Juggling School Dynamics – Emma Murray
Let’s face it, we mums have done our time: years of laundry, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, weaning, toilet-training, meltdowns . . . And dealing with all of this through endless nights of broken sleep and agonisingly repetitive rows with our partners over who does more. Having survived the early years, school should seem like a welcome respite. Unlike having a child for the first time, school really should be familiar territory – we went to school. We know the drill. But it turns out that school is a different place when you’re a mum and it can take some getting used to.
Firstly, if you’re a mum who does drop off and pick up every day (like me) you will find that the school social code demands at least some level of idle small talk with people with whom you may have nothing in common, leaving you desperately trying to make conversation until the classroom doors open. I’ve found that one of the (few) positives of the Covid crisis is schools staggering the kids by allocating different time slots and banning the parents from the playground, thus making drop off speedy and free of idle chat. But maybe that’s just me.
Secondly, there’s the obligatory class WhatsApp group. You might argue that it’s voluntary but it’s not. There is a clear expectation to join because otherwise you’ll miss out on ‘essential’ school information. This is all very well when the correspondence actually relates to school matters such as bake sales, odd socks day, and anything involving a costume, but far too often, the class WhatsApp group is used as a medium to channel irrelevant information. There is nothing like a group of 60 parents clashing over the pros and cons of masks, the government, and the overall state of the country to sour the good intentions of a class group, when swapping home school resources during school closures is arguably a better use of everyone’s time.
Finally, one of the most essential parts of school is finding at least one, trustworthy, loyal school mum to ask about homework and engage in a good bitching session where necessary. This is the hardest part of school as it is tougher to make good friends when you’re older. By the time we have hit our thirties and forties, most of us have an established group of friends and are somewhat settled in our relationships. You may argue that we make new friends at work all the time, but school is different; it is a strange, emotional battleground where our protective instincts take priority over everything else. This is why we need a good friend to swap stories with; someone who will listen to our worries and concerns about the most important people in our lives: our children.
As for me, I will be saying goodbye to primary school for one of my children next year. My eldest will be off to the slightly more anonymous secondary school and I am told that hanging around the playground is absolutely out of the question. However, so far, I have been lucky enough to make a couple of lifelong friends from primary school; and after years of juggling school dynamics, I consider that a major win.
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Time Out is available now and The Juggle will be released on 11th February 2021.