Wednesday 30 September 2015

6 tips for how to cope when your child starts school

This month, my eldest child started sixth form college and my youngest started primary school. And over my nearly seventeen years of motherhood I've learnt a few good tips on how to cope when a child starts school. What I've learnt has been especially useful for me now that my youngest is at school, since I'm now also dealing with empty nest syndrome. My baby's growing up! 

So, now you've got through the weirdness of the first day and you might still need a few tips to find your rhythm, I thought I'd give you some ideas on how to be a stay-at-home mum (whether you do it part-time or full-time) when your home is empty of children. Here are my six tried-and-tested tips...

1. Look forward to it!...
Okay, so you may love being a full-time mum (I certainly did) but that doesn't mean you can't also love the time when they're not with you. You need this time! There's a lot to be said for nurturing yourself, as well as that amazing sailing feeling you get from when you're on top of everything. Don't focus on the child you're missing. Focus on how good you can feel when they're at nursery, school or college, and how that will help you be a happier person and mother, as well as have more time for them when they're home.

coping when your child starts school: distract yourself
2. Distract yourself from the combination of mother's guilt, worry, and missing them...
So how do you stop focusing on the child your missing? Distract yourself. Fill your day up with plans. Get that calendar or notebook out, and fill each day with things that you couldn't do when they are around (hello art galleries!) and the things you never get round to (let that 'to-do' list regurgitate itself all over your day!) And remember that your child is mostly going to be having a great time and not thinking about you (sorry, but!)

3. Treat yourself...
Looking after your children all the time is hard work. Just think how many mothers say they go to work to get a break! You've earnt a treat. Whether it's a peaceful cuppa and cake in a cafe with a good book, a decent run with a friend, or a trip to that aforementioned art gallery - schedule it in, give yourself a little something just for you every day. It will give you something to look forward to and a way to nurture yourself. But you must do it without feeling guilty. Remember: if you're an empty vessel you won't be able to fully give what your children need when they're around. After that little break in a coffee shop you'll be a much happier, nicer, contended mum. It's a win-win.

get your to do list done when your child is at school
4. Do the things you never had time for when your children were at home...
This is where that to-do list comes in. Go room to room and write down everything that needs doing, from tiny jobs to big ones, and promise yourself to do something from that list every week (or even every day). Write a list of birthdays coming up in the next few months and get those gifts and cards blitzed early. Organise your finances. Organise your files. I do not think there's a mother out there who doesn't have a to-do list weighing her down, and this is your opportunity to lighten that load. You cannot underestimate the benefit to your mood, mental health and mothering from ticking those things off and feeling successful and competent again.

healthy, treaty lunch for one when you're a mum
5. Focus in on lunchtime...
Now this is a really practical one and it makes a lot of sense. You've probably had time on your own without the children before. Maybe they've done a little time at nursery already. Maybe they have headed out to play some sports with their dad for a couple of hours at the weekend. But you've probably not had lunch on your own, in your own house, since before they were born. I certainly hadn't! So this time could feel the strangest being alone. Make this meal a real highlight of your day! Sit down and take a break, whether you're sat at the table with the radio on or catching up on blogs or the news on your computer. Make yourself something that's both healthy and a treat, that your kids would never eat. Make lunch the highlight of your day on your own, not the loneliest time.

after school treats and snacks
6. Make their return home from school special...
This is a great one to rid yourself of mother's guilt for all those moments when you've nurtured yourself (you shouldn't feel guilty about it but, come on, we all do). Your children will come home a little hungry and cranky. They've not been with you all day. And, ta-da, here is the plate of flapjacks you've made to make them feel special when they're home! Trust me, a gift of a (not-too-unhealthy) cake goes a long way to make you feel like the 'besd mummy in the wurld' (yes I still have that note my Little One wrote me way back on Mother's Day!)

working mums' tips for coping when your child starts school
7. (I know, I said six tips, but here's a bonus one for mums who work)...
I know, you work full time and you feel this whole post has been for those stay-at-home mums you beat yourself up about. But I know both sides of this feeling, since I work from home. And I also have lots of friends struggling with the juggle of work and family life. My number one tip: cut yourself some slack. You're doing your best. Sometimes that's not good enough, sometimes it is. The same goes for every single mother the world over, whether she looks after her kids full time or works. The best thing is that if you didn't work now, your children wouldn't be at home anyway since they have to go to school, so you can wipe off a whole heap of guilt straight away. My second tip: get help. Share the jobs around the house. Get a cleaner if you can afford one. Give up on ironing. Delegate the homework to Dad or your grandparents. Whatever it is, don't try and do two full-time jobs at once. And don't do more than you need to. There are only so many hours in the day and having a nice time together with your kids for some of them will make all of you feel happier.

Good luck!



  1. This is definitely what I needed to read right now, thanks Katie. After the initial euphoria, I am beginning to feel a bit of a gloom descending - I need to make sure I do plenty of social things as I feel like I'm becoming a bit reclusive! There are so many mixed feelings, I have huge post that I'm trying to bring together and write eventually x

    1. I'm glad it was of some help Lizzie. And I look forward to reading your huge post! xx

  2. Another mama who I'm stunned to discover has an older child, what are these miraculous Mama secrets of eternal youth?! You don't look any older than me, not even as old as me. I mean technically I could have a 16/17 year old, but seeing as I only feel that old inside, it will never happen! Woweee. Anyway, well I think these are just great tips. I won't ever know about missing the kiddies since they're not part of our destiny sadly, but I do find on the days I work from home I have to be careful about making sure there is some structure to my days X

    1. Thanks Lins! Not eternal youth, just having an older child when I was a youth!! I've sent you an email reply and glad this was useful xx.

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  3. Big one started school this September but still have the toddler kicking around. However I have seen our relationship blossom because I can actually focus on him for once. Its a really interesting change for the whole family isn't it? #twinklytuesday

    1. You're right, it is. When my middle son started school and my youngest started nursery, suddenly the younger child and I had the afternoons together and it was lovely. Your older one will have had more time with you when really young, and an only child, but the younger child gets it in their pre-school years. I think it's so important for our relationships with our children to get a bit of 1-to-1. Enjoy it!

  4. Beautiful post! It will be a while before mine are out of the house but I can totally see how it will be hard. Thanks for sharing at Twinkly Tuesday!

    1. Just remember there's always a silver lining! Enjoy their younger years though Erin, it's such a special time. x


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