When our kids start school, it’s not only daunting for the child. It can be scary for the parents too. How will they cope in the playground? What will the other mums be like? Will they end up standing on their own outside the cliques in the playground or by the school gate? As a working mum where you may not even get to do normal drop offs or pick-ups, the feelings can be more extreme . It’s even harder to speak to the teacher or meet other parents.
To help you cope at the school gate as a working school mum there are things you can do even if you’re shy. (I say mum, because largely the mum is the one who does the school run and are the ones who feel more pressure to fit in with other mums. Although the dads who do the school run may feel even more left out being the lesser seen parent in most cases).
Before school starts
1. Meet up with other new school mums before school starts
Make the effort to speak to parents at any initiation or parent days, or speak to your child’s nursery or pre-school staff to see if they know other parents in the same situation and can introduce you.
On the first day
2. Take time off work for the first day to do the school run.
It’s the perfect time to meet other parents in the same boat as most hang around longer on the first day. Maybe suggest after the drop off some of you could go for a coffee to talk about this huge milestone.
Through the year
3. Turn up early but not too early
If you do get to pick up, arrive early and look out for parents from your child’s class you recognise. Go and chat to them – especially on a Friday. On Fridays people are more willing to chat because they’ve more time and they’re less likely to be rushing off somewhere. Don’t get there so early your child is bursting out of the door to be collected and you miss seeing the parents to have a quick chat to.
4. Speak to people
If you’re in the playground speak to people, whether they’re on their own or not. It might look like they’re in a group, but you won’t lose anything by asking and they might be pleased you asked. Ask them for advice especially if they have older children in the school too.
If your child is at wrapround care, it’s harder to chat because you’re all in a rush in the mornings, and picking up at different times. But a quick hi and how’s things doesn’t take long, and will help them feel a bit more included as well as you.
5. Join the PTA
Some PTAs have meetings during the day which aren’t working parent friendly, but if yours has evening meetings or ones you can get to, then go along. If you can’t be on the committee, you can often volunteer to help with events, man stalls, or bake cakes etc.
The same applies with being a school governor. If there’s an opening why not look into it.
6. At birthday parties, don’t assume you’ll dump your child there and run.
Birthday parties are great for having a decent chat as everyone’s relaxed and outside the school grounds. They’re often the only chance for working mums to see people from school, so make the most of them before the kids are older and don’t have all class parties.
7. Work out which school events to go to
Parents get invited to schools for assemblies, churches services, fun events, performances, open mornings and more – usually more frequently than you expect. As a working parent, even if you split the jobs between you, you might struggle to get to everything. So choose sensibly, ask your child which they want you to go to, and try and work it out so they’re events you know other people from the right school year will be at.
8. Organise a meal out for the mums (or parents) in the year group
We had one organised by one of the reception mums in the first term our children started and it was lovely to meet all the mums and get to know them a bit better.
Do you have any other tips for feeling comfortable at the school gate? How did you find it in the playground when your children started school?
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