Oh, you have a life? Cancel it.

Image: Asurroca/Flikr As a school Mummy, I am an abject failure.

This Monday was Harvest Festival. I remembered this just as I was holding open the school's front door for another School Mummy and her three kids. Each child was holding a cardboard box filled with Arborio rice and jars of organic pasta sauces.

As I mentally kicked myself, I noticed the three kids’ boxes were decorated. With lovely sparkly wrapping paper and glitter and everything. That’s just offensive, frankly. Also? It meant I couldn’t really get away with giving Flea the cereal bar and box of raisins I’d just remembered were in the glove compartment of the car.

Here’s the thing, though – the average human being can only remember seven pieces of information at any one time. I can't remember where I read that, obviously, but I did read it somewhere. And the average primary school seems to feel the need to send home seven letters each day!

At Flea’s school, October kicked off with a charity coffee morning. Then there was a literacy seminar for parents. Then it was book week and we were encouraged to go in to see our kids visit the school library. Then there was the book fair. Then Harvest Festival. Tonight it's parents evening and then there’s the “friends of” the school meeting tomorrow. There’s also a play-date to fit in this week, and a ritual sacrifice of the town virgin. Okay, I made the last one up, but I bet it’ll come around sooner or later.

Seriously, how much time do these people think I have?

I feel obliged to attend as many of these activities as I can because on some level, I feel Flea’s entire educational career will be hopelessly compromised if I’m not on the right table at the Christmas Ball. But I’m self-employed and the whole journalism thing does kinda rely on me occasionally spending time talking to people and, you know, writing stuff. It’s a constant dilemma. How do other mothers fit it all in?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 7th October 2009 / 9:30 am

    As a child I went to a school miles away from where I lived, and there were none of these events, so my home and school life were very remote from each other. Consequently, when I was having problems at school, my parents had no idea, and there was no one to help.
    So I do think that events like this which deepen the home/school community link are a good in principal, but like you I am pressed for time and can only do so much. You just try having more than one child at more than one school – it’s like an attack of the time suckers, with notes galore practically every day.
    So I don’t go to everything, but I go to as much as I can. I think you have to pick and choose with your commitments. I don’t go to PTA meetings but I will make a cake for events. As long as I feel I’ve done something, I don’t feel the need to do everything. And where ever possible I send their dad – don’t see why this should automatically be a mum’s job.
    BTW Have posted my tips for easy cakes for the school fair here:
    http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2009/10/02/tip-of-the-day-easy-cakes-for-the-school-fair/ Sounds like it might come in handy.

  2. 7th October 2009 / 10:01 am

    I have kids at two schools and another at playgroup and like you sometimes feel like my brain will explode with all the things I have to remember (or forget!!). This is not made any easier by the fact that my 9yo son forgets to bring home letters so I never know what is going on! I am always asking mums of his friends what is happening, as he seems to think I am telepathic.
    One thing that has helped me is I have subscribed to both schools mailing lists and I also check their websites reguarly which means I get all newsletters by email as well as the paper copy brought home (or not). I have had to resort to a weekly tear off planner thing that I bought from Pheonix cards and I have it on the fridge for each week with EVERYTHING written on it.
    I don’t go to everything, sorry but like you I work and I have a life too! I go to the most important things like the Christmas play, Sports day etc and quite often bake a cake for the cake sales. But not always, just do what you can and don’t feel guilty. Being a mother is all about guilt, isn’t it?!
    A friend of mine lied to her child at the cake sale. He said, “Mummy, which cake did you make?” and my friend who hadn’t made a cake just said, ” Oh that one over there” and pointed to a random cake. This is what pressure does to you!!
    I think you can be involved as much or as little as you like. Do what is right for you.

  3. 7th October 2009 / 10:02 am

    Seven things?? We can remember 7 things?? Get away!!
    Glad you fish things out of the glove compartment too… I managed to cram 2 tins of tomatoes in for son’s harvest festival…
    You absolutely can’t do everything. Says the woman who tries to do everything. And forgets more than she remembers. The trouble with me is I get distracted by all the little things and then don’t get bloomin on with the things I should be doing. Like right now. Must get on. Distracted, see?
    Will be back. suspect have found a like minded soul here.

  4. 7th October 2009 / 11:11 am

    OMG Harvest festival, thanks for the reminder. The only way I remember things is to write it in the calender as soon as I know. It is my bible. I copy it to my diary every night!! Also sad byt true it is from Organised Mum http://www.organised-mum.co.uk/. I also prioritise and do the thinks I like or know that the Mini’s would like. It doesnt mean I am very popular though, but I dont care.

  5. Sally
    7th October 2009 / 10:44 am

    @Joanne – do Betty Crocker cakes count?
    @Abby – that cake comment would *so* be the sort of thing I’d say! Hysterical.
    @Ladybird – Yes, I think the problem is I’m the sort of person who just thinks, “Oh, if I can try hard enough I’m sure I can fit it all in somehow” And then I wonder why I’m never in bed before 2am.
    @Metropolitan Mum – Oh, I’m just teasing. I spend my days alternating between the local matinee showing and the beauty spa.

  6. 7th October 2009 / 11:13 am

    @sally – Yes, Betty Crocker absolutely does count, as does something grabbed from the local co-op on the way to school. The more you give the impression that you are v busy, the less likely you are to be asked to do more.

  7. Sarah Wolf
    7th October 2009 / 2:15 pm

    Have you been inside my mind recently – seven things would be a miracle!
    I’ve missed the cake sale (apparently), the show and tell (every Monday – now I find out), the PTA get together (8pm in the pub – I’m a single mum!!), harvest something that I briefly saw as I rushed past the noticeboard today.
    It’s funny actually because when small person was at expensive private day nursery, communications were timely and repeated and I never missed a thing. Now I have to rely on my four year old’s memory and even her understanding of what she’s been told plus the briefest of looks at the newsletter which I usually find a whole five days late.
    I am an organised, nay control freak, person and I am struggling now…..So thank you, again, for brightening my day with a similar experience to my own. I can relax

  8. Irish Mammy
    7th October 2009 / 2:49 pm

    Oh my god and I am panicking at having to make an outfit for halloween end of this month. That is one thing the creche has asked me to do. I thought life gets easier the older your child gets (no nappy changes, less spillages, less washing, less hand holding) but now I see it gets more complicated!

  9. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    7th October 2009 / 2:51 pm

    Ah the working mother dilemma. It gets worse, I’m afraid, particularly towards Christmas when so many of the school things are held in the afternoon (when you’re right on deadline). Just be there for the important stuff, the things that Flea will remember. Don’t worry too much about the PTA stuff right now or anything that doesn’t directly involve Flea. There is a knack to juggling but prioritising is the main thing at this stage. Everything else will fall into place, I promise x

  10. Sally
    7th October 2009 / 2:57 pm

    @Sarah – Ah, Show and Tell. Flea took a toy dinosaur from the car floor this week. I told her it would help develop her imagination.
    @Irish Mammy – fortunately, I arranged a group review of Halloween outfits for a site I edit, specifically so I wouldn’t have to make anything 😉
    @Liz – Flea is just so irritatingly chatty about everything. As we walked into school today she MADE A POINT of stopping at the office and saying to the headmistress: “My Mummy has forgotten my coat today. I expect I might get cold at playtime.” Such a sneak.

  11. 7th October 2009 / 3:18 pm

    At least you cannot say you don’t have a social life 🙂
    Honestly, we all do the best we can.

  12. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    7th October 2009 / 3:55 pm

    That child should be on the stage, as my grandmother used to say

  13. Insomniac Mummy
    7th October 2009 / 6:59 pm

    Oh Lord! This is not good news. When Big E starts pre-school in November I am officially doomed.
    Seven things hey? I think I peaked at four today.

  14. 7th October 2009 / 7:46 pm

    I’m feeling for you. Recently started taking my 3 year old to dance classes. Regretting it hugely. Such an inconvenient time and place! And now we have to buy the shoes! But the Harvest Festival – organic produce and sparkly paper, are you serious? I sent 2 tins of Sainsburys Basics carrots in to Smallboy’s nursery ha ha.

  15. 7th October 2009 / 7:48 pm

    Schools should just get that people send their kids to them to have them OUT OF THE WAY for a while.

  16. 7th October 2009 / 8:43 pm

    dump school. far too draining. and some people tell me that just to go there you have to get out of bed IN THE MORNINGS?

  17. 6th February 2011 / 10:03 am

    We have to remember seven things?!
    Well… I’m screwed! :oP
    Love your blog, though. :o)