The New School Rules

So here we are three days into the first week of ‘back to school’ and it’s becoming abundantly clear that things aren’t what they used to be…

Forget the reception classroom home corner – the days of Mini-me playing Mummies and Daddies with some poor unsuspecting five-year-old boy could be over, or at least numbered.

You see we’ve entered the ‘grown-up’, slightly more structured world of Year One. Which could be good news for Mini-me’s male classmates, who she seems to rotate in order of who she fancies marrying on any given week.

I’m reliably informed that you instruct the ‘lucky’ recipient of your affections of your plans to get hitched – and then watch as they sprint across the playground. Which is good news for the other half bearing in mind that he says boys are not allowed until she’s 27.

Anyway, it looks like Year One is going to be a steep learning curve for us parents too.

Here’s what I’ve swotted up on so far – perhaps you’ve found the same…


  1. Your offspring will no longer cry as they line up at the start of the day. You in fact will be the one shedding a few stray tears, because ‘Don’t they look grown up…’ (cough, sniffle.)


  1. Your child will start mentioning actual proper lessons like ‘literacy’, which will weirdly remind you of the time you asked your gran to help you with your algebra homework and she just looked vaguely panicked. Is it possible your kid will soon be asking you complicated questions about verbs?!


  1. On the same note you will answer the question: ‘Mummy, what’s dividing’, with something that would not have satisfied Johnny Ball. (Remember him?!)


  1. You will be amazed that your child can not only tell you what they had for lunch but is also happy to chat for a couple of minutes about their day. You put this down to it being the first week of school and presume that by Monday it will revert to: ‘Can’t remember. Can I have another snack?’


  1. You are proud of the fact that you have been on time for three days in a row. Hopes that this will continue into week two are of course fruitless and soon you will be back to sprinting down the road and trying to vault the playground fence in a time of 36 seconds while towing your poor offspring behind you.


  1. You’ve started wondering about things like ‘mixed ability sets’ and what exactly your child will be doing in their ICT lesson while hoping that they don’t reveal to the teacher their iPad addiction to Horrid Henry.


  1. Talking of Horrid Henry, you’ve tried to justify the fact that you ate dinner in the same kitchen as your child last night while both plugged into your own tablets with thoughts that they ‘really need some chill out time’. (Otherwise known as parent rediscovers the Cold Feet box set.)


  1. Although you’re not enjoying the unseasonably humid weather you kind of hope it stays that way so you can get some wear out of Mini-me’s two new summer dresses (which don’t need ironing.)


  1. You feel guilty about the fact that your friend told you their house was eerily quiet and they were missing their child, while you secretly revelled in the silence…


  1. You enjoy looking at all the obligatory ‘kids in uniform on front step’ piccies on Facebook and remember with amusement the many years when it REALLY bored you senseless.


  1. You have a long and most enjoyable coffee outing with your close mum friends and thank god that ‘therapy at the school gates’ is now a daily fixture once more.

Juggling with Melted Balls

We’ve reached the ‘Holiday Hump’ in the Neat Freak Household.

As in everyone is in one and not only are some of us counting down the days until school starts, it’s now officially okay to mention this fact in hushed tones to parenting friends on the same wavelength.

After all nothing makes you feel more guilty as a mum than to hear someone say they are embracing the sheer joy of every single precious family moment, while you’re ‘cooking’ (hiding) in the kitchen furtively watching Gilmore Girls on the Kindle.

(The iPad is of course being monopolised by pint-sized family members.)

And nothing makes you feel better – or perhaps it’s just me – when another mum tells you: ‘I cannot bloody wait until September 5th!’

Anyway the mood has soured a little more this week with the arrival of soaring temperatures.

Now don’t get me wrong I like sunshine as much as the next person, but personally I prefer warm to sizzling, and slowly melting while fighting with Mini-me over the need to slather her in sunscreen at 8am isn’t my idea of a good time. Or hers.

Bless hubby though, he bought me a lovely family calendar for the kitchen – you know so I can keep on top of four peoples’ schedules like an (unpaid) PA and (most importantly) his beloved West Ham fixtures.

I may have slightly overreacted when I noticed that it was made by a company called ‘Organised Mum’, with a fetching logo of a smiling mother juggling a large number of balls.

‘FFS!’ I texted BFF. ‘Are men incapable of writing on family planners?!’

To my mind it’s the same flawed pigeon-hole thinking as those ridiculous toy manufacturers who assume that all girls like pink dolls and would never want to play with racing cars.

Now clearly men are not incapable, and the other half would probably happily take charge of the family schedule.

It’s just that I have nicer handwriting and actually know important dates that don’t involve a team of overpaid footballers doing battle with Scunthorpe United, or whoever it is they are playing this week.

No it’s the Holiday Hump coming into play.

That and the fact that hubby sent me a ‘helpful’ email itinerary for departing on our much-needed cottage holiday earlier, along with a delightful text reminder to pack everyone light layers…

All too soon I, and all the mums I know, will be back to having to stay on top off a multitude of dull daily details, such as whether there are enough clean socks to last the week, what inanimate object Mini-me has chosen to talk about in show and tell (‘No! Not another Shopkins!’) and when I need to start stapling silver foil to something for the probably quite likely occurrence of ‘Space Mufti Day’.

And that’s a good thing – after all it means we’ll all have survived the summer holidays in one piece.

It would just be nice if someone could turn down the heat a little and remember to chuck a super-sized bottle of Gin for me in the car tomorrow along with the rest of the packing.

The Mum-pedemic sweeping the nation

Everyone tells you that the moment you become a parent the world as you once knew it will become shaken to the core.

But until someone hands you your firstborn it’s hard to really understand just how much loving and looking after a small person changes everything. It’s a bit like rattling a kaleidoscope and then lifting it to your eye and gazing at a completely different picture.

Once you’ve had a baby you come to realise many things: Just how little sleep it’s possible to survive on, just how much love it’s possible to have for your child and just how high the creator of Night Garden must have been when they came up with Makka Pakka and the Haahoos.

In smaller measure the world also tilts on its axis when you throw a second little one into the mix. Now you’re a professional juggler who will never pee alone again, unless it’s the weekend.

But there’s one facet of parenthood that only women get. The dreaded Mum Guilt.

Not only are men immune from this terrible disease, they don’t understand it and will tell you in exasperated tone that it is totally pointless – which to be fair it is.

Absolutely no good can ever come from worrying yourself stupid about whether or not you: cook enough from scratch for your children, let them watch too much TV, read to them enough, should ban yourself from using your iPhone when spending time with them, should have seen that tantrum coming and steered away from it, are a ‘bad parent’ for being too tired to have another row over teeth cleaning etc. etc.

Feel free to add your own ‘guilt trigger’ into the mix here. They are after all, as we mums know, too numerous to mention.

On one particularly low Tuesday I even found myself self-flagellating over the fact that my mum had pointed out I perhaps should cook hubby more potatoes.

(‘Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean he should be deprived. After all his family is Irish…’)

Fortunately on this occasion I came quickly to my senses and informed her that he was very welcome to cook his own tubers. Foul things.

My point is that even though us mums know that stewing over something small is rarely going to turn out well we just can’t escape it. It’s impossible to be rational about Mum Guilt.

A major cause of MG seems to be work – whether you do, whether you don’t, whether you love your career, whether you’re happier staying at home…

Another is breastfeeding – whether you’ve done it for long enough, for too long, whether it secretly repulsed you…

Yet another is comparison – measuring yourself up against other mums and constantly feeling you come up short, that you should be doing what they are for your kids, that you should have bought that toy or gadget for your kids…

Gah! It’s exhausting – all that self-doubt and questioning whizzing around in your brain. Even more so if you find it hard to admit to your friends and so find yourself falling apart behind the closed front door.

There’s no cure for Mum Guilt and it’s likely none will ever be found. The best thing you can do is try to push it out of your head and replace with a cuppa and chocolate biscuit or super-sized glass of wine – without feeling bad about the calories.

And if all else fails remember this – you’re NOT alone!