The transition to big school means big changes for everyone.
And if you’re used to working full time with daycare support the regimented hours, sheer amount of admin, having to make lunches every day, homework, and in some cases, a lack of before and after school care means your job gets trickier.
What can you do to make it easier to fit the two together? Kirsty Levin is a psychologist, career coach and co-founder of The Parents Village. She says there is really only one secret to making this work: being organised.
“Working parents need to be extremely organised, deadline focused, and always thinking ahead,” says Kirsty.
Kirsty suggests mums divide admin and home tasks into chunks and make regular use of a diary and calendar.
“Start by diarising all school events and holidays across the year in advance. You can then sync this up with your work calendar to avoid any conflicts with meetings or project plans. Writing and updating to-do lists, setting and prioritising weekly goals can help you to measure your progress and reach your desired finish line with work,” says Kirsty.
“Aim to keep your to-to-lists lean and mean by honing in on your three to five most urgent, important, and challenging tasks for the day. There are plenty of scheduling and calendar sharing apps and programs that can help to coordinate, communicate and measure this like Slack, Wunderlist or Trello just to name a few (if you don’t already use an application at work).”
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Keep communication open with your employer
Keeping everyone in your life happy can feel like a constant battle as a working parent. The best thing you can do is be honest and upfront about your situation.
“Manage expectations early on so that your comings and goings are not a surprise. It may also help to set clear meeting agendas and to become an effective timekeeper to ensure you are not frantically racing from work to school at the end of the day,” says Kirsty.
Make use of evenings (if you can)
Mum of two Karen works full time in the city which makes her mornings quite rushed. She says making use of her evenings helps keep the school/work routine manageable.
“As soon as my daughter gets home from school I empty her lunchbox, wash it and set it out on the kitchen bench ready for the morning. I also lay out her clothes and bag,” says Karen.
“I make lunches in the morning as I want everything to be as fresh as possible, to encourage her to eat it all!”
Career coach Kirsty Levin also recommends making use of an evening or two a week to get to the admin tasks you can’t cover during the day:
“Designate a few nights a week to ‘clock on’ once children are in bed, for less urgent or administrative tasks or responding to emails.”
Get a wall calendar
I hear this comment from school mums EVERYWHERE and Karen recommends one that gives you a column for each family member.
“I update it every week and that way everyone can see what’s coming up easily,” says Karen. “I also really rely on the Facebook groups that the other school mums have set up to remind us of upcoming events. And some mums even post a photo of school notes on it.”
Sometimes finding time for everything is impossible, and on those weeks Kirsty recommends using an evening a week to “batch” your admin.
Investigate work from home days: are they an option for you?
Mum of two Kylie has the enviable position of being able to work from home five days a week. It allows her the flexibility to tick off some household tasks throughout the day, but says even then the juggle can be challenging.
“There’s always plenty of distractions – an extra load of washing to hang out on a sunny day, an errand to the post office, a sneaky kid-free grocery shop in the middle of the day, a vet appointment … all of these things can make it difficult to be as productive as I’d like to be,” says Kylie.
“It works for my family because my income isn’t our main source. I do what I can during the hours of 9-3, five days a week, but the kids, etc. are my priority and often take precedence. When this happens, I generally work at night or really early in the morning. In short, when deadlines loom, I always get stuff done. But it’s not necessarily between the hours of 9-3.”
Accept that it will take time to find your routine
Creating a routine that works for you, your employer and your family is going to be challenging at first, but know that as time goes on, you will also find your feet.
“Daycare is like a well-oiled machine, you just drop the kids off and pick them up. School is more like a puzzle that you’ve got to piece all the bits of admin together,” says Kirsty.
Here’s hoping we all get there soon, then!