This back-to-school season this year is unlike any other. With some parts of the world going back to completely virtual and other parts in person or hybrid there is a sense of relief and uncertainty. Needless to say, back to school has taken on a different meaning than in the past. As we transition into fall it doesn’t only affect the kids and the teachers but the parents too. Nicole Seawell of Sailor’s Sweet Life reminds us that beginnings are filled with energy so it’s important to harness that energy as the excitement for the new school year instead of the anxiety of the unknown.
According to the American Psychological Association, the mental and physical health of parents has reportedly declined during the pandemic. Almost half of the parents (48%) expressed heightened levels of stress in their life when compared to pre-pandemic stress. In a recent study shared in Frontiers in Psychology teachers roughly 49.5% of them are suffering from anxiety, overall 32.2% of the teachers have reportedly suffered from depression.
Conscious Parenting & Life Coach Maureen Spielman shares
“During the pandemic parents have been working relentlessly to uphold their households and their children’s lives. The return to school will allow parents much-needed space to focus on their own needs, both in their personal and work lives. Caregiving needs have taken up so much of a parent's life in the past 18 months. Parents everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief and express gratitude that the thriving environment of the school is back in session to support their children!”
Eirene Heidelberger the founder of GIT Mom (Get It Together, Mom!) feels this is a time for moms to get their sanity and their self-worth back. They’ll be able to see themselves clearly again without children hanging off of every limb. “People need to remember a mom is still her own woman and deserves to be. The pandemic made that more challenging than ever,” explains Heidelberger.
Recess spoke with experts, parents, and caregivers to unpack what the back-to-school season means for them mentally and physically.
Recess: How has having the kids home full time affected your business and "me- time"?
Having them home has certainly decreased my productivity business-wise and increased my feelings of guilt. With them in the house, I am not only on a constant call to feed, problem solve, engage, etc., but I am also compelled to entertain and distract from screens and create opportunities with friends and get them to activities. Getting chunks of time to dedicate to my work is rare so I'm forced to be creative on demand and productive in disparate windows that don't always align with my business needs.
Me-time has disappeared altogether, although me-time was pretty rare pre-Covid as well. I do try to work out as often I can and that is generally my self-care/me-time. It's become family time though - I typically work out in my house with them around me and involved.
Recess: How will going back to school benefit parents/households mentally?
Dr. Jane Shomof, PMH-C, LMFT
Founder/CEO of Bloome Inc.
Children finally going back to school after being home so long can bring about some new anxiety but also feelings of freedom and much-needed adult time for themselves. I feel like when we're in the midst of it all, we don't realize how much we need this. It reminds me of when you're so busy in your day that you forget to drink water, but when you finally take those first few sips, you realize how thirsty you really were.
This will be a new season of growth and transition, especially because we are healing while still dealing with the current state of the pandemic.
Mary Beth Ferrante
As a mom of two, business owner, and workplace culture consultant, the word that best describes the start of the new school year is simply complicated. Most parents have mixed emotions. For working parents, there is an added layer of uncertainty and expectation that even with the best safety measures in place, there will be cases and therefore unplanned quarantines causing classroom and school closures.
“It is my hope that households will return to a balance of school and home life. Kids naturally thrive with structure in school when guided by a loving and capable teacher. They develop a positive self-image by engaging in the academic and social environment of the school.” explains Maureen
Recess: What was your biggest learning lesson from having your kids home all summer, have you discovered new ways to put yourself first (exercise, journaling, quality time with the kids)?
Founder of Kai Blends
The biggest lesson is being aware and honest about how far I can stretch myself and realizing that taking care of me first is not selfish, it's self-love. My family needs me so I have to take care of myself more.
2020 was about self-care for many people but I failed at that miserably. I let myself down to the point where I hated walking by the mirror. It was mentally draining most days but I was doing what I love and helping many vulnerable people in the process. I was grateful to be employed so I had to stay motivated.
I have loved getting to have meals with my kids each day. I've also loved getting to watch them interact and see my daughter teach my son new things.
It’s clear that with the emotional weight of recent times, this time of year is more than stocking up on school supplies. It’s about putting your mental and physical health first without any feelings of guilt because let’s face it, you deserve it.