Many parents welcome August and the start of the new school year. After the summer shuffle of vacations and summer camps, parents can be ready for the return to a set schedule. However, with school comes its own new to-do lists and additions to the “mental load,” as many mothers notice these tasks around school and extracurricular activities fall disproportionately on them. From managing school supply lists to figuring out transportation to and from school to managing sign ups, the return to normalcy can also feel like a return to overwhelm and building resentment in the partnership.
Many of the couples and individuals I work with experience this dynamic, so here are three tried and true strategies to share the mental load and decrease back-to-school stress.
1. HAVE A PLANNING MEETING SIT DOWN WITH YOUR PARTNER & LAY IT ALL ON THE TABLE-
every item on your to-do list.
In this meeting your goal will be to clearly express all the moving pieces it takes to keep the household running at the start of the school year, and to divide the labor between you both.
Focus on equity, not equality, as you divide.
Some tasks are more ongoing (managing transportation to and from school), some larger and all-at-once (back-to-school shopping), and some fall somewhere in between. Rather than focusing on dividing the tasks exactly equally, focus on assigning tasks that align with your strengths.
2. UPDATE THE EMAIL ADDRESS FOR ONGOING COMMUNICATION
I recommend creating a shared email account that is used for all school communication, extracurriculars, medical appointments, etc.
This shared email account can be used for all family-related concerns, and is monitored by both partners. Rather than all emails about school spirit week, annual check-ups, and teacher appreciation going just to mom, this creates a more open conversation and a pathway to sharing these tasks more equitably.
3. FIGURE OUT YOUR BOUNDRIES
If you and your partner are both reeling looking at the upcoming to-do list and schedule with dread, it might be time to revisit together.
What are things you all can say no to? During times of transition, we can often benefit from a break on taking on new things. It might mean a temporary pause in saying yes to birthday parties or family engagements, as you recognize the weeks that are causing you more stress.