Back-to-school reality for mums and dads

In the first of a weekly series, Emma Haughton focuses on a familiar January nightmare: getting back into a routine after the excitement of Christmas. Strangely, she discovers, the return to normality is worse for parents ...

Returning to work after a long break is never easy; factor in the angst of getting children back into the swing of school or child care, and it's not just the leftover turkey that's giving you indigestion on Sunday night. The problem with holidays is that they plunge us into an unreal and seductive world of leisure and lack of routine; without the pressure of deadlines and work commitments we tend to wind down, mentally and physically, and getting ourselves back into gear again involves a shock to everyone's system.

"Over Christmas we started to wake up later and later," admits Julie, a teacher with two daughters aged seven and five. "On Sunday at 9am everyone was still fast asleep, so on Monday when we set the alarm to get up at 7am, it felt like the middle of the night. It was hard to believe that two weeks ago we were waking up at that time completely naturally."

But oversleeping can be the least of your problems.

"On Monday I had to get up in the pitch dark with sheets of rain coming down, get the car out, drive Billy to nursery, find a free parking meter, wade through the puddles and settle him in," says Julia, an advertising executive, whose son is four. "Then I had to reverse the whole journey, find somewhere to park again miles down our street, and clear the car out out for my partner, before even starting the hour-and-a-quarter commute to work. It was grim, absolutely gruelling, and only tempered by a sense of relief that we were at least getting back to reality."

Julia copes by being meticulously organised. "I tidy the house, put clothes out the night before, arrange an easy supper, get my briefcase sorted out, find my house keys, travel card and security pass, even recharge my mobile phone battery. I just couldn't do it otherwise." She also puts Billy back into nursery for a few hours a couple of days before she's due back at work. "It eases him back into it gently, and gives me a bit of free time to sort things out."

But it's not just the practical preparation that need attention; according to Sue Johnson, who has worked as a childminder in Enfield for the last 20 years. It is often the emotional side of returning to normality that is more troublesome. "The children rarely have a problem coming back," she says, "They're often rather glad to return to their friends and daily routine. Although it can take a couple of days to get back into the way we do things here, children are very adaptable and rarely find it a problem."

She finds it's the parents who experience the most difficulties. "The time they spend with with their children during the holidays is extremely important, and coming back they face the whole guilt trip again about leaving their children." Many need extra reassurance that no one can replace their relationship with their child. "Some are quite reluctant to leave on that first morning. They cling to their children instead of just putting them down. It can be quite hurtful if a child just gets down and gets on with it, so they linger, because the longer they stay, the more chance they have of getting a negative reaction that in some ways actually makes them feel better."

But Johnson stresses the importance of looking at the situation from the child's point of view. Let them know during the holiday when they're going back, so it's not a shock on Monday morning, she advises, and make the separation as quick and clean as possible so as not to confuse the child.

And while nothing will take the sting out of the first day back, there are various ways you can raise everybody's spirits. Lisa Santry, a nanny from Dulwich in south London, suggests arranging a treat, such as a meal or trip to the cinema, at the end of the day - or a day out somewhere special the following weekend. When grey skies and dull routines are all we can see on the horizon, we all need to make sure there is something to look forward to besides the next holiday.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate