Living  Teenagers

Back to sckool. How to survive the next school year.

Back to schoolMost children in the UK went back to school earlier this week and if you are a working mum there was a sense of relief tinged with sadness when you dropped them off at the school gates.

As much as we love our kids there is only so much holiday time one can bear before fights break out and the arguments ensue.

I’ve enjoyed a great summer with my family as I hope you have too.

Summer 2013 will probably go down as one to be remembered and to reflect with affection, in future years.

As the start of the new school term gets underway I am feeling reflective.

I know that you should always look forward, focus on the next good thing you might have planned and don’t look back but it’s hard when eight weeks have passed so quickly.

Dropping the kids off on their first school morning in new school uniforms, new blazer with sleeves longer than they are and trousers that are so baggy they hang over their shoes its difficult not to have a heavy heart and that sick feeling in your stomach.

You also know they are feeling the same way. At least mine were this morning, quiet and contemplative staring out of the car window.

It’s all new.

New school uniform, new friends, new teachers, new timetable and for my 14 year old the start of the GCSE program.

school's inThe school year will fly by and in an instant it’ll be July again bang and another school vacation.

Our children grow up so fast and each year merges into the next.

As mums we hit the ground running. No let up for us.

Back to the school routine, after-school activities and taxi servicing on demand.

Looking back brings a sense of sadness and quiet reflection on what was and what might be.

Working mums have two calendar years, the academic one and the year calendar (Jan-Dec).

It is a fine balancing act managing work and children.

By the way this isn’t a tirade on the virtues of working women stay at home mums contribute and add just as much to the welfare of their families and the economy as working women.

But as I am not a stay at home mum I can only share with you my thoughts and feelings.

So in an effort to provide how to get through the next term unscathed, or for that matter school year, I came up with my top tips for managing the fine art of being a working mum or dad.

time management
My ode to keeping sane this new school year

I call it ode to keeping sane

1. Balance work with being mum/dad – if I had a pound for every time I get asked that I’d be a millionaire and wouldn’t have to work. Last night over dinner with my boys and husband we made a pact and that is if any one of us gets too involved in school, too involved with work and our jobs, any one of us has the right to say hang on mum/dad we are more important than your job, spend some time with us. In short, knock knock are you really there mum and dad.

It’s all too easy to let work spill over to evening and weekends.

2. Don’t feel guilty – ask any working mum or dad who are the primary care givers and I doubt you will find one that doesn’t at least once a week harbour a feeling of guilt and a what if… There are many dual income families that have to work, it is what it is. Get your head down and get on with it and let your children know that you will be there for them whenever you can.

3. Plan the night before – this has saved me so many times. Kids have school uniforms so it’s not a case of making sure  which clothes they are going to wear. I do a quick check to make sure they have everything ready for the morning this should include sports bags and kit, the right school books packed in their bags and and snack boxes made up the night before. By having their school timetables pinned on my fridge I can shout out to them when I’m cooking and make sure they’ve got what they need ready.

I also decide on what I’m wearing in the morning so I am ready to go and don’t get struck with the dreaded ”I don’t know what to wear today syndrome’. If you are anything like me and I forget to do this my morning fashion statement is a walking disaster and I hate having a hand-bag that doesn’t match my shoes.

4. Plan meals a week in advance –  this not only cuts down on buying voluminous amounts of unnecessary food but cuts down on your shopping bill. I literally map out a Monday-Friday plan of what I am cooking this also has to fit around after school activities and then I buy what I need for the weeks meals.

If I can get ahead start for the following evening’s meal I do. For example last night I made a shepherd’s pie ready for tonight. All I need to do when I get in is pop it in the oven and prepare some veggies. Job done.

5. Get a head start – which brings me very nicely to plan meals in advance so if you are making lasagne make an extra big one so you can freeze half of it and then you’ve got ready made meals for when you forget to do your meal planning or when there is some extra school activity that hasn’t been factored in to the diary. The same applies to cakes. I’ve rediscovered scone making so have made two batches of scones, frozen a set and kept the rest for the kids this week for their snack boxes.

6. Family calendar – if you don’t use one get one. I have one in my kitchen and our names each have a column for what is happening and when. I do have my own diary as I am the sole manager of who needs to be where and when. But in the event of death (mine) at least my husband can find out who needs to be where, when and with what!

6a. A wipe clean easy peel every day planner with the days of the week is a great way to add those impromptu dates or to do’s. I got mine from staples, it sticks to the fridge door and is great for reminders and for writing down each days activities which usually change week on week.

7. Stay connected – during the working day it’s difficult to find time to think let alone contact your kids but I text or email them once a day to ask how are they are getting on, how’s the day going and that I love them. I don’t often get a response until I collect them from school but my elder boy will often call me at lunchtime to say hello.

8. Any work related stuff that’s not important but takes time at work to do like reading emails or catching up on memos read after the kids are in bed or on your commute. Use this time to pay bills, follow up important but not urgent emails and set yourself a time limit.

9. Plan family weekend activities and diarise them- it’s so easy for one week to roll over to the next so I try and plan one or two outings in a month where we go out just the four of us it might be to the cinema, a long walk, or trip in to London. Once it’s diarised it’s immovable.

The most important thing is that time as a family is scheduled in to the diary when everyone knows they can get their whinging and whining out of the way before the event.

10. Spend time with your partner – sounds easy yet two people living in the same house can pass each other like ships in the night especially after a summer holiday when you’ve been together 24/7. Make time to talk with no TV or distractions.

11. Book a moment for yourself – so far it’s been about everyone else but looking after YOU is key because without you it all falls a part. Diarise a facial, massage, pedicure or a long walk in a place you haven’t seen before try and do this at least once a month. If you can manage to do this once a week let me know how you do it!

12. Make a list of priorities – isn’t it amazing how we seem to make lists and lists which keep growing and getting longer and when you finally tick them off there’s more to do but in reality they are tasks that are important but not urgent. So create a list for what really needs to be done and by when then you will see that it’s not as bad you first thought. If you are into apps and gizmoes like me then I can recommend Nozbe there is a free and a paid version.

I use the paid version. It’s taken me 20+ years, 10 filofaxes give or take, god knows how many free and paying apps to find something that works for me and this one does.

13. Manage a chore a day – if your not in the enviable position of being able to afford a ‘domestic goddess’ then do a chore an evening. How long does it take to dust the upstairs unless you live in a 20 bedroom mansion or clean a bathroom? By the weekend you wont have a mountain of cleaning to do.

14. Set your alarm clock 30 minutes before the kids are up so you can shower/wash and get ready before the rush starts.

15. If you commute to work use this time to catch up on email chasing, reading, planning see No. 8.

16. Get a dictaphone or use your smartphone to dictate reminders, lists, things that need doing so you don’t forget.

17. Shop once a week – if you follow point No. 4 you will get a great head start.

18. Plan, plan, plan – if you don’t plan, you won’t know what’s coming up and it will quickly fall apart causing you more stress and frustration which ultimately leads to more alcohol consumption.

19. Remember what matters most – this relates to point No. 1 getting the balance right and taking time out or being reminded that there is more to life than WORK.

20. and finally… outsource your ironing who the heck wants to iron every night or do a big load at the weekend. I’ll iron the kids school wear and my own but draw the line at anything else. There’s more to life than ironing.

I hope you make use of some or all of the above.

It works for me but it took a bit of time making it a habit but now I do it automatically just about until one of the boys comes in to the kitchen and says mum I need a cake for the cake stall tomorrow, I forgot to tell you, it’s our class’ turn… and it’s now 9:10PM graaa….

Let me know what you do to manage it all?

How has your first day gone with the kids back at school?

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