As a parent there are certain universal experiences. Poo-splosion is one of the very first things we all experience as a parent. Your first child starting school is another universal experience.

Dom started school this week… the first Buds baby to hit this milestone. Cousins, grandparents, friends and even the check out operator at The Warehouse have all shared their experiences and advice with me. And I’m eternally grateful! While this may be a universal experience we all deal and feel in different ways.

The uniform

For me, the big emotional jolt came when I saw him in his school uniform for the first time. We’d been through the school visits and I was doing a-ok with the thought of my boy starting school. Then we tried on his school uniform the week before he started, and it hit me. I felt like I was losing my baby boy. Depression hit me hard that week and I struggled to achieve anything. Ian had to finally drag me out to buy the last pieces of his school stuff two days before he was due to start school.

Dealing with echoes of my own school experience

I was largely friendless from the day I started school until I was 9. I was teased and rejected daily. The day Dom started school I stumbled about in an anxious fugue, terrified that he would be feeling that same rejection and loneliness. When I mentioned this on our Facebook the other day, a friend reached out to me and said she’d felt exactly the same. For those of us who experienced bullying, sending your child off to school can feel like sending them into a shark tank. It’s the first time we might feel truly incapable of keeping our babies safe.

Change in routine

My boys were in daycare three days a week. This meant that two days a week we’d slob about in our pajamas for longer in the morning, take it slower and easier for a while. Now it’s five days a week that I’m having to be switched on from the start. I know it’s not a big deal, it’s just a change that I’m not used to and the mental readjustment is taking some time.

The other thing is that I would frequently drop the boys to daycare late or pick them up early if that suited my day… that flexibility doesn’t exist with school.

The extra workload

Dom had homework on day one. Sure, it was just a reading book but some other friends with new entrants are reporting poetry assignments and a much higher homework load. Making time for this, coupled with making lunches, keeping uniforms clean and ready, packing school bags etc, I’m finding my parenting workload has increased dramatically. I really feel for my working mum friends.

What’s still to come?

Talking to another mum this morning, she said that two weeks in was when it got really hard. The exhaustion was catching up to her son and it was a week of tears on everyone’s part. School holidays are another thing I’m going to have to get used to. As a mum of pre-schoolers we tend to go to the pool or Flip Out during term time to avoid the crowds. Now, I’m going to have to brave the mobs of school kids if I want to take Dom to keep enjoying these activities.

I asked my Plunket group how they were coping with their oldest starting school and got a mixed response. Some are enjoying the new routine, some are struggling and some are frustrated. It’s a universal experience but it impacts us all differently. The only piece of universal advice I’d offer is to make sure your support network is in place… you’re going to need your tribe for either being a shoulder to lean on or for sharing your excitement.