My family diary: After-school meltdowns

And before-school meltdowns. Basically all the meltdowns…

Illustration showing child having tantrum


It’s 7.50am on a Wednesday and I’m stuck in an intense argument about rainbow building blocks. There probably isn’t a good time to have this maddening conversation – but 7.50am on a Wednesday is definitely the worst time.

“I want to build a rainbow house!”

“I know, love, but we have to leave for school now.”

“I want to build a rainbow house!”

“I know, love, but we really have to go. We’ll have lots of time later.”


My daughter started primary school last month and we’ve made it to the final week before half-term (the break starts next Monday in our bit of the Midlands). She’s coped really well with this big transition but she’s worn out now, which means increasingly awful before-school and after-school meltdowns, every day until the holidays come.

All you can do is wait for each storm to pass – which isn’t ideal if you, er, have something to do or somewhere to be. It’s now 7.55am and my daughter is lying face-down on her bedroom floor and howling. No one has their coats or shoes on and we should have left the house ten minutes ago.

My toddler son asks me why his big sister is crying. I calmly explain that she has very busy days at school, she has to concentrate lots while she’s there, and she’s tired. My son frowns.

“No, it’s because she wants to build a rainbow house,” he explains to me, like I’m a complete idiot.

Holiday clubs and other conundrums

Illustration showing school building

For this half-term, me and my husband have taken time off so we can have a family holiday and give my daughter a nice break. But I already feel uneasy about the fact that we won’t be able to do this for her every time.

Like almost three-quarters of the UK’s two-parent households, we both work. We don’t have enough leave to cover every school holiday and my daughter will have to do some holiday clubs during this academic year. But what if she’s exhausted at the start of every break? How will she cope with clubs? And how will we cope with the meltdowns? 

I don’t know how many circular debates about rainbow houses I can withstand. Last week she screamed for half an hour because her favourite bowl was in the dishwasher. Maybe at some point I’ll just join her howling face-down on the floor.

Flexible Fridays – for some of us

In our house right now, Thursdays and Fridays are the touchiest days to navigate. For the first three days of the week, my husband and I go to work, my daughter goes to school, and my son goes to nursery. Everyone has to get on with it, even if they’re tired/bored/have a cold/would rather build a rainbow house.

But I work part-time and, on Thursdays and Fridays, my toddler and I noodle around together. My husband works compressed hours and has every other Friday off. So, when my daughter says the dreaded phrase “I don’t want to go to school!” on a Friday morning, when no one else in her family has to go anywhere, I see why it doesn’t feel fair to her. 

I went part-time almost four years ago, so I could have time with my kids while they were young. I don’t think I’d want to go to the same place, with the same people, five days a week anymore. Is it fair that my daughter has to do that? Or is the consistency good for her?

Now that we’re “school parents”, we have a long road ahead of deciding how to navigate this institution and explain its rules. I guess I want it all – I want my daughter to go to school happily everyday, but I also think it’s healthy that she questions why she has to be there.

I just don’t want to deal with those questions at 7.50am.


** This blog is part of a series called The Chaos Train, a record of daily life as a working parent with young children **

Comments [1]

  • Jane says:

    If your daughter has a melt down on thursdays or fridays I would just let her stay home. If she has one on wednesday, tell her she just needs to get through Wed and she can have thursday off to recover. Schools make too much of a big deal about attendance. Missing lots of days in Reception will have no bad effect on her schooling and will stop her having that awful sense of powerlessness. That is my advice and how I behaved with my own children

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