I don't entirely feel comfortable in the school playground but I LOVE the school run. We chat and do a 'sound walk' when we walk to school together (or home) and Tara tells me all about her ideas. It's lovely. I am lucky because when I work from home I can do it and she loves it and so do I. She is disappointed when I can't pick her up or take her but she does understand why, so it's ok. She is aware that Daddy and I work and study.
I don't feel isolated on the playground, but I do stand apart. I think that is because I don't have much to say and in the morning I can't be bothered with small talk. So unlike Barbie, I don't look glam because its a work from home day so no makeup, but like Barbie I am on the side of the playground whereas some mums chat in groups. My husband feels the same because he is a dad and so doesn't naturally fit in the 'mums who chat' group. But most of the mums in Tara's class seem lovely so we are quite lucky because I don't feel they actively isolate me or Alan.
My job as a teacher educator does however make me feel different from the mums as I feel more comfortable with the teachers than the parents, but I am getting used to being on the other side of the fence and being a mummy.
I'm not very good with doing the same thing day after day so like to stand in different places on the playground when waiting to collect the kids. This doesn't help to become part of a group but most of the time that's fine because I'm ok with my own company and grateful for a few moments of not talking between work and home! Sometimes, if I've been working from home I'm keen for some adult conversation so will find someone to talk to. I can talk to (almost) anyone so I can't say I feel isolated at any time.
BTW I never look as glam as the barbie mums in your photo even when I'm dressed up for work!
This was difficult for me in a different way - I was working in the same school my daughter attended, so for that fact parents either distanced from me or wanted to befriend me for inside information! I didn't mind being distanced but hated being questioned...difficulties were taking Hannah to school too early. Rory was picked up by a school bus - so I only met the parents on school events and certainly did not know anyone, and was kept out of the cliques!
This really hits a nerve. I did wonder if this experience would bring me new friends but I isolated myself in effect. I was a primary teacher myself at this point with a specialism in EY and found myself very troubled by the practice in reception. My 4 year old son only had 45 min a day to engage in child-initiated play based learning, the rest of the day the poor little lad was drilled with poorly designed worksheet after worksheet. When I approached the HT about my concerns she made it clear that my points were not valid as her view was that is was all fine because they had a kite mark. This just confirmed by view that school gates was not a place for parents who had a viewpoint. The HT inferred that my concern should be directed to my son's welfare, not the practice. My view was the practice made my son unsettled and he went through a time of being really distressed and my hunch was the sudden onslaught of adult led paper based inappropriate experiences were an influence on this. This was heartbreaking as I went into it so constructively, offering support with my own subject specialism. I could have been a real friend to my children's school.
So early on I decided to isolate myself from school and I suppose this isolated me from making relationships with other parents.
It clarified for me that school was a place for my child to make friends and socialise and it was mine and my husband's job to nurture a love of learning. He is 16 now and doing really well academically and I think school only plays a part in this.
This is a really sensitive issue for me - we moved when my boys were in Y4 and Y2 to a new area where there were lots of full time mummies who arrived every day fresh from the gym or shopping. As a teacher myself I rarely got to pick the kids up but when I did it was an uncomfortable experience. Yes I did have views on things that were happening in school, no I wasn't prepared to engage in moaning about them on the playground; yes I did know quite alot of gossip about other people, no I wasn't going to share that either so I suppose I isolated myself to that extent. There was one particular group of mums who saw fit to comment on things like attendance at performances/assemblies, contributions to things like class cake sales, standard of world book day costumes (poor!) and so on. Once I addressed this with one of them and from then on the whole group would turn their back if I came on the playground - it was hard but I think said more about them than me - I wonder how much of that was to do with working and how much just to do with the very parochial nature of that specific group of parents. I am not sure I would have wanted to be in their group. I tended to hang around at the edge with the other outcasts.....
I'very had years when I was a SAHM and was the chatty mom with the other chatty moms and it's awsome. But I'be also been the mom who never got to the school gates because I worked 12 hours a day. That is very isolating. The fact that one can get to the gates at 3 pm and see other parents is very different than only seeing them at concerts and such. And it's a different for the kids. I never saw their friends and never observed them at school. It was just, "Show me what's in the school bag and get this done so I can go iron a uniform before I go to bed and don't talk to me in the morning about your spellings or fuss at me about your sloppy plaits because I have a 7.06 train to catch and I don't have time to hear it." The schedule reins supreme and the kids need to get on board with that. It can feel isolating in the extreme. In those years, getting to the school gates was a break from The Schedule and was a blessing, even if all I did was stand around and watch and long to be a chatty mom again.
I think it is really sad that parents feel isolated in the playground as schooling is a big part of the children's lives but I understand how this happens especially if they are infrequent visitors. I was a primary school parent for a total of 24 years. For the first 10 years I was a daily visitor and helped out in school regularly, after that I was there infrequently depending on work commitments. I am not particularly good at socialising and don't join in gossip about school or other parents but I was lucky that our school was a friendly place and I have many close friends that I have met through the children and school so I never felt isolated. It is interesting to watch the politics in the playground as many people form groups whilst others appear isolated or intimidated. I think this often depends on the people themselves as my friend Alex was an infrequent visitor to the playground but she always knew more people than I did and was happy to approach any of the groups of mums for a chat. We had a lot of Dads who did the school run so very much a mixed playground experience which I think makes a difference to the playground atmosphere. The glamorous Barbie images do not represent me in any circumstance as I prefer to be comfortable whether at home or work. It will be interesting to share the playground experience with my daughter when my grandson starts school next year as she is always glamorous and extremely sociable.
I have never really believed in 'cliques'. I think this is a term for 'groups of friends' or 'people who already know each other'. I know there is lots of talk about people being excluded at the school gate but I think this probably just reflects the wider social interactions/settings that are more or less comfortable for people. I am sure people do feel isolated: I have many more catch up chats now I am working part time and can pick the kids up, but I'm not especially shy and I already know lots of people having had three kids through the school.
I'm far more exercised by my kids feeling excluded and isolated. Why don't they get invited on playdates or parties as much as others? Is this because I am usually the last to reply to RSVP? Or is it because they don't have ANY FRIENDS (*weep*) etc? Am I so aloof and snotty and weird that parents don't ask me on their behalf? Or are they gits, bullies or general pains in the arse that I don't know about!? So this gives me anxiety more than anything else at the school gate. I try to just pitch up and just invite others over, in the hope there will be some return offers! And, slowly but surely, there are, as they find their level. I guess that approach might probably work for Barbie too?
This one really strikes a chord with me! I'm often anxious when picking Tom up from school as it happens so infrequently, and I know that many of the mums know each other really well, and have similar outside interests. I tend to hang around in the car until the last minute. I do get invited to the Mum's nights outs and again find myself in a tizz beforehand - I feel it is a huge effort to go.. yet when I get there I'm fine!!
I also find it stressful when Tom then begs for his friend to come around for tea in front of the other mums in the playground - I'm usually picking Tom up when working from home and know I have work to get back to, so inviting friends is problematic - yet I feel obliged to do this - reciprocity!
Once again I need to own up to being childfree before adding my thoughts: isolation mm. Wouldn't want to be tied to doing the school run for anything but I think the whole culture of being a parent and all it brings can work the other way eg. conversations where everyone assumes you are part of the parent/child culture, the looking down/suspicion of me as a teacher - whether I could possibly do as good a job as those with children. I smile when I feel momentarily the same unintentional exclusion from conversations about children in families now coming as my friends turn into grandparents..so , although it's not a problem and I rejoice in my friends' enjoyment of their families, non-members of 'the school gate group ' can also feel like outsiders.
Well said Val. I agree that isolation comes from 'clubs' where you are either in or out and the baby club is the biggest! If you don't have a child why not, how can you understand parenthood etc if you haven't not experienced childbirth?! Also if you have only one, why not?! You must be weird don't you realise that you are creating a precocious child who has only child syndrome?! I found myself apologising for not having a child before Tara and now apologise for only having one! Or rather avoid the question when asked so when will you have another? As if it is a rite of passage.
The playground mums who talk tend to talk over buggies and have more than one chld, but I guess it's how we deal with the feelings of isolation ( whether it's perceived or real) that matters.
Living up to other peoples expectations re the number of children in the family is a difficult one Maggie. My favourite one is the open mouthed incredulity on peoples faces when I tell them I have 6 children. I even had a sports club mum exclaim that she had never met anyone with 6 children before. I felt like a right freak. There are opposing ends to this spectrum; the 'one child syndrome' that you mention and the expectation that every child from a large family must have special educational needs due to lack of parental support and interaction which I am sorry to say was supported at HE when I was a student much to my embarrassment. I agree that it is our personal responses to situations that result in us being included or isolated.
I tend to stand to one side in the playground (when I do manage to get there). I even find myself on the outskirts of the conversation when at school functions, even though so of the parents are my friend, as I am not party to the day to day chatter on the playground.
My partner takes them and pick them up from school and says that it is all in my head but I do feel more comfortable talking to the teaching staff rather than the mums.
When there is negativity towards the school, I automatically take a defensive role or step aside, as I feel it is too close for comfort as this may also be occuring on my own school playground.
I don't tend to find this as a problem. When I take Hannah to school which, I'm glad to say is most days we generally are going straight through the main reception for breakfast club so I don't really see many parents, thankfully those I do see are friendly and we exchange "Good morning" and a comment about the weather or what a rush we have had!
When I do collect after school, yes there are the groups who stand together but I can honestly say it never feels clicky and everyone says hello or at least smiles.
Given Hannah attends an independent school this may be surprising and, until I have started to type this reply something I have only just thought of. I think possibly there may be a higher proportion of working mums at our school than at some non fee paying schools and I suspect this is a necessity rather than choice in some situations!
The School run is where there home/work juggle meets, and often provides a precious space of in-between time to catch up on either work or home, to then be able to focus on the kids. Whilst there are times when you can feel a little bit out of the conversations, I think it's also important to make the effort to create conversations as after all we're all care-givers and it can be the only chance for some to meet other adults in the day or to get to know a new area, and to make friends- so just 5-10minutes caring space is good, and helps in the manic transition from the work-mind to the home space.. with a giggle/moan/hug in between, ready to for a walk home to forget about everything-else and listen to how the children have got on, in their day.
Of course it's not always possible to reach the school gate and I really miss the in-between time, which I feel can give much more energy and calmness to both work and home, so I feel it's important for work, care-givers and children generally that schools and employers create, encourage and value that space where possible.
I enjoyed taking my kids to school and having chats with other parents on the playground. I'd happily talk to anyone. I felt involved in the school and through talking to people it was good to hear other parents' opinions and sometimes quite frank admissions! Occasionally I'd hear something that I didn't like, but everyone has their own opinions. Building up friendships with other parents of children in my children's class felt good. We may do things differently, but it's good to get someone else's view on things sometimes or to share an anxiety. I don't often do the school gate thing now because of work, but I still stop and chat to people if I am there. Occasionally I have not felt like talking, and in those times, I just sit in the car til the last minute. It's about how I feel rather than how I feel about the school playground.
I certainly have never dressed up to pick up from school. But then, I am a take me as you find me kind of person!
I LOVE the school run!!!!! I've been a full time working parent, part time working parent, working in school parent and not working at all parent and I approach the school run exactly the same regardless!!! I love seeing other parents with the same issues and hearing my words coming out of their mouths to do with homework, where's your scarf, have you got your PE kit???? it gives me faith that we all go through the same and we can all get a grump on!!!! I speak to everyone I see whether they are in a click or not!! I'm a sociable happy person with a hectic life that at times can be really difficult!! I see the school run as a time of day where we are all doing the most important thing, and that's sorting out our amazing but at times tiresome children!!! We can see each other and relate!!! I also love seeing all the kids because they crack me up and put a smile on my face!!!! As for being glamed up like Barbie??? Yes I put my slap on but that's how I feel more comfortable and its kinder to others eyes!!!!!!!
I never feared or felt left out by the school run but it was always a rush on the way to work so no time for long chats but a hello here or there. I often got comments about my professional look from both parents and children but in reality I was envious of parents who could take the time to enjoy taking their kids to school. It was certainly one of the reasons I renegotiated my hours so I could pick the children up after school rather than club.
When my children were small we walked for about 20 minutes to school and back which was a good thing to do. Getting us all up and ready seemed very hectic and in spite of my best endeavors there would be an unexpected delay - a missing shoe, a book or instrument, something. We would chat, catch up with other people on the way or at the school gates. I remember having an issue at first with the “Mum” label as if suddenly I was no longer an independent person and I still don’t like to be put into a category or “belong” to a group.
Later we had to drive and I would choose to drive further than tolerate the tension of a queue with the potential hazard of being both late for the children’s school and my work. By this time life was so full that socializing was a bit of a luxury. I liked to hear my children talk about the day ahead and we would swap news on the way home. We had a period of squabbling going off in the back of the car which on top of a stressful working day seemed to be the last straw. I remember saying that if it did not stop, I would stop the car and they would have to get out. At a safe and quiet spot I even tried it once but it caused so much fun and hilarity I had to give up on that as a solution. I always missed my children when they were at school, my work was interesting and challenging but I suppose like my Labrador was always so pleased to see me, that is how I was, delighted to see their faces. Still am and now there are two more of them and I get to do the school run again sometimes. The rush and tumble of working and looking after my lovely family was more difficult than I had expected and I wouldn’t change it for anything else I can think of.
Well, my school run was a very pleasant 10-15 mins walk with the children and usually with neighbourgs, friends... Again, the gathering around the school grounds was a meeting point with friends to catch up... when collecting the kids. In the morning more of a hurry to get on time for work. Both ways it was a special moments to talk to my children.
Oh my goodness I never realised how intimidating the school playground was. Until of course- I became the parent on the playground. I am a happy, sociable person, so was surprised that my confidence took a dip. It was difficult to muster the confidence to actually join a crowd. I became a fab hand at turning up early, so that people could join me and I didn't have to pick a crowd. I wasn't a member of the glam crowd, gym crowd, moaning crowd- but am embarrassed to say I have been known to try and conform to one of the crowds to fit in. I love the school run - I just get chance now.
May I add I didn't join the moaning crowd or or (shamefully) the glam crowd. Ha
This is me. I don't do the school run often enough, or spend enough daytime in the village to have casual ongoing friendly chats with school gates mums. I am older but odd. Don't fit in anywhere. Only speak to the mum of DS's best friend or the head. Love meeting or dropping off the children but find the rest of it a complete nightmare.
My life naturally runs 10 minutes late, so the definitive timing of the school run was a Monday to Friday stress when I was responsible for it every day, taking my son to school. I worked full time then, and so at least it gave that impetus to get out on time and so in to work promptly after; but I regret some morning chastisings in the car, blaming my son for making us late (when I now recognise that it was my responsibility).
Now I'm glad that bit of the day is down to my husband, to take our daughter to school, but I'm still the one up earliest, making tea and breakfast and sandwiches and checking the school kit and so on...
I am glad that having reached the school yard, latterly more often in the afternoon, it was a chance to swap morning nightmares or day's events with other mums, particularly those in my child's class. I made some good friends.
It doesn't bother me now. It used to when I was a SAHM now I'm working in the school I pick my daughter mostly from inside school. There were times before when picking her up parents would form cliques and not speak when I said Hi, it did bother me but not any more. Life's too short. It would bother me if it affected my daughter but it doesn't. I'm happy and so are my children. I do sometimes notice the people coming up to speak when they want to know something but I change the subject. Some do tend to avoid me now that I'm working in the school but doesn't bother me. I know the REAL people to speak to at school, the ones who always say Hi and are easy to chat to. The rest are not worth it.
I recognise this now with my younger children, as I was a SAHM with the older ones, being a teacher I may well have 'great holidays' but I very rarely pick up or drop off at school. So on the odd occasion that I do I am left in the middle of a group of parents already talking to each other, feeling self conscious.
When my son first started school 10+ yrs ago .. The fear of walking into the playground filled me with dred ... I cried before and after taking him... I felt about 2 inches tall ... I hated it ... But now I stand and I chat or just stand alone .. Not phased by it ... And if a new parent arrives ... I chat to them ... Rather than gaupe at them ...
The school run for little ones in one place was great. For two in different places, less so and more stressful for timekeeping. Great conversation in the car for teenagers because there is no eye contact and they tell you things that they would not normally say. Little ones enjoyed walking. The playground however is still the playground however old you are and you need a friend if you are going to survive. I felt jealous of those who lived worked and went to school all within walking distance. I always felt I was late. Late for school and late for work just late.
The school playground environment is truly unique. With my eldest child it was both warm and welcoming, an opportunity for both mother and child to meet new people and forge friendships.
Sadly this was not the case with my youngest child. The playground environment had become overwhelming with 'cliques'. Contrasting behaviour was observed; nameless parents who were verging on being childlike in character, including ostracising other parents.
I did not drop off nor collect my youngest child as often as I had first time around. Within a short space of time, it was incredible how the same environment could alter so radically.
The school run - This happens rarely now as I leave for work at 7.30am. My husband takes the children to school and loves it! If I do ever get to take the children to school (e.g. no heating and power closed school!) I love it. I get to catch up with friends / other parents who I now don't see very often. There has always been playground politics but I am not interested in any of that, and enjoy a good catch up and extra time with my children 😊
I felt uncomfortable for the first 2 weeks taking my daughter into school because I didn't know anyone. However after a little while I got to know 'liked minded' mums and got to know the routine. I joined the PTA and got to know the many mums. The one thing that sticks in my mind was one mum stopped in the playground and turned, stared at me, looked me up and down , turned away and walked off. That event made me feel vey uncomfortable however this person became and friend much later. Eventually the Pta put in a support system for news mums.
I do not even make it to the school gate! Though was at a party last week and another parent made reference to the fact that I would not know all the names as I am never there.
I didn't get to do the school run very often because I was a working parent. On the odd occasions I was able to do it, I didn't know any of the parents and it felt very strange, but I wasn't that bothered, except that I think both my son and I missed out on building friendships and connections that are often built at the school gate. When my son was 9 we moved overseas and we lived and socialised in the community in which I taught and he attended school. This was a bit like being at the school gates permanently! I felt isolated as a teacher when it came to mixing with the parents and often found it tricky to fit into the groups of parents. I was much more comfortable with my teacher and am dram friends that I made. I always felt slightly on show when I went to parent/child events and never felt I could be the real me. A challenge that I learned to negotiate in time but never felt very comfortable with.
Oh my God - I'm old enough to be their mother!
I loved the school run when I could get to do it. My children went to a very big school so there were always plenty of like minded mums and I didn't ever feel intimidated by the glam ladies with big 4 x 4s. My children loved me dropping the off or picking them up but I felt guilty when I couldn't, which was pretty often.
The school run in my mind was about a nice walk up to the school chatting about what might be learnt and what has been learnt. In reality it is me hurrying my son out of the car in order to get to work in time for my teaching to start - as a professional trainer our teaching days runs from 9.30 - 4.30. I do flex my work, but there are limits to how flexible work can be!
I am hardly ever at the school gate anymore. Having been a Mum who was always there at 3:30 it is quite hard to make the adjustment. Not because you want to be involved in the cliques, but because you want to be there to collect your child, along with everyone else. However on the rare occasion that I am at the school gate I am glad I am not there. I believe it to be very clicky, you do feel as though you stand away from people as you are not in the "it crowd". I personally feel better for not being mixed up in the pretence of the school mums who all pretend to be friendly and love nothing more than to gossip about others who are not there to defend themselves.
I suppose the school run was an emotional aspect of motherhood and work - the two didn't fit together smoothly. It was I'd say a more difficult time (and yet paradoxically more rewarding in terms of the other mothers) with my eldest daughter. Me and my husband would have to juggle our work shifts and take turns in taking them and i've got to say this was not easy, especially as my travel to work can often take over one hour due to to the distance. So who was there to help both emotionally and practically - well it was my soul sister Michelle. We;'ve been friends since we trained as midwife's together in our early twenties and we've travelled the world together. I was with her holidaying in Fuerenventura when i met my future hubby. Michelle is the sister I need - not physically but emotionally - she has been there for me and my family and is is godmother to my children. Even though Michelle works a practcie sister in Salford and lived on the other side of Manchester she would arrive at my house early when me a Craig were stuck and had no one to take the girls to school. I could not have not done my job without Michele's support - a side note is that she even contributed to my PhD when we were struggling to pay the fees. So friendship - sisterhood has again been very important to both emotionally and practically enabling me to go to work with a little less guilt!
What i will say is that i was very conscious that i did not want to 'put on my soul sister' she has a life and i respected that - perhaps sometimes out of sheer need I'd ask at the last minute for Michelle to take the girls to school.
So, when i'd arrive at the playground there was always an awareness of the working and stay-at-home mums. I can't say that sometimes i didn't want to be in their shoes (or should i say training shoes!) There I was dressed for work - working shoes on, tights on ready to put my working face to the world; there the stay-at-home mums were - tracksuits, trainers and ready fro the gym, relaxation, space and time to indulge their own needs and that of motherhood. They usually had husbands who made the money to buy them flash cars - good for them, but that wasn't me really. I know that there are those who are born to work and those to be cared for. I am the former. No matter what my hubby earned I'd have to work, be independent - perhaps it's because i come from a patriarchal set up and my mum's dreams were often threw away, she was dependent and i wanted to be empowered and knew from an early age that a way to do this was not to be beholden on a man - so i nver have been. I'm not saying this is the right way - I looked at the mums and school and often would think I would have loved to have been at ease and had the opportunity to work-time - but deep down i knew that wasn't going to happen and so got on with it. What I will say i would want different for my daughters - i would want them to find a balance i probably didn't have - perhaps work half the week and be a stay-at-home mum for the rest so they can drop children off at school - i hope they can learn fro me . I would not like to think of them as having the same emotional struggle and not coming from the same background as me they may find their choices easier.
I have made friend with a few mums and they are lovely - they have made me smile and a number have shared similar interests - ithats' been great
I would say that the playground mum and my subjectivity is not simple - it's nuanced - yes, i felt sad that i could not indulge in it, but i also felt empowered that i could walk away from small talk that grips playgrounds. School mornings are a reminder of the balancing the public domain with the private. I'm glad Anna and Niamh now can travel to school on their own - but I miss them being younger - in a way life is wishes away when you're struggling to balance all and you don't realise what you've got. I try to enjoy it all now - I've learnt from my experiences and those school drop offs have added to my knowledge of self and community ...
To be honest, I like isolation. But that is just my character. Whenever I did the school run I took great pleasure in being with my son to walk him to the school gates and he him go off quite happily into school. Then to pick him up and learn what he had done that day was what it was all about. I didn't really get to know any of the other mums, but that's not why I was there.
The times when I had to use child minders were not good for me. I was usually doing a job I hated just to pay bills, so missing out on being with my son was painful. And the guilt trip again!
Oh this is a big one for me. My son is in Nursery and since going back to work after having my second, I very rarely drop off or pick up my eldest son from Nursery. For this reason I don't know many parents and when my son turned three he had no friends to invite to have a party because I refuse to invite strangers to my house. I feel bad because of this, however, he is too young to know any different. My fears are that this will get worse in September when he starts pre-school. I don't want to become a parent that is never seen by his teachers.