My six-year-old daughter attends gymnastics every Monday, which she loves because she gets to roll around on a soft mat and give the instructor attitude about having to do sit-ups (she’s not an island there), writes Melinda Uys, of The United States of Mama.
I loathe Mondays. The gymnasium is located right next to the school, but her one-hour session doesn’t start until 40 minutes after school is out. There’s not enough time to scoot home for a bit before the session and with a toddler in tow, driving home and then back to pick her up afterwards is ridiculously tedious. Because I’m a bit chatty (or inherently lazy, you decide) I’ve managed to reduce this weekly chore to a monthly one through being reasonably friendly to some of the other parents at school.
There’s always an article or blog ready to tell you how cutthroat and cliquey parents are, but truly, finding your own tribe at the school gate will save your sanity. If you’ve been avoiding picking up on time or love to drop off as the bell goes to minimise your contact with school mums and dads, then you are doing it all wrong. Here’s why:
- After school activities: These are tedious and long for everyone except the kids doing the bloody things. If you were friendly enough with a few of the other parents, you could take it in turns to watch the kids not do gymnastics properly instead of watching every week.
- Venting: We all need to have a moment about how our partner left their dirty dishes on the breakfast bench for you to throw with force into the dishwasher, or how one of the kids wet their bed, or how popcorn has become one of the five food groups in your house because you just couldn’t give two hoots about quinoa and kale anymore. Sometimes we all need a moment to vent and decompress and who knows that feeling better than a parent who’s just dropped his or her kids off at school? No one. That’s who.
- Pick up and drop off (or child shlepping): It irritates me that my husband believes I have oodles of free time during the day because the school day is from 8:30am to 3pm, which means I have six and a half hours of non-child time. Right? Absolutely wrong. After you’ve ferried kids to and from school, or even the bus stop, you’re left with five hours, five and a half maximum. So share the load with another like-minded mother. Put a few extra little dirt machines in your car along with your own and drop them off, then get the extra dirt machines’ mothers to pick them up and you’ve extended your non-child day by at least half an hour.
- Wild night’s out: Only a party hardened tween on a Contiki Tour of Europe is more riotous than a mum who’s been unfettered from her familial duties for the night. That’s right; it’s not all about the latest recipe for incorporating chia seeds into school lunches. Seriously, I’ve seen some pretty wild stuff on a mum’s only night out. And it doesn’t have to include margaritas: coffee or walks, dinners at the pub or a restaurant, movie nights, Thermomix parties, (I included that last one to see if you’re reading because NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD USE PRECIOUS TIME OFF FROM THEIR KIDS AND PARTNER TO GO TO A THERMOMIX PRESENTATION. Unless there’s a LOT of FREELY AVAILABLE alcohol being served, then it’s okay) there’s lots of ways you can socialise with other parents.
- School gate etiquette: Corralling kids is like the bank; if you want to take some credits out, you’re going to need to make some deposits. If some other mum is shlepping your kids to school every day, you’ve got to repay the favour. Alternate weeks doing the drop off, pick her kid up in the afternoon or have the child over for a play once a week. That’s fair and will encourage a long relationship of child shlep sharing. Don’t return the favour and you will be cut off and blacklisted. I’ve seen this happen. It’s not fun, especially when you really actually need a helping hand but you’ve burnt all your bridges because all you’ve done is accepted the offer and not returned it in kind.
- Actual friendships: This isn’t the Lactating Hunger Games, otherwise known as Mothers’ Group, where you were forced to socialise with other mums whilst off your head on crazy head spinning hormones. You’re wiser and can pick the crazies out a mile off. Parents need to stick together and chances are there are at least a few hanging out at school of your ilk who could become friends, not just parents you know at school.