‘Not a failure’: You do what it takes to get through your child's first week of school

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves

"I hate the thought of them going back to school," the Work Wife says. "It makes me feel like such a failure at organisation."

She is not a failure at organisation. Not remotely. She is a woman at the helm of a big career made up of various strands, a marriage, two small children, the running of a home for them all. And yet I know what she means instantly. The thought of the return to school and all it entails. The getting there on time. With all the equipment. The homework. The packing of the school bag. The helping your child deal with it all. The lunchbox.

Related: 'One more kiss and watch them walk away':
The emotion of starting Big School


The goddamn lunchbox. Better women than us may well be broken by the lunchbox.

"The bloody shots of lunchboxes on Instagram," another friend says, and we agree that it might be best to just avoid social media for the week, for fear of being pushed over the edge into a sense of failing already at the sight of one too many multi-compartmented lunchboxes full of brightly coloured, perfectly chopped peppers, carrots and hummus.

I tried really hard

So many hurdles to surmount. So much to potentially fail at. And then to beat yourself up about afterwards.

I know it is common, if not almost inevitable to feel a deep sense of failure when your marriage breaks down. A sense of failure that is laced with shame.

For some reason, I never felt it, that sense of failure. We tried, we really did. So maybe it’s partly that. And the fact that nothing which produced the best child in the world (fact), could feel like a failure.

"You’re getting so many jellies after school..."


But also I just don’t see the point of it. I don’t feel like a failure. I feel like someone who tried really hard, and then managed when it eventually didn’t work. That’s not failure. Others might see it as such, but I won’t be fitting myself with that particular yoke.

Or maybe I am in deep denial. Either way, if something very big in your life has failed (for want of a better word), then you do not fear little failures. In fact, you don’t really see them as failures. You stop thinking that things have to be, or go, a certain way, for it to be okay. And that anything else is failure. And you don’t expect perfection from yourself or your life.

First week

For us, this wasn’t the first week back, this was the first week starting. I set the bar of success low. Get through the first week of Big School.

"Give them whatever they need to have energy for the day," a friend whose husband is an actual scientifically qualified food person, says, and I pack in the stuff I know she will eat, rather than the peppers and carrots I have bought in advance, to chop. We promise McDonald's for lunch, and when she falters that first morning, I whisper in her ear, "you’re getting so many jellies after school."

We go to pick her up on the first day and I think if she comes out crying that is fine. She doesn’t, and it’s great, but it would have been fine either way.

Photo: Element5 Digital via Unsplash


Read more: Back to School: How to get your child into a good bedtime routine

Read more: Starting over: How to put your life back together after divorce

Read more: How to deal with an anxious child at back-to-school time

The image newsletter