Oh No, We're Back to School

Silhouette sunset photo of dad entertaining young daughter
Image credit: photo by Lauren Lulu Taylor on Unsplash.

Initially we might think this statement is coming from our children, or from teachers who have had the summer off—No. This thought, or statement, is a frequent one that’s coming from parents.

Suddenly we’re back focusing on our children’s schedule, their homework, their sports practices, their school events and teacher/parent conferences. The list seems to be never-ending after the more leisurely days of summer break.

Our Busy Lives Become Even Busier

In the summer we often have the ability to be more flexible with our time. We are able to create, and maintain, more of a balance in our life between:

  • Parent and child connections.
  •  Couple connections.
  • Focusing on ourselves and our own needs.

Now that school has resumed here we are again using a good part of our time, energy, and attention on what our children need and often pushing our own needs aside. Of course, for our children, having them in the focus of our world may feel good and nurturing for them. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to feel as parents, too?

…Yet What About Us?

So many parents may think this, but many don’t have the courage to verbalize this thought. We are often uncomfortable talking with others about the desire to fulfill our own needs, and have our own time, for fear of what other parents might think or how they might judge us.

Back-to-school time is tough not just for kids, but for parents too. Some moms and dads get so caught up dealing with their children’s lives — from helping with homework to fears of bullying —that they have little time, energy or attention to deal with their own problems.

Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist.

Will They Judge Me?

We might fear that verbalizing these personal thoughts might make other’s might think poorly of us as parents and think:

  • We’re selfish.
  • That there’s something wrong with us.
  • That we’re bad parents.

Some may have feelings of unhappiness about missing some of their time with their partner, or the loss of some of the ‘me time’ they’ve just started to enjoy over the summer. But somehow it does not feel emotionally safe to talk about this because of concerns about how other parents may perceive our feelings.

Have You Noticed a Change in Your Emotions?

Yet somehow some parents may not even have the thought about ‘oh no we’re back to school’ and feel as if they’ve made a seamless transition from summer break to back to school. Although sometimes ignoring this transition, in an effort to do it all, may manifest itself in other subtle ways.

This parent may notice they’re feeling:

  • A little more impatient with their children.
  • More angry and resentful.
  • Not quite understanding what’s responsible for their unexplainable emotional turmoil.

Striving to be All-Star Parents 

Our culture tends to applaud parents who are really involved with their children. The ones who ignore their own personal needs to be sure they:

  • Attend all the sporting events.
  • Volunteer to coach their children’s teams.
  • Become actively involved in PTA/school committees.
  • Chauffer their children to karate, dance and gymnastics etc.

Almost as if it’s expected that one checks their personal need and self at the door when they become parents. That one hundred percent of a parent’s time should be directed at fulfilling our children’s needs.

I Need a Night Off

The thought may flit through many frazzled parent’s minds while running from one school activity to another, or after spending hours arguing about homework, or searching for what papers are due for school the next day.

Few parents have the courage to say to their partner, or a grandparent:

  • “I need a night off.”
  • “I need a little time for myself.”
  • “Can you be with the children so my partner and I can have a couple night?”

It’s often difficult to make this request without feelings of guilt. Almost as if admitting this desire for personal time is succumbing to failure. As if you’ve dropped the ball in winning the all-star parent award. It’s okay; you don’t have to do it all, all the time.

It’s Okay to Request, and Cherish, Time for You

Creating a balance between family, self, and couple time, can be really challenging. Yet it’s extremely important to strive to achieve this balance in order to have an emotionally healthy existence and a more fulfilling life.

How Do We Create this Balance?

How do we cope with the potential guilt that comes up around this? How do we come to grips with the fact that it’s truly ok to want a balance? That it’s not a reflection of not loving our children, not wanting to be with our children, and that this does not make us bad parents? These are often thoughts many parents struggle with as the school year begins.

There’s a huge adjustment that takes place when the summer break winds down to end and the school year begins.

 Whether it’s apparent or not, the summer is a time of flexibility. When we spend time with our children it’s often less about structure and homework, and making sure they complete school requirements. There’s more time to spend with things we enjoy doing for our partners and ourselves.

For some parents the “oh no we’re back to school” brings them sadness. They feel a loss of the kind of quality and quantity time they had over the summer. They could relax their strict bedtime and do things with their children that they don’t normally do during the school year because of the rigid structure required.

Whether we consciously recognize it or not, this shift is an enormous emotional adjustment. 

If you struggle with feelings of guilt, or being overwhelmed, with the shift to back to school, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance & Counseling located on Long Island can help. Our licensed therapists have helped many people create a healthy balance between your needs, and those of your children, and family.

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