Summer is synonymous with good times; days at the pool, slow paces and vacations bring a much-needed break from the rest of the year. But all good things must come to a close, and the end of summer can be particularly challenging for working parents. From managing new schedules to securing child care and attending classroom events, they often find themselves juggling lots of responsibilities without much support. 

It's no wonder, then, that so many working parents struggle with work-life balance. Both parents are now employed in 63% of all married couples with kids, who also devote more time to child care than previous generations — despite moms, in particular, spending more time working than before. To learn more about their battles balancing demands during back-to-school season, Indeed surveyed 1,000 working parents in the U.S. In this post, we’ll explore the results and look at what employers can do to better support these workers all year long.

This chart shows that parents are surprised by back-to-school challenges.
According to Indeed data, 84% of mothers and 85% of fathers are surprised by back-to-school challenges.

Why is back-to-school season so stressful for working parents?

Working parents strive to handle it all but feel pulled in different directions. They want to attend daytime activities at their children’s school, such as performances, parties or volunteer opportunities, but must balance them with work responsibilities. 

This graph demonstrates the four back-to-school struggles cited by working moms and dads.
Indeed tracked the challenges parents face during back-to-school, using the four struggles cited by working moms and dads. According to the data, 56% of moms and 34% of dads struggle with managing the desire to attend daytime activities at school, and 61% of moms and 36% of dads struggle with managing the desire to be home when kids get home from school. Another struggle cited by 45% of moms and 25% of dads is feeling social pressure to attend daytime activities at school, and 30% of moms and 18% of dads cite feeling that they miss out on social opportunities with other parents at school as an additional back-to-school struggle.

As a result, 84% of moms and 85% of dads in the survey are surprised by the new school year’s challenges, with over half saying they’re unprepared to manage conflicting demands. What’s more, they feel pressure from other parents to be present — and when they can’t attend, they worry about missing opportunities to connect with the school community.

While the toll seems to be more intense for working moms, back-to-school season is a challenge for both parents: 94% of moms and 84% of dads tell Indeed they feel responsible for handling most of the chores and child care at home, even when working full-time. This struggle has a ripple effect on family life, with a whopping 88% of moms and 85% of dads reporting that it’s stressful on their marriages. To make matters worse, 72% of moms and 53% of dads say they receive no support at work during back-to-school time.

This chart shows that both mothers and fathers think balancing work and family puts stress on their marriage.
According to Indeed data, 88% of mothers and 85% of fathers think balancing work and family puts stress on their marriage.

Given these challenges, what can employers do to help working parents during the transition out of summer and beyond?

Offer flexible scheduling options

Back-to-school time brings big schedule changes for families with working parents. They have to negotiate school pickups, extracurricular activities, half days, teacher meetings and more in the midst of their work duties.

This chart shows that most working parents still feel responsible for childcare and chores.
According to Indeed data, 94% of mothers and 84% of fathers working full-time jobs still feel responsible for childcare and chores.

More than one-fourth of working parents ask their employers for a flexible schedule to accommodate child care, and over 40% of working moms have, at some point, reduced their hours to care for a child or family member. For many, flexibility isn’t a perk, it’s a necessity — and remote or flex-schedule options mean workers don’t have to choose between career and family or sacrifice competitive wages. For example, if a parent needs to leave the office an hour early for a parent-teacher conference, they can still hop on their laptop at home to finish work in their own time.

Employers can support parents by allowing work schedules to be continually revised as school schedules change. Flexibility works best as an ongoing discussion between employees and managers, so keep the lines of communication open!

Plan work events during work time

After-hours work events are another common challenge for parents. Whether it’s company happy hours, team dinners or off-site workshops, these often interfere with pickups, activities or family time for working parents, causing even more stress. 

Whenever possible, employers and managers can help by scheduling work events during work hours — for example, starting happy hour at 4:00 instead of 5:00, ending the off-site early or making that fun team dinner an equally enjoyable lunch. Even optional events should be all-inclusive since they are important opportunities for relationship-building and networking. 

Build a family-friendly company culture

All employees, regardless of background, both need and value work-life balance — so employers would be wise to build this into their company culture. An inclusive approach helps meet the needs of not only working parents but of all employees with outside commitments. Companies can demonstrate this value by welcoming kids, partners and family members to workplace events, such as annual picnics or holiday parties, as well as by giving workers the freedom to attend their families’ activities.

This chart shows that most parents report their employer offers no support during the back-to-school season.
According to Indeed data, 72% of mothers and 53% of fathers report that their employer offers no support during back-to-school season.

Even if your company believes it provides a work-life balance, send out a short, anonymous survey to check in with your staff about how you’re doing. Managers should communicate clearly with team members about schedules, time off and event policies while encouraging employees to reach out with questions. 

Finally, never underestimate the power of strong, open communication. Acknowledge back-to-school time and its challenges in company emails and team meetings. Since leading by example speaks volumes, company leaders who are parents can even share their own approach to balancing work and family.

Attract and retain working parents by reducing back-to-school stress

The end of summer brings big changes for working parents, and employers can take key steps to support them as they navigate new schedules, responsibilities and commitments. From flexible and remote work options to restricting work events to the workday, employers and managers have a role to play in minimizing stress and maximizing inclusivity. 

Not only can this attract and retain working parents, but it also nurtures a company culture of balance and family-friendliness. Work together this year to make back-to-school time better for everyone.