School run – how to deal with the most-stressful time of a parent’s day

The dreaded school run. If you’re a parent doing in day in and day out, you know just how madly stressful it can be. And often time, a run it is. But never in a good way. We’re in December – it’s freezing cold here in the UK, and getting up in the dark in the mornings is plain hard for most of us, children included. The Christmas holidays are close. We’re nearly at the home stretch with the end of the Autumn term. It’s time to review how well (or not so well) we’ve done since school started in September.

So in the spirit of finding out whether it’s just me who finds the school run so stressful (and flies out of the house like a mad woman with 3 children in tow every morning), I’ve asked other fellow parents.

  • What makes the school run so stressful?
  • What do we say on repeat Every. Single. Day?
  • And most importantly, how can we make this process less stressful for ourselves and our children?

School run - how to make the school run less stressful.

Do we need any proof that the school run is stressful?

Every morning, we have to get ourselves and X amount of children ready, with the correct amount of belongings, and out of the door for a certain time. Cleaned, clothed, and fed. (Not necessarily in this order?) There are a million factors that make the morning school run super-stressful:

  • Finding the right uniform/book bag/backpack/packed lunch/shoes etc. for the right child.
  • Sleepy children taking their time getting ready.
  • Children not wanting to get their hair done – luckily I don’t have this problem – or not wanting to brush their teeth.
  • Parents pouring the wrong cereal in the breakfast bowl. Wait, cereal? “I said I wanted toast.”
  • Children fighting for the remote control (“because it’s not fair – he watched football yesterday. Now it’s my turn”).
  • Parents leaving things to the last minute (hello everyone – I’m Sara, and I’m a recovering mum-who-leaves-things-to-the-last-minute).
  • Children not putting their socks/shoes/coats on. Honestly, hands down, this is the hardest thing in the world to do.
  • Children starting to play with their toys when you’ve been saying “Put your shoes on” on repeat for the last 10 minutes.
  • Children needing the toilet when you’re just getting out. (Let’s not even talk about younger siblings needing a feed or nappy change at the time too).
  • Forgetting the PE kit/book bag/homework/filled in form for tomorrow’s school trip.
  • Running late because of all of the above.

Should I carry on?

Oh but don’t just take my word for it.ADD_THIS_TEXT

School run delay tactics: dawdling, hiding, and distractions

Emma from Ready Freedie Go says: “My son is brilliant at dawdling. It’s just a constant chase to get ready. I say every single day “Freddie, come on, we are going to be late” Every. Single. Day. Freddie likes to ride on the pushchair, and so to keep my sanity I let him. He can watch the world go by while I razz him to nursery! Win-win!”

Pete from Household Money Saving says: “Why ask anything once, when you can ask 10 times? My kids are distracted by anything, although mainly each other. Then you’ll tell them to hurry up, and one of them will start crying, which slows the whole process down even further! I let a lot more things pass in the morning just to make my life easier.”

I hear you Pete!

Victoria from Lylia Rose says: “It’s the worst here! It doesn’t matter how early we get up or get prepared, everything goes wrong when I try to leave the house. Today my 2-year-old wet himself just as we opened the door to leave! If it’s not that, then the children will hide from me, hide their shoes, or we’ll have forgotten to pack a sports kit!”

Yep, I know the feeling. 

School run dramas: hair, shoes and coats

Frances from Whinge Whinge Wine says: “Getting them to get their b**ody shoes on. I swear I spend more time yelling at them to do that than almost anything else EVER!”

Don’t believe us about the shoes?

Check out this post from Nicole from Tales from Mamaville – she gives us a little insight into the everyday school conversations involving shoes and coats in particular, here.

Cathryn from Cardiff Mummy Says tells us: “The school run can be exhausting! I often feel like I have run a marathon before I’ve even left the house! Every day I feel like I ask my children a thousand times to put their shoes on – and they act like it is a complete surprise! So I have stopped asking them more than once now. Nothing like me walking out the door to spur them into action.”

Beth from Twinderelmo says: “Brushing the girls’ hair is a WAR! They absolutely hate having it done, and it’s super stressful, so it always ends up looking awful. Also – why does it always rain dead on 3pm?!”

This is the bit where I feel like I can’t complain, having 3 boys with short hair. But yes, why does it rain at 3pm?

School run stress: the younger sibling(s)

Carla from Random Thoughts of Twenty Something says: “One of my biggest challenges of the school run with being a parent to more than one child is when one child is poorly and having to drag them out of the house for the sake of getting the others to school on time. I am always wary of the danger of vomit that may or may not occur along the route, on public transport, or on school grounds. So far I’ve only managed to avoid a child being sick on the playground!”

That has to be up there with the main stressors, right? On par with poonamis or the toilet-training sibling(s) wetting themselves. Or worse.

Sarah from Mummy Cat Notes says: “It all depends on what sort of night we had with the youngest. Sometimes we’re up so late that it’s a mad rush getting the older two dressed and ready for school. We have the same arguments every day about cleaning up the toys they’ve picked out in the morning. I do find however that if we lay out all the clothes ready the night before everything goes a lot smoother.”

School run nightmares: multi-drop off’s

Rose from Bella and Bear says: “I do two different primary schools (one for my nanny job!), and I usually forget things and have to go back!”

Donna from The Sleep Thief’s Mummy says: “Multi-drop off’s – it’s a frigging nightmare having to drop two kids off at opposite ends of town.”

Can’t think of anything worse!School run - how to deal with the most stressful time of a parent's day. Mind your Mamma

School run tips from wise parents

Give them charts and clear instructions

Rebecca from KiZmetcaVa shares her top tips for being ready for the school run without the stress, here. Let me add, if you have a driven, competitive child who likes to get things done and tick them off, this may be just the trick for you!

Rebecca from The Ish Mother says: “It’s often those last 5-10 minutes, when just getting coats and shoes on seem to be impossible. And my daughter will no doubt suddenly remember something she NEEDS to do before she goes – such as take her doll to ‘doll school’ in her bedroom – really essential, of course! And I inevitably start saying, ‘We should have left five minutes ago!’ I created a chart with the things she has to do to get ready – if she fills in the chart before 8am, then there’s time for TV before we leave. It sometimes works…”

Plan ahead

Getting things ready the night before (or in advance) seems to be the top tip here.

Louise from Pink Pear Bear says: “I find the entire thing a battle since my daughter has decided she hates school! The worst things are finding the uniform. I find myself saying constantly ‘I told you to take it off and put it all in the same place. How is your jumper in the kitchen, your trousers in the bathroom, and your shirt on the bookshelf?!‘ This is closely followed by hair brushing – it’s a nightmare. I’m just thinking to myself how boring it is to go through the same thing daily! To make it easier I try and make sure everything is ready the night before and keep my daughter’s hair plaited to prevent tangles.”

Nice trick with the hair there, Louise!

Jade from Jade’s long journey says: “Everyday I have an argument on why my son needs to get up. It’s much easier if I have something to make it sound fun, like after-school clubs or (now) the advent calendar. He takes about 2 years to eat breakfast, so I’m constantly repeating myself saying: ‘Hurry up!’, and I do a time countdown, which sort of helps. I have to lay his clothes out for him, and then I tell him: ‘Your trousers are back to front.’ Yep, every day he puts them on backwards! To make this a little easier, I prepare his book bag and school bits the night before and leave coats in the car.”

If you organise things in advance, you can potentially take ALL the stress away from the situation. Emma from Bubba Blue and Me says: “I don’t find it stressful. My tip is just run mornings like a military operation. I know what I have to do by when, and I prepare as much as possible the night before.”ADD_THIS_TEXT

Set an alarm (or more than one!)

Check this out.

Elaine from Entertaining Elliot says: “I find we are always rushing about regardless of how early I get up! I lay my son’s clothes out for him, and I put shoes and book bag by the front door! I aim to be ready for 8:30am and then that allows a bit of faffing for getting shoes on, the baby in the buggy etc. We have an alarm that goes off at 8:40am, and we have to Go Go Go then!”

Kate from Five Little Stars says: “We are ALWAYS late. So I set lots of alarms on my phone which remind me what we should be doing when. We have an alarm for getting dressed, an alarm to go down for breakfast, an alarm to get shoes and coats on, and an alarm to get in the car to leave! The last alarm is a dog barking. The kids know that’s the last one, and they always react well to it (we love dogs!)”

And again, Cathryn from Cardiff Mummy Says: “Two things help me:

  • getting myself up 20-30 minutes before everyone else so I can get myself ready before I have to concentrate on them;
  • setting an alarm 10 minutes before we actually need to leave and by which time they know they need to be ready. The alarm seems to work really well with them and has helped us massively.”

Let me share this very important life lesson with you guys. If you hear the same advice twice or more, do it!

I’m setting an alarm from tomorrow.

Leave early

Emily from Slummy Mummy says: “Guaranteed – if I go early and walk or wait until later and drive, 100%, the baby will need a feed. If the others are in their shoes and coats at this point they shed them all. I’ve taken to arrive at the school half an hour before everyone else, so I can sit in the car or the playground to nurse.”

My friend Hayley from Mission Mindfulness Blog says: “Our eldest HATES being what he perceives as ‘late’ for school – in fact, we are never really late, but he likes to be the first in the classroom, and that’s just not always possible when one of my 2-year-old twins decides she doesn’t want to get her coat on, doesn’t want to get dressed, or needs a poo! He gets really wound up and stands at the door telling us all to hurry up.

It used to really stress me out, but now I try desperately to empathise with him (I’m sure he gets this from me anyway), and I remind myself that it’s great that he wants to be punctual and loves school to want to get there to get on with his learning. I also aim to leave the house at 8.40am, even though we would still be fine if we left at 8.55am! But I try and remember to breathe when the twins are being particularly 2-year-old ish!!!!”

I don’t have twins Hayley, but I totally get all that.

Home organising hacks

And last but not least, Clare from Wild Mama – Wild Tribe shared something out-of-this-world A-M-A-Z-I-N-G here. Tell me you love this as much as I do? I’m going to start working on convincing The Husband we need one of these.

So here we are.

Do YOU find the school run stressful? Are there any tips you’d like to share? 

As always, I’d love it if you wanted to get in touch and get involved in the conversation over on Instagram. And if you’re up for weekly doses of information and extra value about the topics I write about on my blog, make sure you join below! There’s a lovely freebie waiting for you too! 


  1. Emma
    9th December 2017 / 11:34 am

    Great post! I need to start getting organised the night before!

    • Sara
      10th December 2017 / 2:40 pm

      So do I! To be fair, I do that sometimes, but not if I’m too tired to!

  2. Jaimee
    2nd February 2018 / 8:38 am

    I will be here in a few years (currently have a 13mo boy) and the mornings are already hectic for us trying to get daddy out the door while distracting my son so he doesn’t start screaming, while the cats are meowing for their morning meal…I think mornings are always chaotic and we don’t even have the school run yet!
    Definitely bookmarking this post because I will need all the help I can get when that time comes – love the idea of setting things out at night so it’s (a little) easier in the morning!

    • Sara
      2nd February 2018 / 10:34 am

      Thank you Jaimee – yes, I can relate! Even when my children were little and in nursery mornings were always manic! Glad you found some good tips!

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