A friend and I were poolside, our sons swimming and splashing. We should have been relaxed, but instead my friend, an elementary school teacher, told me she felt anxious. This year, her son will go to middle school -- a different building, a different schedule and a big change in the routine.
As parents, we experience back-to-school anxiety, too. We want the school year to go smoothly. We want our kids' school schedules to blend well with our work schedules and for our kids to thrive. As we scurry around setting up carpools, buying school supplies and stocking up on lunchbox snacks, we worry about what's to come.
For some working parents, angst stems from new routines. It may be the first time our child will walk home alone from the bus stop or attend an aftercare program.
"Routines are changing, and there are a lot of decisions, and that can be stressful," said Maggie Macaulay, a parent educator and coach with Whole Hearted Parenting in Miramar, Fla.
Laurie Jennings, a news anchor at Miami's WPLG-TV, said she's feeling the jitters because she moved over the summer and her twin 7-year-old sons will go to a new school with an earlier start and end time. While she now lives closer to work, she still will give up sleep if she wants to bring her boys to school in the mornings. And she will have to take a vacation day if she ever wants to pick them up. She plans to rely on Dad much more this year because his office is only five minutes from the boys' school.
Homework makes Ms. Jennings a little jittery, too. This school year, because of her shorter commute, she's going to try to pop in at home a few nights a week for dinner and to supervise homework. "There's nothing worse than coming home from work at 1 in the morning and finding mistakes. It breaks your heart."
For other parents, the jitters come from pressure to be involved in their child's school and staying on top of assignments. They worry if they're not involved enough, it will come at the expense of their child. But if they're too involved, it could come at the detriment of their career.
Ms. Macaulay said a lot of times parents have an image of what an involved parent looks like and it's not realistic. "It sets them up to feel guilty." She recommends each parent step back and consider how, where and when they are able to be involved in their children's school in a way that's doable.
Work life expert Cali Williams Yost recommends sitting down with your manager now, before school starts, and proposing a shift in schedule, rather than disappointing your kids or your boss. "Don't focus on why you are proposing a change, emphasize how you will get your job done. That's really all your manager cares about in the end."
If there's initial hesitation, she suggests you offer to pilot the new schedule for one month. "Chances are it will be fine and continue."
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life; email@example.com.