By Jess Caire
That time has rolled around even more quickly this year — school holidays are drawing to a close as we prepare to farewell sleep ins, lazy pancake mornings and spontaneous family adventures. Hello school lunches, book covering and a daily morning routine that would rival any military army!
The end of school holidays is a bittersweet time, some of us by now are craving some quiet, the kids are getting on each other’s nerves, and we’ve new-found respect for the teachers who do this 10 weeks at a time! But, you’re already missing those nuggets and dreading the daily morning battle stations as you shove husband, kids (hopefully fully dressed) and yourself out the door (hopefully sans any noticeable stains) before the school bell tolls or that 8.30am work meeting you can’t get out of.
Ah. School mornings!
But fear not, I’ve compiled the ultimate parents’ guide to surviving the back to school chaos (with sanity intact). Over the years I have been lucky to have some ninja mum friends who I have learned from and some of this tips I have taken from them (after all sharing is caring):
Ok, so maybe the first few times I had to do this I enjoyed it. In term one. With my first child. But add a few years (and how many hundreds of lunchboxes in between) and a few weeks into a school term and I’m well and truly over lunchbox life and becoming accustomed to the late-night rummaging through the pantry to find something, anything, that passes as healthy and nutritious (have you seen the lunchbox fare we’re up against these days?).
My advice – efficiency and multi-tasking the night before can help make this as stress-free as possible.
I’m an advocate for making lunches at the same time as you prepare dinner – which means once dinner is done and cleaned up, you aren’t dashing back to the kitchen for lunches when you could be watching The Bachelor or your latest Netflix binge.
Encourage older kids to help make their own sandwiches too – research suggests that children who help prepare their food are more likely to eat it too. Even better.
Food intolerances make life all the more tricky for the busy parent, my little boy has a food intolerance so last minute lunches are a nightmare and frankly, impossible. I find it helpful to do a big cook-up of muffins, savoury scrolls and mini quiches at the start of term to load up the freezer with ready nutritious supplies to grab “on the go”.
And sick of seeing all the healthy food returned? It’s pretty difficult to enforce what is and isn’t eaten when you’re not there with them at lunch times, so embrace the situation, give them nutritious food they will actually eat at school – and focus your efforts on ensuring they are having the really healthy stuff before and after school at home with you (think fresh fruit smoothies in the car on the way to school and dinners packed with veggies).
Don’t contact! Buy book covers. Lesson learnt, it’s as easy as that!
Remembering excursions, sports days, book days, dress up days… and everything else
Everyone organises themselves differently – I still have a hard-copy diary in the handbag everywhere I go and to ensure that my Huz doesn’t forget anything while I am away we have a family calendar. Some people love the electronic style mobile or synced google calendar approach with reminder that makes sure you (and your significant other) absolutely do not forget!
Some people have a weekly ‘calendar’ or ‘planner’ on the fridge that lists everything happening that week, any birthdays, work commitments, meals and so on so that everyone can see it (and hopefully you subliminally absorb it every time you go to the fridge!).
Whatever your style, dig those school newsletters out of the backpack, chat to the school parents at the gate*, and write those dates down! Because there’s nothing worse than the devastated child whose parents forgot dress up day (or the child who reminds mummy at bed time the night before!).
* parent survival tip; my butt has been saved many a time from a chat to another school parent who tells me its dress up day on Friday!
Helping out at school
This is a tough one for many a working (and non-working) mum. Schools are often desperate for parents to help with anything from reading, to excursions and tuck shop. But how do you either a) find the time to help at school or b) ease the mumma-guilt if you can’t?
Some parents are totally wired for this stuff and see the value of being actively involved in their child’s school/sport/extra-curricular life. And power to them!
But as someone who is away as much as they are home, I understand how difficult it is to ease the mumma-guilt when my littlest boy asks why Jimmy’s mumma can go on the excursion and his can’t. There’s no easy way to navigate this, but open and honest communication can go a long way towards helping.
And maybe make a goal to yourself, and your child, to help once a year, or once a semester, or once a school term. Book it with your own work in advance. Good deed done, you can feel good that you did the very best you could do with the time you had (and you achieved your goal!).
After school snacks/dinner
My transient, two-state life means that I work from home some weeks, which gives me the opportunity to prep a plate of after school snacks and dinner vegies while I make my own lunch. I love this convenience and for all the challenges of living between two states, there are many ways that it works really well for our life right now (and pre-prepping snacks like this means less kitchen time, more swimming time when the kids get home!).
I know not everyone will have a lunch time opportunity to prep snacks or dinner, but think creatively about your time and the ways you can use it. Perhaps you spend the first 30 minutes doing snacks and pre-dinner prep while the kids unpack their school bags and get changed out of uniforms. Or perhaps prep snacks and dinner the night before (while you’re cooking dinner). Sometimes it feels almost like military precision – but a bit of planning can go a long way to preserving sanity throughout a school term!
So, to all you parents getting ready to hit the school-day morning trenches, good luck – may the power be with you, and let us know, what tactics do you swear by for getting through the school term?
Join the conversation by commenting below.
Love, Jess xx