I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the last couple of weeks and to add insult to injury it turns out I’ve been lying there worrying about the wrong things. There I was mentally making lists of things to do and the logistics still to be worked out before my son started school for the first time, when all the while there was a far more pressing issue that apparently 64% of women in the UK had resolved weeks ago. Yes, while I was fretting about whether the school breakfast club started early enough for me to get to work on time and whether my only just 4 year old son would fall asleep over his lunch, according to the Daily Mail the majority of school run mums had planned first day outfits, bought new coats and booked in for hair cuts. FOR THEMSELVES.
I live in the area in South West London known as ‘Nappy Valley’ or ‘Between the Commons’ where if you don’t have a loft conversion and twins you are in the minority, so I’m aware there are many blogs devoted to the fashions and politics of the school gate. However as until now I have only had a pre-schooler, I have never read one of these blogs. Once, as a green around the gills new blogger I posted this blog address on a Mumsnet thread only to be shot down in flames and then removed entirely. I’m still terrified of Mumsnet and doubt I’ll ever go anywhere near its pages again. I worried the school gate would be something of a Mumsnet franchise, drop-off time merely a pre-cursor to coffee and conflab in one of the many cafes nearby. However my concern was for my son and I making friends, not whether or not we would pass muster on the fashion front.
So it was with some trepidation that we walked the short distance to school on Monday morning. The sun was shining brightly and so the last minute panic that my son (who has grown alarmingly over the summer and is attending a school without uniform) would have to wear trousers hovering around his ankles – quelle horreur – was unnecessary. Of course I wanted him to look clean and cared for because I’m fairly responsible but recalling the head teacher’s request not to send the cherubs into reception class in their best clothes only for them to get spoiled, he was less Romeo Beckham, more Shiloh Pitt. Off we set; Daddy smart casual as he was going on to a casting afterwards and me in Miss Selfridge skinnies, Oasis t-shirt and my lovely new Reiss heels which happened to be the shoes by the front door (honestly they were) and anyway having taken the day off work I was coming straight home to have a weep and to clean the bathroom.
The first thing I noticed was that a good handful of the mums were in gym gear. And not just any gym gear – everything matched, these women looked good. If they had make-up on then it was expertly applied to look au naturel because I couldn’t tell and I’m pretty good at doing the ‘full face of slap/no make-up’ look. (I am after all the person who got out of bed first thing in the morning after a C-section to apply mascara and Touche Eclat before my new baby’s dad arrived). Four days into the school term and I realise the mums must be in the gym straight after the school run most days. Their buttocks are testament to this. On Wednesday I decided to go for a run around the common myself after saying goodbye to my little one. I managed to find two pieces of lycra that were the same colour (sale rail Sweaty Betty top and long Pineapple leggings from the ’90s – you think I’m joking, I’m not – my legs needed waxing) and pulled back my dirty hair into a ponytail. All of a sudden I looked the part! I was one of them! Except I wasn’t really because I don’t know anyone to shout, “Darling, how ARE you, how was Biarritz?” to across the playground and I have neither a deep tan nor a newborn in a pram. On the way back from my run, I suddenly understood why so many coffee bars manage to survive in one small stretch of road – at 10am on a weekday they are full to bursting with mums chewing the cud after offloading at the three or four primary schools within walking distance. I found myself wondering (with a dollop of judgement) if anyone around here had a job. Which was unfair because I have a job and yet there I was merrily running around town without a care in the world, I simply hadn’t been invited to have coffee.
Anyway I don’t want to launch into a tirade about the parents at my son’s school when I don’t know anything about them and they may be my best friends by Christmas. But it will be interesting to see how the outfits change as the nights draw in and the temperature drops. If the Daily Mail article is anything to go by, over half of them have a new pair of boots, a coat and a new bit of make-up waiting to be shown off; this rather lovely Indian summer put a spanner in the works in one respect but in another offered an opportunity to show off the expensive tan.
It’s back to my usual working hours next week when my son starts full days so I will probably be in my work clothes when I collect him in the afternoon. I always dress smartly for work so that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about. As for the upkeep of highlights, tan and glutes, well I couldn’t be better placed, surrounded as I am by hair salons, beauty parlours and chi-chi gyms. And if the pressure all gets too much then I shall simply buy myself five fabulous workout outfits and keep them for wearing on the school run. No-one will ever know I’m going straight home to change and eat pastries.