"I Love My Kids But I'm Bloody Thrilled They're Back At School"
Words: Karen Miller, 36, from London
If I'm honest, it was euphoric.
When I first found out my kids - Abigail, five, and Juliet, three - were heading back to school, I was counting down the days. It was the best news ever to me. I could not wait. I couldn't stop talking about it and I kept telling the girls about it. By that time, they were just as excited as me. We were so ready for it by then.
When lockdown first happened it was a huge shock and actually quite overwhelming. Like many mothers, I was thinking, "How am I going to cope?"
There was a balancing act going on between me still working and trying to do the homeschooling while also trying to entertain the girls, look after them and feed them. My husband often works seven days a week so I was truly juggling the balls.
We didn't really have much of a routine at first and the school work was tricky. As soon as you flip into teacher mode, your children don't see you as a teacher so they don't have that same kind of respect for you as they would in the classroom. Abigail was quite hard to get to focus. I'd only get her to do about an hour every day before she'd put her head on the table and wouldn't lift it up again.
There was lots of disagreements between me and my husband with it, too. Like "You're being too strict", "You're not being strict enough", "We need to try this... "Maybe we should bribe her...".
It got harder towards the end, because the novelty of "Oh, we'll do more crafts and spend more time together" kind of wore off. As the months rolled on you could tell that even the girls were getting sick of each other. They started fighting and my husband and I probably started being more shouty with them, because your patience just wears off.
You can only do it for so long before thinking, "I've had enough now". To not be able to get a break from them - and them not have a break from us - it got really tedious. I was just like, "When is this going to end?"
As I live in Scotland now, my two daughters went back to school in mid-August. Abigail started year one, while my youngest, Juliet, headed off for nursery four days a week.
Now that the girls are back at school, I'm so thankful to be able to do chores without them annoying me. It's so nice being able to be in the house without someone following me, being able to do what I want with my day. Remembering who I am as a person and remembering what I want and need - and remembering to eat! (I would always feed them and forget to eat myself.)
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I work from home as well which means I get so much more done and I'm far more efficient. I now have the time to be organised. I can actually think about what to cook them for dinner instead of just thinking "I'll just do fish fingers again, I can't be bothered with this, I'm sick of you!" It brings balance back.
Do I miss my girls now that they are back at school? I personally don't. Not at all. In fact, when I go to pick them up I'm like, that's not been long enough. I need at least another hour or two.
When these other mums are like, "Oh I just couldn't wait for them to come back, I don't know what to do with myself" I'm like, "Really? Come on." Who are you as a person? You had a life before children, you can have a life after them. People just forget - you lose yourself in motherhood.
There's been some chatter in the press lately about the back-to-school mum guilt, where mothers are feeling bad about feeling good that their kids are finally going back to school.
It's not fair. We shouldn't do that to each other and we shouldn't judge each other. Some mums see their children as an extension of themselves and some mums don't. It's about whatever works for you, and that's fine.
Personally, I don't see my girls as attached to me. I see them as different people and I'm not just a mum. School for instance: it's obviously educational but I also see it as a baby-sitting service. They are looking after my children for me and I need them to do that. I need that time away from them. It makes me a better parent.
No mum should feel guilty at all. You can't be a mum 24/7. Everybody needs balance and a break. It's sometimes an overwhelming burden so I think it's fine to sometimes hold your hands up and say "I've had enough today". We're human beings.
I don't feel ever feel guilty myself personally, but I know a lot of women do feel like that. I wish they would know they don't need to. You're an amazing mum because you're doing it all anyway. It's ok to have a break.
As much as I'm relishing my time away from the girls, it does make you cherish the time you do have with them more.
When I pick them up and take them home now, I'm like "Yeah actually, do you know what? I'll spend half an hour talking with you and playing with you", whereas normally I'm like, "Ok just leave me alone, just go away!"
It does make you appreciate them more when you have some time away from them.
Featured Image Credit: Karen Miller