So your little one is all grown up (when did that happen?) and about to start school. But how do you juggle being a school mum when you’ve got a baby in the mix? Parents give their tips on how they did it.
Your son or daughter is nervously wondering what their new teacher will be like. You, however, are contemplating how you’re going to be able to feed and dress a wriggly baby, while organising clean uniform, a reading book and school PE kit. As well as getting to school before the gates close…
Give yourself a break by saying yes to help and doing as much as you can to get ready in advance.
"We weren’t used to getting everyone out of the house for a set time. So we tried to make it work by getting both of them dressed first thing and placing school bags on the pram the night before. We also aim to get to school when the gates open at 8.45am, which gives us some leeway!" says Kathryn, mum to Georgia, 5 and Ed, 2.
Janet, mum to a 4 and 5 year old, agrees: "Lay all the bits out the night before, like uniform and packed lunches. This could be something your partner helps out with, too."
Don’t forget you’ve got a built-in assistant with your newborn in the shape of your older child or children. Get them involved in getting everything ready for school. They’ll probably love ‘helping’ and having a job to do.
And a top tip from Elly, mum to Frank, 9, and Joseph, 4: "Label everything clearly with their name – water bottle, tops, shorts, anything and everything. It’s amazing what kids will lose at school. But also be prepared for the inevitable: your child will come home at some point minus one item of uniform!”
The school run
Once you’re out the door, there’s getting to school...
"We walked a lot so I found a buggy board invaluable," adds Nicci, mum to Lyra, 4, and Alex, 1.
Some mums also swear by scooters with a lead they can pull along if the older one starts dawdling or just refuses to get a move on.
Janet also says: "Accept offers from school friends when they say they can do the school run.”
You’ve nailed getting to school on time, but it’s still not plain sailing. Going into the classroom can be a scary prospect. If your child knows that you’re just going back home to hang out with their little brother or sister. Understandably they might decide that sounds far preferable.
“Sometimes I’d have two children crying at the classroom door – my five-year-old because he wanted to come home with us, and my younger one who wasn’t happy about being strapped into a buggy. I’d try and time getting to school at the same time as his friends so they could go in together, which helped.” Kelly, mum to Daniel, 5 and Rosa, 3.
Carrying your baby in a sling is a good way of comforting your little one while transporting them quickly. You’ll also have your hands free to hold your older child’s hand on the way to school, or give them reassuring cuddles at drop-off.
Less one-on-one time
Then there’s the guilt that you’re not enjoying those hours of undivided attention that your eldest child had when it was just the two of you.
"When my first started school I had a toddler and a newborn in tow. The reality was that the baby spent a lot of time in the cargo bike going to and from school or picking up the toddler and school-age child," says mum-of-three Anna. "I tried not to feel too guilty about it and not to compare their experience with the one-on-one time that my first child got. I’d do activities or a group with the baby after drop-off, then chores when they napped. Then I made sure my daughter and toddler had some quality time with me when they got home".
Napping on the run
While you might have had time to spend lulling your eldest to sleep, you might not have the same luxury with the next.
"The second one has to, and will, just fit in with the older one. I used to actually try to get my older one to nap, while my second just napped when he was tired!" Nicci says.
"No matter what I did, my toddler’s nap always seemed to overlap with the school run and I always had to wake her up and take a grumpy toddler to school pick-up. I popped her in the baby sling which seemed to calm her for long enough," says Kat, mum to Sophie, 5 and Eva, 3.
Have back up
But just when you think you’ve got everything sorted, there’s nothing like a high temperature to throw everything off kilter.
"Find friends who can help with dropping the big one at school if there’s an emergency. My youngest was struck down with a sickness bug just before school and having a neighbour take my older daughter to school was invaluable," adds Kat.
School is a whole new world. And while your child might just respond with ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t remember’ when you ask them ‘What did you do at school today?’, keep trying! It’s a way for you both to have a chat about something other than the new baby. And make your older one feel a bit special.
It might feel like you’re just rushing between drop-off and pick-up but this can also be a really special time. If you were working before, try and enjoy this chance to be around for a while on the school run. And, best of all, there’s a whole load of new mum mates to make at the school gates…
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
We offer Refresher antenatal courses for those parents who have already had at least one baby. They offer a chance to reflect and build on past birth experiences and prepare yourself for looking after your new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Our family-friendly, flexible approach to volunteering means that you too could join one of our supportive teams. It’s a great way to meet a like-minded community, develop new skills and have some fun. Find out more about volunteering with NCT