The next few weeks are pretty messy in the homes of employees with school-age kids. On average, this transition is not easy for families. The toothy grins on social media don’t always reflect reality. Some of their kids will happily skip off to school with genuine excitement. Some of their kids will spend their morning hiding under the couch, overwhelmed by the unknowns of a new school, a new teacher, a new schedule.

Your employees may arrive at work having already spent a day’s worth of energy getting their kids out the door. And even though they have succeeded in the task of getting their kids on the bus, they’re distracted by the worry that they’re not doing it right. “Am I pushing them too hard, or not hard enough?” Their confidence feels thin and unstable, perhaps a liability.

Those parenting neurodivergent kids may be anticipating a phone call. Perhaps from the principal. “There was an incident. She wasn’t being safe with her body and another student was hurt.” Or from the nurse. “He’s saying he has a stomachache. We think it’s probably anxiety, but do you want to talk to him? Would you be able to pick him up if he can’t get comfortable?”

Those parenting kids with health conditions may be checking sugar levels repeatedly on their child’s glucose monitoring app, or praying that other parents read the email to pack a peanut-free lunch. Trusting another adult’s ability to care for your child, no matter how incredibly capable that adult may be, is a uniquely difficult practice.

And for those whose children have learning differences, the return to school, with its IEP and 504 plans, can feel heavy, like a giant ruler has appeared once more outside their family’s door. Their children’s favorite summer activities happened freely, without calculation or planned observation. There were no bell curves to land on – or fall off – when blazing trails in the woods or making cities in the sand.

Some may be anticipating the chaotic evening. After-school restraint collapse is entirely exhausting. They are gearing up to be their kids’ safe place where they can wail or rage through all of the feelings they’ve kept bottled up for the last seven hours.


Most of them are feeling guilty. They know they had to take time off this summer to bridge the gaps in their patchwork child care and camp schedules. They wanted to show up on Sept. 1 ready to go, energized to hit every sales goal and project deadline. But this transition back to school is hard. Where did all that pent-up energy go?

Thankfully, this is temporary. They’ll adjust. Their kids will find their groove, they will find their groove. Mornings will feel a bit easier, evenings will feel a bit lighter. They’ll show up to work feeling ready to go. The guilt and worry will lessen, and they’ll find that energy again.

Let’s show up for our employees over the next few weeks. Let’s remember that they are human beings raising other human beings, and none of this is predictable. Their kids will get sick this year, they will forget to pack something important and need to run off on their lunch break.

Push back any early September deadlines. Pick them up a sandwich when you run out for one (they surely forgot theirs). Show them grace. Show them compassion. And make sure to tell them they are doing a darn good job.

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