Time-wasting whinges from other parents, patronising PTA reminders and irritating pleas for Milly’s lost cardie… Spare me the tyranny of the school WhatsApp
- The worst thing about a new term is the tyranny of the school WhatsApp group
- A communal chat linking parents with kids in same class should be a godsend
- Usually the stream of pointless messages makes me want to tear my hair out
Ping. ‘Does anyone know if our ‘Meet The Teachers’ session is tonight or tomorrow?’ Frantically I rummage in the cupboard for a raincoat my eight-year-old hasn’t grown out of over the summer.
Ping. ‘I put it in my diary last term. It’s definitely tonight.’
My ten-year-old can’t find the sparkly water bottle with his initials on. Where have I put it? He hates the other one.
Yet another ping. ‘No, it’s tomorrow. I’ve got the letter here. Hang on, I’ll take a picture of it. Here you go.’
Ping, ping, ping.
Welcome to the worst thing about being a mother near the start of a new term: the relentless tyranny of the school WhatsApp group (File image)
With just three minutes to go until we need to leave for the school run, my youngest son wants help with his laces and my daughter’s hair looks like a bird’s nest.
Oh, and I have 25 unread messages on my phone.
Welcome to the worst thing about being a mother near the start of a new term: the relentless tyranny of the school WhatsApp group.
A communal chat linking parents who have children in the same class should be a godsend. But more often than not, the stream of pointless, daft, hectoring or passive-aggressive messages makes me want to tear my hair out.
During the first few weeks back, it reaches fever pitch, with an avalanche of messages arriving before I’ve even had my first cup of tea.
There are 24 pings about Bikeability (‘Are they meant to be wearing PE kit to do it?’ ‘Did you not see the letter about it? Has anyone got a spare bike Freddie can use?’), which, as my autistic son can’t even ride a bike, really grate.
Later on, a cardigan is left at school. Big mistake.
‘Has anyone seen Milly’s red cardigan? It’s brand new.’
Around 30 unhelpful replies in the negative ending with, ‘Hope you find it’, follow in quick succession. Why can’t they just reply privately?
The urgent flurry continues with questions about the second-hand uniform sale, how to sign up for dance club, who is ill that day, what the login is for Microsoft Teams and so on and on, into the black hole of eternity.
My husband, Dom, has somehow managed to dodge joining any of these groups and, after years of school runs, still doesn’t know anyone’s names anyway. Ignorance is bliss as far as he is concerned.
The urgent flurry continues with questions about the second-hand uniform sale, how to sign up for dance club, who is ill that day, what the login is for Microsoft Teams and so on and on, into the black hole of eternity (File image)
The pecking order and hierarchy of mums takes me, with a shudder, back to my own school days.
There’s the PTA mum, or ‘class rep’, who always organises the teacher’s present (for which I am genuinely, if begrudgingly, grateful) and who knows everyone and everything. She photographs letters and emails from the school and sends them to the group.
She is the CEO of the class mums and dads and I am secretly envious of her. She takes it upon herself, unbidden, to remind us lesser mortals of upcoming events.
‘Don’t forget your children are supposed to wear yellow and blue today to support Ukraine!’ PTA mum messages just as I am shoving my kids out the door in their usual uniforms. ‘And there’s tea and cake in the hall after school to raise funds. I’ve just made a carrot cake and a couple of banana loaves. Who else is bringing one?’ she trills.
Then there is the mum who is never happy with anything and who uses the group to vent her concerns. Her messages usually start with a crisp, ‘I’m not being funny, but…’ and end with an, ‘I’m going to make a complaint.’
As in: ‘I’m not being funny, but does anyone know why they’ve stopped letting the kids take snacks in? Leticia hates those rice cakes they’ve been giving them. I’m going to make a complaint.’
Every now and then the school gets wind of her latest gripe and includes in the newsletter a snarky note about speaking to the heroic school secretary if parents have any concerns.
There are also the parents whose kids are always ill. ‘Horatio has a temperature of 40c. Do you think I should still send him in?’
A lengthy debate on the pros and cons of Calpol and details of Rebecca’s sickness bug follows. All before 7.30am.
There is the mum who uses the chat as an emotional support group. An aggrieved Mumsnetter described one parent’s messages as being ‘like a Greek tragedy’, with dozens of posts about how fast their child is growing up and how she is not ready for it.
And let’s not forget the ghost parents you have never heard of and who you never see at school. Their questions create an almost audible eyeroll from the group.
‘Do you know what time school finishes today?’
Er, 3:30pm, the same as every other day.
And there’s the odd clueless dad (sorry, dads) who never knows what’s going on — ‘When did they change the uniform?!’ — and whom the PTA mum takes under her wing.
It’s no wonder that there are sub-groups, set up in secret usually to rant about one particular mother who’s annoyed everyone, or to arrange clandestine pub trips (File image)
One friend told me of a vocal anti-vaxxer mum who tried to organise a protest outside school during the Covid jab roll-out, which caused a furore on Facebook and led to an intervention from the head.
Another friend told me about the time a mum of a child in her six-year-old’s class accidentally posted very risqué bikini shots from her holiday in Marbella, much to the joy of the token dad in the group.
‘If I’m allowed to say it, you’re looking mighty fine, Sasha.’
In any less frantic existence, this rich tapestry of humanity would be amusing. But, most of the time, I’m simply too busy and too knackered to appreciate it.
Instead, something which should connect time-stretched mums and create a sense of community and camaraderie simply becomes another source of resentment and frustration, one more distraction.
So it’s no wonder that there are sub-groups, set up in secret usually to rant about one particular mother who’s annoyed everyone, or to arrange clandestine pub trips.
‘Why does she think it’s OK to order us all to bring in cakes? Does she think we’ve got nothing better to do?!’ they lament over a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
Good for them. But the parents who truly leave me in awe are the ones who abruptly leave the group without so much as a parting shot. When I pounced on one such brave soul at the school gates the other day to tell her how much I admired her, she shrugged nonchalantly.
There is the mum who uses the chat as an emotional support group. An aggrieved Mumsnetter described one parent’s messages as being ‘like a Greek tragedy’, with dozens of posts about how fast their child is growing up and how she is not ready for it (File image)
‘What pushed you over the edge?’ I asked.
‘Well, put it this way, I couldn’t give a toss about Rosie losing her PE skirt for the fourth time, or the cryptic message Sarah deleted before anyone could screenshot it and ask, ‘Are you OK, hun?’,’ she replied.
Well, quite. I wish I could do the same. But the thing is, and here is my confession, every now and then I’m the hapless one who needs to beg for spare carrots for Charlie to take to food tech. Or who simply cannot find the email which confirmed what time the coach is returning from that sports match.
With three kids at two different schools, I can’t always keep up — particularly at the start of the year. And for every 300 messages that make me want to lob my phone at the wall, there will be one or two that are invaluable.
So I’m stuck in this purgatory until my final child leaves school, years from now.
In the meantime, there is one source of solace to keep me sane: the mute button.
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