The Sh*tty Mom's Guide to Surviving the End of the School Year

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For most kids, the school year ends in June. Which means that for most parents, the work year ends in May. 


Every year -- somewhere between paying your taxes and installing the mailbox your husband got you for Mother's Day -- your calendar becomes so overloaded with end-of-the-school-year celebrations that you can't even remember to do your hair in the morning. Fuck it. You don't have time to look human, anyway. You have to make an industrial-size carafe of sport tea for art gallery night, fill out the application for language immersion next year, and then run over to the bathing suit store to order swim team sweatshirts.

Take some small comfort in knowing that nobody with children under the age of 10 will get anything done this month. You can avoid making more serious distress calls -- whether to call the unemployment office, your shrink, or the wholesale wine dealer -- by following these mayday procedures.


If you saw that movie where Tom Hanks is in charge of a container vessel that gets hijacked by pirates, you know that ship captains don't fuck around. In times of crisis, they send everyone down to the hull, give the pirates all their cash, then get captured and thrown onto a slow-moving dinghy. Is that proper maritime protocol? No idea. But you can learn from his pirate mayhem.

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When the PTO sends out the schedule for Teacher Appreciation Week -- which it couldn't possibly host in February, when there's nothing else on the calendar -- don't get annoyed and delete the email. You need to know that Monday is Card Day, Tuesday is Blue Shirt Day, Wednesday is Another Day Off Day, and Thursday is Make a Vegan Side Dish Day. Since your daughter also has a ballet recital Thursday and you have an off-site meeting for work, you need to take charge. Forward the ballet information to your husband and tell him to save you a seat. Call your parents and tell them to bring flowers. On your way to the studio, call and have a cheese-free pizza delivered to the school. Vegans in the dinghy!


Every May, ship captains must navigate the narrow straits that exist between the end-of-the-school-year activities and the start of summer ones. When you aren't attending the kids' final Glee Club performance, you're hiring a summer sitter. When you aren't showing up to the second-grade poetry reading that is conveniently held midmorning on a Tuesday, you're stopping by Kinko's to print a release form for computer camp. (How ironic. Really: Why don't they have email?)

The problem is that if you get too close on either side -- watch the Glee Club and put off the sitter interview, or interview the sitter and skip the concert -- there will be disappointment, tears, and a very long summer of dirty dishes.

If you aim for the middle -- which means doing everything a little bit badly, but doing nothing completely badly -- you might not run aground.


OK, so you ran aground. You cleared your morning schedule to take your daughter to the pediatrician for her summer-camp physical, but the doctor's office got slammed by patients with a stomach virus. You ended up missing the managers' diversity luncheon and now you're on the HR director's shit list.

You'll have to leave your post to assess the damage. Call a friend. Or another mom in the neighborhood who you hardly know, whose kids are also going to the after-school birthday party. If it's really bad, lower the big lifeboat: your spouse. Normally hiding in the dinghy with the vegans, your partner needs to get his ass up to the poop deck.

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Give your spouse the basics to get through the day -- where's the gift, where's the wrapping paper, where's the tape, where's the kid -- and suggest some healthy options for dinner. You need to drive back to the office and make nice with human resources. You'll be back as soon as you can to mop up his mess.


Remember on the Titanic how the rich people took all the lifeboats and the poor Irish people got locked in their rooms to drown? That was sad, and even Celine Dion couldn't make it better. But there's a lesson in that horrifying episode of class warfare that pertains to Mayday motherhood. And that is, your cat is basically Irish. Any other time of year, you could fit feline dentistry into your monthly juggling act. Not right now. The same goes for your weight training, your housecleaning, your Clean Parks Committee work, and your volunteer job at the retirement home. Anything that isn't directly related to your kids' finishing school and starting summer activities -- so they aren't sitting at home for more than one single day -- takes lower priority.


You're back on course, you have poop deck backup, and you've prioritized the kids over your cat. Still, the family boat is taking in water. Your calendar is too full. You simply can't be in three places at once. Time to get rid of the deadweight.

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Start with the purely social obligations. It would be nice to make caramel corn for the fifth-grade graduation party. But making caramel corn and then missing the actual graduation because your car ran out of gas might send the wrong message. Same goes for swim team. If the pre-season parent information meeting is the night before the hot dog party -- and you really need to get to the grocery store -- the kids get hot dogs at home. Better yet, throw the hot dogs over too. Give the kids cereal and take a goddamn shower. When you get up the next morning and suddenly remember it's PTO picture day -- because that couldn't fucking happen in February either -- you'll be glad to look half-human.

Reminder! In parenthood, the main goal is staying afloat. After that, the main goal is getting the kids on their own damn boat. Bon voyage!


Reproduced with permission from Sh*tty Mom for All Seasons; Abrams Image; 2016. 

Shitty Mom for All Seasons

Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner are Emmy Award–winning producers at NBC's Today show. They are the coauthors of Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us and Today's Moms: Essentials for Surviving Baby’s First Year.

Erin Clune is a journalist and humorist whose blogs include Life After NY, The Mischievous Mixologist, and her advice column, "So What? Who Cares?" Her work has been featured on NPR, The Rumpus, Thought Catalog, and Medium.

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