1 Practice your thousand-yard stare. While you get over the trauma of breakfast, clean uniform dramas, packed lunches, hurriedly signing school forms and checking book bags for homework, the last thing you want to be doing is idle chit-chat at 8.55am. Especially if you’ve got to dash off to work. Practice looking off into the distance, as if you’re deep in thought or seen someone you know. Honestly, other parents do it too. It’s not personal, so get with the program.
2 Accept the stay-at-home coffee morning mums. If you’re a working parent, you’re busy dragging yourself off to a desk piled with yesterday’s unfinished tasks and you’re going to spot a group of mum’s giggling, whispering and heading off to the nearest café with their dogs or yoga mats and trendy leisurewear. Reassure yourself that they are vacuous and unfulfilled and then never think about them again.
3 Decline play-dates. There’s a mad scrum during those first weeks of Reception to clique-up. Align yourself with a group through arranging play-dates with people you think your kid likes. It’s a waste of time, as your child will naturally make friends as time goes on and during reception year this could be a totally different group by the end of the year. Keep it casual. Explain what your strategy is to parents who ask you for play-dates. Stand firm, it will pay off.
4 Resist the bragging contest. In the mildest of school communities, with parents from all backgrounds, one insecure parent will tell you about their child who has done everything better or faster than your child will ever do. It’s a futile conversation. So don’t waste your conversational efforts by joining in. They don’t care about how proud you are of your child. Simply smile and say something like, “You must be as proud of Timmy as we are of Katie.”
5 Perfect the bright and breezy school dash. I’m not one to endorse gender stereotypes but generally speaking, many dad’s have the “drop-smile-hello-and-whizz-off-school-run” routine down to a fine art. We could all take a leaf out of their books. Not connecting with other parents does NOT make you a bad parent. And the school gate is not always the best place to get to know other parents anyway.
6 Quash the urge to judge. It’s easy to make snap judgements in those three minutes at the school gates. An uttered phrase which gets on your nerves, the way a parent looks at you, a child behaving badly – but those three minutes are an isolated and stressful moment in time. A moment in which absolutely cannot define a person’s true character.
7 Be yourself. Becoming a school mum will feel like you are the one starting school all over again: remembering the rules, having to be at school at a set time, navigating the cliques and people to avoid and potentially being judged on how you dress or talk. And just as it was back then, if you find yourself changing your personality to fit in, you’ll be miserable. Set a shining example for your kid and be yourself.