We don’t get all the fuss surrounding school-run stress

Scheenagh Harrington admits to feeling just a teeny bit smug about being able to get the kids to school on time in a morning…

Our morning routine involves having Sky News on the telly in the background as we all get ready for school. But today, while cooking porridge for five, I overheard a news story revealing the results of an insurance survey, in which 4 in 10 parents struggled with the school-run ‘rush’, felt they had “too much to do” and were terrified of getting to work late.

Presenter Eamonn Holmes and his sofa sidekick Charlotte Jordan chewed over this little nugget during the paper review, joined later by sports presenter (and mum) Jackie Beltrao and ‘An Expert’. They debated why mums and dads up and down the land couldn’t get their shit together quickly enough in the AM.

Well… The whole segment had me fuming.

In our TV blog (and my sometime confessional) It’s on the Telly Stupid, I often refer to the ups and downs of my life, and have occasionally referred to ‘my OCD beast’. It’s basically my burning desire to have complete control over what goes on around me, from making sure our bills are paid automatically (because my memory’s so rubbish I’m worried I’ll forget) and wanting to alphabetise our DVD/book collections (my poor, long-suffering husband refuses, saying it’s mental) to plumping the sofa cushions every 10 minutes to stop them looking like anyone’s been within 10 feet of them.

Only James knows the full extent of my OCD beast’s hold over me, and how utterly unforgiving it can be if things aren’t quite to my satisfaction. But – and in the context of this piece, it’s a significant but – it also means we’re a very, very organised brood.

I loathe the notion of rushing around in the morning, can’t abide the idea of anything being forgotten – whether it’s our daughter’s kit for sport on a Friday afternoon, or signing a form for our eldest son. I won’t entertain the thought of being late for a deadline or appointment, and as a result, our idea of being on time is turning to up any chosen destination 10 minutes early.

So when I heard tales of mums driving three-quarters of the way to school, only to have to turn back to pick up Tarquin and/or Jocasta’s homework, the tray bake for harvest festival that they were farting about with until midnight, or a missing PE kit (you get the idea), I was horrified, and wondered: “do they think we’re all like that?”.

Not for one second do I think I have this parenting thing licked. I most certainly do not. But one week after having our third baby, I can say with no small degree of smugness that James and I are more than capable of getting two youngish children, ourselves and a newborn ready to leave the house with everything required for the day within 40 minutes. Calmly and easily. And that’s including our baby’s decision to have three surprise poos five minutes before we were due to head out of the door. Some may sneer and mutter that “it won’t last”, but the fact is, it will. And I know why.

The secret to our success isn’t really a secret.

Millions of parents around the world do the same as us – they look ahead, organise and plan – and many of them won’t have an OCD beast inside their heads, urging them to do it.

Some of the mums and dads who took part in the survey which set all this off wailed about ‘having too much to do in the morning’. I’m sorry, but I just gawped like a fool. Surely to anyone in this position, the common-sense solution would be to look at what they are having to do in the morning and, maybe, get at least some of it done the evening before? Durr-huh…

We choose our kids’ clothes and lay them out, ready for the next day as part of our nightly bath-time routine. Packed lunches, if they’re needed, are prepped and put in the fridge the evening before – as is a MAHOOSIVE note on the door not to forget them. Any correspondence from the school is dealt with, duly signed and popped back into school bags, and because we’re not exactly rolling in money, we even make up the powdered milk we’ll use for the next morning’s breakfast the night before too.

There are other pathetically easy-to-employ tricks to prevent you running short of time. We set the alarm 10 minutes earlier than we actually need, so a) if we feel like it, we can give the snooze button a whack and enjoy a few more minutes under the duvet, or b) rather more boringly, we know we have plenty of time to get everyone fed, washed and dressed, without going completely mad in the process.

The media has pounced on the results of this survey and waved it around hysterically as the norm for parents, but I’d argue the reverse is closer to the truth. If four out of 10 parents feel rushed and harassed over the school run, then rather more encouragingly, six out of 10 sail through breakfast time with barely a hitch, proving they’re not all freaked-out basket cases. I’d be interested to know more about the routines of the parents who were struggling in the morning, and to find out if they were willing to change what they were doing in order to make their lives easier.

Being organised is not big or clever. It just takes a little thought. I may be a slave to my OCD beast, but when it comes to getting us out of the front door on time and in good order, nothing helps us do it better.

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