Tips for dealing with back-to-school mum guilt

Are you dealing with parental guilt?

I adore being a parent. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I’m always questioning myself about whether I did the right thing or if I was present enough that day.

Although I like to think that the fact that I questioned if I did the right thing shows that I’m doing my best. And that’s really the only thing we parents can do.

We try to make the best decision we can, at that moment in time, with the information we have access to.

So, what is mum guilt?

If you’ve never heard of the term, it’s used to describe when a parent feels guilty about a choice they’ve made. It can relate to a choice about education, parenting style, or even a career option. 

And it doesn’t just apply to being a mum. Parental guilt comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can affect any parent or guardian. I don’t know about you, but as a parent, I feel this way pretty often. Even if I shouldn’t, even if there’s no real reason.

My child might have had the best day ever, and I might still worry about whether I was present enough that day. From speaking with other friends who are parents, I know that I’m not alone in that feeling. 

Back to school mum guilt

Back to school Mum guilt

When the kids go back to school, I often feel a lot of mum guilt. And so do most of my friends that are parents. 

I worry that I didn’t do enough activities with my children in the summer. Even if in reality we had lots of bonding time and fun! 

Another thing that can make my mum guilt rear its head is how relieved I am when September rolls around. Thankfully I have plenty of supportive mum friends who help remind me that it’s normal to feel that way. It's normal to need a break. 

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The parental guilt of never having enough time!

I might be relieved to see September, but going back to school can be hectic. In some ways, it’s often more stressful than the summer holidays! Trying to get my children back into the routine of school, then to after-school clubs or dentist appointments. It means that I often feel like we’re getting much less quality time together than we were during the holidays.

I can put pressure on myself to find hours in the day (and energy) that I often don’t have. But a recent study has found that just 10 minutes a day of quality time with your little one makes a huge difference.  Getting those 10 minutes a day of bonding time with a parent leads to your children feeling loved, and valued, and having more self-confidence. 

When I think of it as 10 minutes a day, the pressure usually eases. I don't feel quite so guilty, because I've done my best to make sure those 10 minutes happen daily. 

10 ways to connect with your kids in 10 minutes 

The easiest way I've found to make sure we get 10 minutes of bonding time daily is to include them in things I already am doing.

Examples could be when you’re driving to and from clubs, walking home from school or even playing with your child while the potatoes boil. As long as your child gets your full undivided attention, without interruption – it counts!

I’ve put together some of my favourite ways to make the most of time with my child. I hope it will help inspire your 10-minute versions. 

1. Make a game out of walking from the car to class

Parking for school drop-off or pickup is a nightmare. It often means I need to park a street or two away. But that means that the 5–10-minute walk can become a fun game where we spend quality time together.

Whether we are galloping like horses or doing silly dances and stretches, it puts a smile on both of our faces. I always feel a lot lighter on the walk back to the car. 

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2. Make brushing their teeth more fun

I don’t know about you, but my children often need a little encouragement when it comes to teeth brushing time. And making teeth brushing time more fun has helped hugely. 

I like to pull funny faces at my children to try to make them giggle. Another of my mum friends likes to play pretend games, like pretending to be scuba divers. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you’re engaged and present.

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preschool activities for children3. Stories at bedtime

Bedtime is a good opportunity for fitting in your 10-minute quality time. Taking 5-10 minutes to read through a story can make a big difference.

My son’s favourite bedtime story at the moment is the three little pigs. He loves joining in on the story when the wolf is huffing and puffing.

Reading stories together is actually a great way for both of us to decompress after a long day. 


4. Be present in car journey conversations

If you need to drive your child to school, an appointment or even a club, you can use this journey as your 10 minutes of quality time.

It could be just listening and being engaged in a conversation. The topic can be whatever your child wants to talk about, whether it’s school or Paw Patrol! 

I like to play games sometimes with my children. Some of my children’s favourites are either playing iSpy or counting how many things they see that are blue.

5. Pause if your child opens up a conversation

This was actually a piece of advice another mum friend gave me. And it seems so simple, but be an active participant in conversations with your child. 

If your child starts a conversation, try to participate. Not only do they feel valued because they feel heard, but it can encourage them to open up when they’re older.

I can’t always stop everything I’m doing to just talk, but I try my best to be present when they’re speaking as best I can. And seeing their little faces light up is the best reward!

6. Get your child involved in dinner time

If you’re already making dinner, getting kids involved can be a lot of fun. In my experience, it also means they’re more likely to actually clear their plate or try new foods.

One of my children’s favourite ways to get involved is by decorating pizzas. Giving them the freedom of choosing their toppings might lead to some very strange pizzas, but it also leads to lots of smiles.


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7. Make walks to school like a scavenger hunt

I’ve found this is a great game to play when the seasons change. If you're walking to school with them that day, we try to find a small list of things.

This could be a red leaf in the Autumn or a buttercup in the Spring! It helps my children start the day by feeling like they’ve achieved something. Even if it is just an imaginary scavenger hunt prize!

8. Let your children pick their outfits for the day

I’ve found that this is a good thing to do at the weekend, or during half terms. Getting my children involved in picking their outfits helps them feel like they’ve got control over something.

It also leads to some really funny outfits sometimes! My absolute favourite outfit combination was when an old Halloween lion costume got paired with some stripy knee-high socks and a sleeveless denim jacket.



9. Do chores together

I often see chores as a necessary evil. Something that needs doing, but not necessarily something I enjoy. That was until I started involving my toddler!

Children have an amazing talent for making things fun. And I was surprised to learn that even included doing the hoovering! Putting some music on and having a dance in the living room while we hoovered wasn’t a bad way to spend 10 minutes.

10. Be silly during bath time

My son isn’t a huge fan of bath time. So, making it more fun by being silly ticks two boxes. I get to spend 10 minutes connecting with him, and if bath times are more fun then they tend to be less stressful.

My personal favourite ways to make bath time funner are sculpting his hair into funny shapes or making a bubble beard. It might be silly, but I don’t mind because it makes him laugh every single time.


Make the 10 minutes work for you

The most important advice I ever got from a Mum friend is to try not to compare myself. That the picture-perfect Instagram shot probably took 15 attempts. We are all learning and doing our best and that's ok!

What works for my 10 minutes might not work for yours and there's nothing wrong with that. I've even found that some suggestions that worked really well at the start of the week fall flat by the end of the week. 

It doesn't matter what your 10 minutes consist of, as long as you spend time together. It could be a hobby you do together, a chat while you're driving home or just a silly 10 minutes of fun. 

Wondering if our ballet classes for children could be a solution? Read more information on our kids' dance classes.

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