The other day I overheard a mother at the school gate thanking another for inviting her son to a play date. I must admit that up till then I have been quite content being a working mum but that got me thinking. Was my son missing out on things because I’m not able to form relationships with other mums at the school gate?
When my son started pre-school, my first instinct was to try and be the perfect mum; doing the school run and rushing off to a meeting immediately after and rushing back to pick him. That was much more stressful that starting a new business.
The reality is I have a business to run that is just over 18 months old. It requires time to nurture and grow it. On the other hand I have a young family with a four year old and a two year old. Whilst I’m realistic and know I can’t have it all, I also don’t want to miss out on being a part of my children’s lives because of work.
So in a bid to gain some sort of control, I have adopted the following measures to help me keep my sanity and balance working life and the school gate.
1. Explore Alternatives
When my son started pre-school I used to drop him off every morning but the mad-rush was simply unhealthy. Fortunately I have a friend whose son attends the same school and made arrangements for her to do the morning school run for me. This allows me to start my day earlier and come home earlier (more days than less) to be with my family.
2. Your Child is Number One
Having delegated the role of the school run, it’s very important that my son doesn’t feel abandoned or that he’s missing out on something. So our walk to the bus-stop is all about whatever he wants to chat about and when he gets on the bus I make sure he sees me waving until I’m out of sight. Apparently this makes his friend jealous as he also wants someone to bid him farewell at the bus stop. Mission accomplished.
3. Make Friends
It seems obvious but it helps to know one or two people who will keep you abreast of anything you might have missed and who you can also call from time to time to ask when show ‘n’ tell is or when International day is, etc. I was mortified once to find out that I wasn’t aware it was Spanish day and everyone in school was to wear yellow or red. Although he wasn’t the only one in uniform all fingers are crossed that there won’t be any emotional scars as a result.
4. School Bag
Following on from my Spanish day fiasco I now check his bag every night, MYSELF. I don’t pick up my son from school so I don’t get the school notes at the gate. So it’s imperative that I check his bag daily for newsletters, notes, birthday invitations, etc.
5. Join the PTA
I know this sounds crazy as it could mean more work but if you plan things well you can volunteer to do something that doesn’t require you to attend long meetings. No matter how small it is getting involved always helps. You may not be able to bake for the bake sale but you could certainly buy a cake or two to contribute.
6. After School Club
After school clubs are a brilliant help as they give a day or so each week where you have an extra hour or more before he’s home from school. A day or two a week enables you to get work done without feeling guilty about not being there for him.
7. School Gate Time
If you are able to, set aside a least one day a week or every other week to start work an hour or so later. It’ll give you a chance to take your child to school as well as the opportunity to interact with some parents in the morning instead of rushing off to work. This allows me to repay the favour of doing the morning run to my friend.
8. Bed Time
As much as is physically possible, be there for bed-time. Read a story or sing songs. The key is to spend some quality time and bond with your child on a regular basis.
9. Party Time
Try and attend some of the parties your child is invited to. It’s an excellent way to meet other parents and see some of the children your child talks incessantly about. You can also take turns with other parents to take a couple of children to the parties which means you can rest on the weekend when it’s another parent’s turn.
10. Play Date
From time to time, invite your child’s friend(s) over for a play date. It helps to create a larger pool of friends you will know at the school gate and more importantly your child is not left out.
*This is a post I wrote ages ago for Women Unlimited. As I’m embarking on a new business, I’ve found it helpful to revisit some of my previous business posts and will be sharing the rest as time goes by.