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Making Back to Work, Work

When I think back to March and April 2020, what stands out to me most is the panic attacks I would feel come on as soon as new information was released on how long our “new normal” was going to last. It was overwhelming to think of my children missing out on school and their friends, my husband experiencing pay cuts and potential job loss, and trying to figure out daily how to participate in online meetings with my students and colleagues while my two young children attempted to entertain themselves in the background. I also recall the overwhelming amount of information that came out with all kinds of strategies to make my life easier - stay up late, wake up early, make a schedule, be flexible, and by all means, don’t forget the self care! It was dizzying.

Now, as the summer comes to a close, I’m starting to prepare for returning to work. Working in public education these days is challenging, to say the least. We are faced with meeting after meeting, an onslaught of information that seems to change daily, and very strong opinions from other staff and parents. If I could literally buy myself time, I would. Our district is returning to school virtually, but with this brings all of the same challenges of the past. I’ve found it easy to become anxious in thinking about what this next season will look like; however, I’m also able to remind myself that this time around I’m not a rookie. I’m practically a veteran behavior analyzing - meal making - tantrum taming - house keeping - working mom badass, and I can do this. Here are 3 things that are going to help me:

  1. Create a routine. Notice I did NOT say schedule. Because life with children 6 years old and under is really (really really) difficult to keep scheduled, especially when you’re attempting to work in their presence. One part of my routine that I found extremely helpful last spring was getting in a 30 minute workout after my coffee, taking a quick shower, and putting on a little makeup. Now don’t get me wrong - I changed into my daytime pajamas after my shower. But having gotten some exercise and putting on some basic makeup made me feel so much more human, it truly did wonders for my mindset!

  2. Plan 1 thing every day that makes you feel good. Notice I did NOT say self care. Because honestly, you might not have time for something dedicated to yourself. But what I could always find time for was something that made me happy. Sometimes that meant driving through Starbucks for cake pops and a caramel macchiato. If I was feeling really adventurous it was an hour long trip to the beach when work was done. Regardless of the length or the effort required, it was something I could look forward to.

  3. Know your people. There are friends in my life who were experiencing similar struggles as I was last Spring, and they could empathize with my anxiety. There are friends in my life who experienced completely different struggles, and they helped remind me that EVERYONE is struggling right now, even if we’re struggling with different things. There are friends in my life who literally thrive with this kind of a challenge, and they were the people who gave me hope that I could do this. No matter how I was feeling on a given day, I knew which people I could count on for what, and this made it easier for me to connect with friends when I needed support.

As the school year kicks into gear, it’s going to be particularly challenging for working moms. But my hope is that we’ve all learned something, even something small, that will help us navigate this coming season with more confidence. We are working moms, and we’ve got this.


Kristen McNeely


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