on tough projects. The colleague is someone you continuously communicate with, sharing all critical information ─ someone with whom you greet setbacks and roadblocks with vigour. Teachers are professionals ─ and humans. They’ll notice and appreciate your collaboration and likely respond in kind.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2018/06/how-working-parents-can-manage-the-demands-of-school-age-kids