Workingmums’ guide to the school run

Half term offers the opportunity to recharge, although sometimes it might not feel like that. But next week it’s back to the fray. For those with school-aged children, this may be something you view with mixed feelings [for those with younger children who are thinking things get easier once children start school, look away now]. On the one hand, office politics are nothing on sibling rivalry; on the other hand, there’s the school run. How do you make it easier? has some tips.

1. Preparation is all, but there is a fine line to tread between preparation and over-preparation. You can put out the uniforms, do the lunchboxes [bar the fresh stuff], etc, the night before, but the further in advance you do this the more chance there is for disaster, eg, small people putting parts of the uniform in bags somewhere and forgetting where that is, nicking bits of the school lunchbox, etc. Bear in mind too that if you get up too early people who are dressed and ready to go at 8am may well be totally naked and covered in felt tip pen by 8.31am. Knowing where the line is comes with practice, although bear in mind also that the line continually changes so experience is often only useful in retrospect.

2. Pace yourself. The school run lasts the whole week. Even if you’ve had a bad day where everything that could possibly go wrong has gone wrong – you’ve overslept, you have had to resort to playing the trumpet to wake people up, all the bread for sandwiches has gone mouldy, someone is claiming sickness, someone has announced at the last minute that it is “Viking Day”, etc – you are probably going to have to do it all again tomorrow unless you share it with other people, which is a very good idea, but not always possible. NB have emergency supplies of sheets to hand for all Viking, Tudor, Roman, Greek etc, days and adapt accordingly with accessories [see no. 1]

3. Beware last minute toilet emergencies. There is nothing more frustrating than having got to the end of the first part of the morning and feeling quite triumphant that you are on schedule when a baby, toddler, etc, suddenly has a toilet disaster. You have been warned. Either check 15 minutes before departure, develop a large amount of sang froid or laugh hysterically. This will be one of those treasured parenting moments that you will look back on humorously in about 20 years’ time.

4. Develop a tone of voice that suggests action is required NOW. Ensure that this is not too comically at odds with your normal persona or no-one will take any notice of you.

5. Read all bits of admin that comes home in school bags the night before so you are not suddenly surprised at the last minute that it is in fact an inset day or that school is closing early.

6. Consider the school run your personal fitness routine. Unless you are very prepared and have only one very together child, you are likely to be late on at least one occasion, and possibly every occasion. This is why it is called the school RUN. Think about turning it into some sort of race or competition – this might make people go faster, but beware last minute strops by key members of the team if they fall way behind older siblings. This could cost you at least five minutes and make you even later.  Some schools try to encourage punctuality by giving out badges and the like for not being late. These have limited usefulness in the motivation process since there is usually a disconnect between the actual school run and when they are awarded. In any event, the badges – or possibly a gold medal and a full Olympics-style ceremony – should surely be for the parents.

7. There will be occasions, possibly many, when you or your partner, if you have one, will not be doing the school run and will have to rely on substitutes. These substitutes will have limited time to bone up on the whole school run edifice you have constructed. Try to steer them roughly in the direction of your routine while not curbing their own sense of creativity. Be open to new possibilities, but realistic that you have to develop a school run that works with the raw ingredients that you provide ie you, your children and the complex relationship between said ingredients.

8. Beware morning clubs. Unless they are for all ages of children, eg, a breakfast club, they will only add to stress levels as you have to do the whole thing at least half an hour earlier and hang around with other half-dressed children in the rain.

9. Weather is not generally on the side of the school run. If a study was done on storms and sudden rain downpours, it would surely be found that most occur at around 8.55am or 3.20pm. Have raincoats, gloves, sun cream, wellies, umbrellas, etc, primed. Of course, putting said equipment on will make you at least three minutes late. Do not get stressed. There are occasions where it is advisable to just laugh in the face of lateness. The alternative will only end up with you becoming a quivering wreck before your children have even emerged from Key Stage One. Remember, you still have secondary school to go when the illusion that kids can get themselves up early – they’re teenagers! – and get to school all by themselves will be exposed in all its glory.

10. When you get to work, possibly two minutes late, do not punch the first person who suggests you have merely been slacking. Instead, enjoy the relative calm for the next few hours before you have to do it all over again.

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