"Balancing work and school is turning my life upside down."

Today is my husband’s birthday. For the first time in our 10 year marriage I haven’t baked him a cake. I have the ingredients sitting patiently in the pantry. What I don’t have is the time.

You see, I’ve just tip-toed back into the workforce after a seven-year hiatus. A big break to have little kids.

It's a juggling act alright.

Speaking of kids, mine have just returned to school after two weeks of school holidays. And only now am I beginning to appreciate the juggling act working parents – and kids of working parents – perform each and every day.

Our holiday morning sleep-ins have now morphed into school morning mayhem. The alarm goes off at the crack of dawn and pandemonium ensues – no matter how much I’ve planned ahead. While I make brekkie, morning tea and pack lunches (times four), the husband helps sort out home readers, library bags and permission slips. A frantic search ensues for my son’s sport shoes while my daughter can’t ever seem to find two matching lacky bands.

I try to get everything and everyone out of the house on time without losing my shit… Sounds familiar?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying being back at work. After such a long time at home, it’s satisfying to do something other than ‘mothering’. I expected it to be stressful. I expected it to be a steep learning curve. I expected to feel a bit unsure about my abilities.

"Mummmmy, you're home! We missed you so much."

What I didn’t expect was to well up with emotion every evening when my kids rush into my arms once I return from work. What I didn't expect was to miss my family so much. What I didn’t expect was to be so time-poor that I forget to breathe. What I didn’t expect was this logistical nightmare.

How do I cram the million other bits and pieces into 24 hours? How do I fit in the kids’ after-school activities? How do I oversee their homework and piano practice while trying to edit an article and cook dinner? What happens if one of the kids falls ill? How can I find an extra hour to volunteer for literacy at school? Who’s going to pick up the slack of mundane household chores? And through it all runs an invisible but unmistakable urgency to rush, rush, rush.

5pm means multi-tasking mayhem at our house.

The kids have noticed the difference.

Our otherwise tidy home now looks like a bomb’s gone off inside. I’m trying to turn a blind eye to the detritus of our daily life: my husband's coffee cup just beside the sink - not in it, a carpet of crumbs below our dining table, the overflowing laundry hamper... Story-time has become shorter; arguments have become longer. Our elaborate home-cooked meals have been elbowed out in favour of anything that can be whipped up under 20 minutes’ flat.

My very own MasterChef Mystery Box Challenge.

"If I step on one more block of Lego ..."

And I seem to be having these ‘out-of-body’ experiences: even while I’m physically at home, I’m mentally ticking off all the tasks I need to tackle tomorrow at work; and while I’m at work, I’m worrying about the kids coping with my absence.

I know it’s early days. A period of adjustment for the kids and me. They’ll have to get more self-reliant and I’ll have to let go a bit. So my goals are simple: organised chaos at home; a work-life balance at the office. And I’ll start by heeding my boss’s advice and remember to just breathe.

As for my husband’s birthday cake, it looks like I’m going to swing by our local French patisserie on my way home from work. Gateau Opera, here I come!

Do you find it hard juggling work with your family life? Any tips?