Running the gauntlet
When I was a young girl many moons ago technology was not as freely available to children as it is nowadays, and as a young child in the 90s I had to pretty much amuse myself. My past times included styling my numerous My Little Pony manes, dressing up as Jem Truly Outrageous and watching Saturday morning TV. One TV programme was a firm favourite. It had a simple format – you would race from one end of a brightly coloured course to another trying to beat the clock. You had many obstacles to get through before you reached the end of the course and were promptly gunged for your trouble. Of course, there were prizes to be won, which invariably pushed the competition levels up a notch. The programme was ‘Run The Risk’, hosted by the wonderfully excitable Peter Simon.
You may be wondering at this point why I am reminiscing about days gone by, and getting nostalgic about a pre-teen show that has been gone many a year. The answer is simple. As a 30 something mother of two now, my Saturday morning schedule is a far cry from those in my youth. However, ‘Run the Risk’ it still alive and well in my house, and in many households across the country – but is now better known as The School Run.
There is no getting away from it, school runs are the stuff of nightmares. Once your alarm goes off and you crawl out from the comfort of your duvet, the pressure is on to get your feral offspring cleaned, dressed, fed and out the door before the claxon sounds. And there are no cool new inline skates or games consoles to win if you manage to do it in a timely fashion.
The premise of the show and the reality of a school morning are eerily similar. You will be in a race against time to get everyone presentable and over the finish line. There will be a lot of screaming and shouting, a lot of obstacles, and a lot of mess. Your threenager will refuse breakfast, then promptly scream blue murder for toast when you’re trying to get their shoes on to get out the door. You will tell your zombified 8-year-old that he needs to put down the I-Pod, brush his teeth and get dressed about 70 billion times, eventually resorting to such an assertive Mummy voice that even your neighbours next door will jump to it and get brushing.
There will be lost jumpers, incomplete homework, and epic meltdowns about what culinary delights you’ve cobbled together for the packed lunches. And this is before you’ve even got in the car. For those working parents, you have the extra stress of also trying to get yourself ready for work. There’s no greater distraction when you are applying mascara than having to referee a sibling scuffle because child 1 looked at child 2 funny.
Sometimes, you might have help in the mornings. A lot of working families choose to employ a live-in Nanny, which can be a god send in the early hours when you’re trying to do a million things at once. Or you may have a very flexible child minder who can do the school runs for you and save you the drama. Sometimes friends and family can rescue you from the daily carnage. More often than not, you’re left to fend for yourself, crying into your coffee and wondering where it all went wrong. For a lot of Mums and Dads, it’s the actual car journey itself that will have you pulling your hair out. Once you’ve wrestled your little darlings into their car seats, you may have a fairly lengthy drive in ever increasing traffic to contend with.
Since 2006, the number of cars on the road in the UK has increased by 1.8 million (statista.com). That’s a lot of traffic to contend with when you’re already running late. A large number of parents doing the school drop offs admit that they find the journey so stressful that they are more likely to shout and use their horn at other drivers than at any other time of the day. Four out of five parents said they found the school run more draining than work or the supermarket shop (Daily Mail). There are often limited parking spaces outside school gates, with lots of the roads being restricted at those times of the day for safety (although this doesn’t stop some parents parking there anyway). If you are really struggling with the journey, it might be helpful to consider other ways of getting to school to try and reduce your stress levels. Maybe consider a car share with other local parents, so you can all take it in turns to deal with the fighting in the backseats. Or if you are close enough, maybe try scooting or bike riding to school. It might even be a bit of an incentive to encourage your children to get ready on time if they know they can ride there!
Of course, these handy tips are not always feasible. The best laid plans can go wrong in spectacular fashion when you throw children into the mix. Your pre-packed lunches will be rejected because he doesn’t like that sandwich filling any more (even though it has been his favourite since time began). The lovely clothes you have laid out will be thrown aside because the socks feel funny, or the whole uniform will go missing in the black abyss of the bedroom. If you manage to get them out the house on time, in a relatively clean state, consider it a victory. And think yourself lucky there’s no Peter Simon waiting at the end of the journey with a bucket of gunge.
If you would like to discuss childcare options or flexible working opportunities to help win the battle against the school run, please do give us a call here at Simply Mums on 0203 538 0300.
By Amy Southby