Earlier this week, I posted a picture on instagram and posited a question to parents that I’m willing to bet almost never, ever get’s asked, “How are YOU settling into school?” It may seem like a daft question to ask after all, school’s not about us, but trust me, it’s an important question and one we should be asking more.
Of course we have to worry about the kids. Of course we spend our time and energy making sure they are settled and happy and confident. Of course they are the priority. But somewhere amongst all of that, we have to stop and remember that it’s a huge transition for us too. We’ve only had them for 4 or 5 years at this point. I know, I know, it feels like a lifetime, but essentially, we feel like we’re just finding out feet with them. They can finally wipe their own arse, they are starting to be able to tell an actual joke, they’re turning into great company and then school hits and, BAM, they’re gone.
I thought I’d be doing a happy dance in the playground on the day I saw her walk into school. I’d craved this ‘free childcare’. I needed time to work, to do the laundry, to have a poo by myself, to drink a hot cup of tea, to eat a meal with both hands…time that didn’t cost me £1000 a month but when the day came I sobbed like Gwyneth picking up an Oscar. It hit me that, from this point on, life was never going to be like it was before.
There would be no more spontaneous lunchtime’s snuggled up on the sofa watching a movie and eating popcorn. No more last minute trips to the Natural History Museum or the swimming pool. Now, the only time we’d have to do those thing was on the weekend or during the holidays – just when ever other person in the world wanted to do them too. We’d lost our secret term-time space in the world and now I felt like I had to share it with everyone else.
From now on our lives would be at the mercy of school holidays. For the next 18 years, we were committed to busy motorway schleps, expensive flights, premium priced holidays. From now on, it was all or nothing. Feast or famine. She was either going to be around all the time or none of the time. There was no ‘in between’ or ‘grey area’. I suddenly realised I didn’t love either of those options. Obviously not having her around was a bit rubbish, and having her around all the time was a whole load of work-related/childcare stress that brought me out in hives just thinking about it.
“But what about the time you gained?” I hear you ask.
Well, here’s the thing. You do get more time to get shit done but it’s a race against the clock. By the time you’ve actually got them out the door, you feel like you’ve run a marathon. I never ironed until she started school but even I can’t send her out the door in a crumpled tunic and shirt. Once you’ve dropped them at 8.50 and got home by 9.15am you get about 5 hours to work a full day, clean the house, sort the dinner, do the supermarket shop, maybe try and exercise (hahahahahahah*breathe*hahahaha) before you have to get back to the playground for pick up.
It’s not quite the relief I thought it’d be.
And let’s talk about the admin. I already run this blog and a business. Since she’s started school, I feel like I’ve got another business to run. Yesterday, I shit you not, I received 5 emails from school. Five! There are three apps – one for receiving mail, a literacy one and an observation one. I’ve mastered one of these, the other two I’m girding my loins to figure out. There are notes in bags about poppies, baking sales and head lice (yes, we’ve already had that one). There are tickets to buy for school discos, magic shows and then the birthday parties that you have to organise/RSVP to/buy presents for, the WhatsApp groups and all the bits in between.
And don’t even get me started on the homework. She’s four. There’s a whole other blog coming up about that.
It’s a lot. It’s a lot for us as parents to adjust to especially, when the whole time, we’re really only worried about them. We’re not conscious that this this is an adjustment for us and overlooking that can leave us feeling like we’re not very ‘good’ at this school thing, or that we’re dropping balls. We can feel anxious, stressed and constantly like we’re forgetting something. We need to stop and cut ourselves some slack. Sometimes just recognising that this is a ‘thing’ and that it requires us to be mindful of the changes we’re making and gentle on ourself in the process is the best way to start to feel more on top of it all.
So, to everyone reading, how are YOU settling into school?