School bags, Ovaltine, and nailing the basics at home

Actually I’m a terrible ironer so my husband does most of it…

My column as published recently in The Catholic Weekly.


The school holidays are over and we’re looking at another term of school lunches, washing and ironing uniforms, homework, and Saturday sports. When finishing Year 12 I thought that was the end of the school environment for me. It never occurred to me that I’d be spending another 20 or so years within and around the school gates, but in fact the order that the school rhythms impose upon me is very helpful sometimes.


I know a proper dinner will be sorted out (or at least I’ll have a plan) by 3pm each day when I go to pick up the three older children, for example, and I know I’m less likely to waste time watching late-night TV on school nights because we need to be up and out the door by 8.20am.


When it was just a matter of getting myself to work, in the pre-children days, it didn’t matter if I was tired and grumpy in the morning, and I could nap on the train if I needed to. But now I have to be rested enough to be not only up and alert in the morning, but cheerful as well, so it’s early nights for me during the school term.


During the holidays, by comparison, dinner one night consisted of a bowl of popcorn and a glass of Ovaltine at 8pm. The children and I slept in every day, some of us routinely wore our pyjamas until lunchtime, and I didn’t tend to keep track of everyone’s teeth-brushing and hair-washing as I would during the school term. While it’s been lovely to let things slide quite a lot over the break, I’m looking forward to getting back into some consistent routines and generally healthier habits!


I’m not an organised person. I’m trying to work on it though, because I see that not being organised easily leads to chaos, stress, frustration, and the panic of seeing time slipping away without really important things having been done.


If we hadn’t made time to see our friend in late May, for instance, then when she died last month it would have been a much harder thing to bear.


So my August calendar will coming out from under the papers piled on my desk and I’ll be getting back into planning mode again after just winging it for a while. We do have an unchanging framework which we hang everything off no matter what else is going on in life. Mass is our big constant, every Sunday morning off we go. Then grace before meals, a short morning prayer and offering as we get into the car of a morning, and bedtime prayers are naturally built-in to every day as well.


The next layer for us is the laundry and dinner; apart from our recent lazy weeks it’s usually an unchanging routine and so it requires very little thought. I put a load of washing on in the morning at breakfast time or shortly after, and think about what’s for dinner and do something about that, even if it’s just to take something out of the freezer, or check what leftovers and salad ingredients we have.


It’s not rocket science and every mum I know does this sort of thing but it’s good to remember what and how we’re doing things right sometimes, and see where we need to (or can if we want to) fit another layer of ‘doing’ into our lives.

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