I feel lucky to write for Rosie, as I thoroughly enjoy reading her blog. I also think of her as a kind of “blog mother”. She’s one of the founders of this brave new British parent blogging world, providing a place for intelligent women to share their thoughts and opinions, and helping us to realise that we’re not all that different from each other (even though we sometimes disagree).
And that’s the inspiration for this guest post. It’s to do with school, which is something I write about a lot, and also with us sharing differences and similarities.
As an education blogger, I spend my life thinking, talking and writing about nurseries, schools, exams and universities. But there’s one thing which always winds me up – criticism of mums at the school gate.
Now, the school gate has a bad reputation, and I’m aware of this. If you’re a parent, you’ll be well acquainted with articles about horrendous parents just waiting to ignore/snub/belittle you at the school gate, not to mention frightening parental tribes (from yummy mummies to scary, competitive dads) whose aim, apparently, is to squash you just for fun.
If you read certain newspapers or watch certain television programmes (no thanks to Sky for their new comedy-drama Gates and its terrible, stereotyped parents we’d all like to avoid) then you’ll fear the “school gate” mafia more than their real Italian cousins. How extremely unhelpful.
People love stereotypes and yes, I’m sure that all school gates (like all schools and offices, and indeed the world) contain different types of people. It makes perfect sense that you won’t all get on. But it doesn’t mean that you need to panic at the thought of early morning pick-ups or drop-offs.
I think it’s time parents fought back. As a parent of two children, at two different schools, I have a reasonable amount of personal school gate experience. I am also the author of a book about starting school, and edit a blog called (funnily enough) School Gate. With this behind me, I feel entitled to state that I don’t think a school gate mafia exists. All the concept does is try to pit parents (usually mothers) against mothers. This seems to me to be both sexist and frustrating.
I’m not saying there aren’t cliques at the school gate. Of course there are. And I’m not saying it’s always the best place to be. Sometimes it can be intimidating, and sometimes it can be lonely (I’m often looking around desperately for someone I know). But that doesn’t mean that it’s riddled with unpleasant people, nor that all parents of school age children are somehow more unpleasant or unfriendly than anyone else in the population. Some of them are, some of them aren’t.
I have made new friends through my children going to school, and some of these have become very special to me. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to meet them and would like other parents to know this. As the new academic year starts, and thousands of children make their way to school for the first time, their parents shouldn’t make the gate one of their worries. It will all be fine. Honestly.
Sarah Ebner writes and edits the School Gate education blog for The Times and is the author of The Starting School Survival Guide; everything you need to know when your child starts primary school.