My Back-to-School Plan: "There Is No Plan"

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I am a planner. You know that meme of the woman looking off into the distance while equations pop up around her face to show her mind is really working hard? That’s me. I overthink everything. I work through all the scenarios. I make spreadsheets. It probably goes without saying that I often suffer from insomnia.

When COVID-19 hit the United States and schools in our state closed, my husband and I suddenly had to figure out how to juggle two kids home from school, eLearning, working from home, keeping the house clean, and a surprisingly steady amount of laundry considering none of us were going anywhere. Of course, I immediately made daily schedule and chore charts, which we stuck to for about a week. Things descended into chaos from there. I’m not sure how we made it through the eLearning, but we did, and the school year ended in June.

It’s been a little more relaxed since then, but it’s still an adventure to get through each day. The kids watch a lot more TV than I ever imagined I’d be comfortable with (like literally right now so I can write this piece). Laundry and toys threaten to overtake our house on a daily basis. We are so grateful that we’ve been able to do our work from home — even when it is often in the wee hours of the night, before dawn, and on the weekends.

As a planner, of course my natural instinct is to try and figure out what the various scenarios for back-to-school could look like in the fall and map out how we will tackle each one. With so many variables and unknowns, however, trying to go through my usual planning machinations was not giving me any comfort. In fact, it was making me feel even more out of control. Despite our best guesses, we just don’t know what things will look like this coming school year. I've finally reached a simple and peaceful conclusion: My only plan for back-to-school is "there is no plan."

"I often wonder how much longer we can do this weird juggle of what feels like all the things, all the time."


Am I still anxious about it sometimes? Yes. Do I worry about the kids being back in the classroom? Absolutely. Do I worry about the kids missing out on valuable experiences by not being back in the classroom and having to keep eLearning with me? Yep, that too. I often wonder how much longer we can do this weird juggle of what feels like all the things, all the time. However, I try to center myself in the idea that we are all in this uncertainty together and we will figure things out once we have actionable information to work with.

How to Be Okay Without a Plan

School supplies can be purchased at the last minute online. And the idea of back-to-school shopping for clothes is just a marketing ploy. It’s not like your kids’ sizes or the season of their wardrobe changes the instant the clock starts ticking on day one of the new school year. Not to mention, clothes can be ordered online too these days. The logistics of managing work and childcare will iron themselves out once we understand what we’re actually in for.

By just accepting “there is no plan,” I have the most control I possibly can right now. Besides, I don’t have energy to spare thinking through all the different scenarios right now. I have work emails to reply to, snacks to fetch, and laundry mountains to battle.

Tags: Education, Navigating the Pandemic, Overcoming Adversity

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Written By

Kerstin Shamberg

Kerstin is a writer, editor and digital content/social media strategist working primarily with women-run small businesses. See Full Bio

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