I used to be one of those kids who was really into school. I never faked a sore stomach, never complained about exam timetables, always had my projects in on time: Overachiever eager beaver. As a mom of a Grade 2 and a Grade 4, however, I am the complete opposite. The everyday struggle is incredibly real, and even getting a permission slip in on time feels like a major accomplishment.
So, here’s a cheat sheet for every primary school mom that wants to be considered Head Girl in her household, without losing her mind.
1. Always have a pen and cash in your handbag.
A pen and cash in your handbag are the baby wipes and sunscreen of the older child’s mom – you should NEVER leave home without it. Why? Signing homework/permission slips/tests can still happen at 7:28 in the parking lot. Cash is obvious. You forgot to pack lunch/buy lunch/make lunch, missed the bake sale/fundraiser/contribution for a teacher’s gift. Throw money at the problem. Throw it around like confetti, Mama. No-one needs to know!
2. Make friends with overachieving moms.
They are gems. They are the best friends you never knew you wanted. They will not only remind you of every important event, project and test but sometimes they will drag you into said events and projects. I know it sounds painful, but making an appearance now and then is good for the family’s school cred and actually makes your kids feel pretty good too. Just once in a while. Overachiever mom will be there to hold your hand, promise.
3. Build up a project cupboard/drawer/basket.
This includes keeping recyclable bits and bobs, craft glue, project paper, googly eyes and some other crafty cr@p, handy at all times. Again, this sounds like it requires actual organisation, but if you’re a last-minute mom this is a lifesaver. As a rule, your children will never remind you about an art piece or a project during office hours. Nay, dear friends, they will wait until the wee hours when all stationery, craft and printing shops have their doors firmly closed until 9 am the next morning. The same goes for back-up pencils, glue, erasers and any other stationery. Repeat after me: Smart moms don’t get caught without pom-poms.
4. Get a calendar or planner you can put up on a wall.
I know, I know, there’s an APP for that. But the problem with phone reminders and calendar alerts is that you can’t see the bigger picture. You can’t see ahead. And once that alert goes off, it’s usually just to remind you of something else you’ve forgotten until it was too late. Aside from helping you, it also creates the illusion that you truly are an organised mom. Psychologically, you’re giving yourself a foot-up and saying, “Yes girl, you got this. Look it’s there in purple khoki on your wall calendar. It’s totally under control.”
5. Don’t try and do it all yourself.
I mean, we obviously know dad has to be as involved as you are. But is he? Make sure he is on board, right there next to you at mission control. Rely on the help and support from any and all the people you have around you. You’re a busy mom. Many stock images have been inspired by your impressive juggle of laptops, schedules, dishes and thirty other flying balls. Spoiler alert, no-one can really do it. Do not attempt this stunt on your own. Not at home. Not anywhere. When you drop all the balls, allow someone to at least help you gather them all up. It’s really okay not to have it all together all the time.
6. Give your kids more responsibility.
Contrary to what you may think, you are not responsible for your kids’ homework, for packing their bags, for ensuring that they remembered their music books, cricket kit and tuck money. They are. You are not in school. They are. You are not playing the ukulele. She is. (Well she kinda is, but it’s early days.) You are not doing yourself or them any favours by trying to do it all for them. They will grow up to be better equipped and more independent adults. Something I keep telling myself, as I pick up my daughter in her oddly coordinated outfits, and see my dehydrated son gasping for a sip of my three-day-old diet drink leftovers because he forgot his water bottle yet again… Short term embarrassment. Long term gains.
7. Make friends with overachieving colleagues.
Look, you need friends on all sides. Your colleagues can become your biggest allies and support. When your child gets sick when a project is due, you never know when you need that junior designer on your team, or your boss to simply understand your dilemma. Aside from learning that most people are genuinely caring and kind, you will also learn that when a favour is asked in return, you are right there, waiting to help. “The village” isn’t just a bunch of parents, it’s the people who lift us up and help us to raise our kids, and who we will raise up at any given opportunity.
8. Always have water and flat shoes.
This is just a matter of your own sanity, happiness and comfort. This applies to working late, fetching late, any forgotten commitment or just bad traffic. Stay hydrated, and keep comfortable. (Wine is there when you get home, but in the thick of things, water has to do the dirty work.)
9. Routine is your best friend and your greatest enemy.
Even when your children are very small, you quickly learn the value of a good routine. It’s predictable, it makes expectations easy to manage and it makes both you and the kids feel safe. Routine is still great when your kids are older – solid mealtimes, bedtimes and even designated slots for homework and practising certain things. However, routines need to be flexible. If you are a nervous clock-watcher, routine is more of a foe than a friend. Sometimes done is better than perfect, and often in-time has to be as good as on-time. Don’t kill yourself, all in the name of ticking boxes and beating a ticking clock.
10. Claim the title of World’s Okayest Mom.
Being okay is honestly okay. We don’t beat ourselves up when we’re not the world’s best driver, or the world’s best scone baker, or even the world’s best dresser. But when it comes to parenting, we’re often not happy with less than perfect. Seriously? This is the hardest thing to do, and this is what we choose to beat ourselves up for? Take it easy on yourself. You are doing the best you can with the resources and time you have. And I’ll bet that if you asked anyone who knows you, they’ll tell you that you’re doing an incredible job. There are no Best Mom Medals (except maybe on a bargain shelf in Cardies), so stop trying to win one. Being okay is really okay.
Claudi Potter is a Creative Director, working in Advertising, and mom of two, Ani (10) and Stuart (7). Ani dreams of becoming a cat lady and living on a farm. Stuart wants to be an engineer when he grows up so that he can build a Transformer for each member of his family. When Claudi grows up she hopes to be the perfect mom, drive a clean car, and go to the gym. Until then, she is pretty content with short scrolls on her phone, long hikes with her family and trying her best.
Claudi is a guest contributor to Parenty.