Surviving the September Meltdown


TeresaTaylor_HeadshotBy Teresa Taylor

Summer is coming to an end, and the kids are going back to school. As a working mom, you would think this would be a relief and allow the family to go back to a familiar routine. Order should return to the household.  Right?

Nope.  In fact, it is the beginning of a month long meltdown that I unaffectionately call the “September Meltdown.” Once a year, like clockwork, I failed to keep it together when the simultaneous pressures of fourth-quarter work and back-to-school collided.

At work, by September, we were always behind in our financial commitments. In order to get the fourth quarter in line, we needed to make expense cuts. The pressure was unbelievable and unpleasant. How was I supposed to figure out how to reduce my budget with two weeks notice? Why did we have to go through this exercise every year? How am I supposed to forecast the next year’s results when I can’t even figure out next week?

At home, September’s back-to-school time brought another form of pressure. Paper work, school supplies, registration, new uniforms and new expectations – everything at once!  And, who came up with this ridiculous school supply list … how many boxes of Kleenex and dry eraser markers can one classroom hold?  Why are there so many “mandatory parent meetings” communicated with a three-day notice? On top of all that, the fall sports begin with a heavy game schedule.

Yes, work and family schedules are busier than ever during this time of year.

The following five “meltdown” tips will help you survive the back-to-school adventure and the fourth-quarter pressures at work. They are written from my personal and professional experiences and shared in my book, The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success.

1. Wear the game face. It is not necessary to let everyone know how miserable you are. It is not productive and only creates more chaos. It is ok to cry but find a place that you can cry alone – mine was the women’s bathroom in my office.

2. Third grade only comes once.  Each school grade comes with unique characteristics that shape your children. Try to rise above the details and look at the bigger picture.  Treasure – don’t dread — this busy back-to-school time.

3. Manage your time more efficiently. Be present in what you’re doing, finish it and move on. I have my list of things to do, and I’ll assign time slots to it. If I have one hour to work on a presentation at work or one hour to shop for school supplies, I do the best I can for that one hour.

4. Combine your work and family schedules. I used to keep two different calendars – one for home and one for work; but, I was missing work deadlines, my kids’ activities and other events. So I combined the calendars, which caused me to start talking about my family at work and integrating my two lives. It’s one life and one calendar! And,now, I don’t miss a thing. More than ever, back-to-school time is the right time for combining.

5. Stay in the moment. When you’re at work or in a meeting, be there. When you’re at home, be there. If you’re in a business meeting, don’t be wishing to be somewhere else. Be present where you are, and don’t feel guilty about where you’re not.

At the end of the day – or at least every time September came around – all over again, I learned a valuable lesson about adversity, setbacks, disappointment, difficulties and everything else that came rolling down the pike. It takes faith that things will work out, and they always do.

So enjoy and savor September.  It might be back-to-school time, but you don’t have to welcome back the “mommy meltdowns” – leave them behind.

About the Author: Teresa Taylor is a nationally recognized, Fortune 200 executive who brings integrity, focus, vision and agility to corporate leadership, while advising companies, government agencies and others on a successful business model.  Her book, The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success, is inspiring women to succeed professionally and personally.