For Martine McCutcheon, the school run is best tackled with positivity and a great playlist. The Love Actually actress and her musician husband Jack McManus have their hands full with their son Rafferty, who turned seven this February.
We caught up with Martine for our Back to School digital issue, guest-edited by Alesha Dixon, to find out about how she keeps on top of everything, why she thinks downtime is so important, and the songs that get the family going in the mornings…
The typical school run goes something like this…
My typical school run normally consists of getting Rafferty in the car and him asking me for my phone so that he can put on his favourite music.
We make sure that he's got everything, bundling him into the car with extra bags if he's got P.E. that day, and it's just funny because you can barely see him for the stuff that he needs now that he's getting bigger and bigger. Then we ask him about what he's got going on that day just to make sure that he knows and to affirm it all in my head.
In the meantime, either myself or Jack will be driving. I'm normally also looking at emails that I've got to deal with that day to do with work or seeing what we've got on that day after the school run. So it's very much a time for us where we're just getting all our heads together just to see where we're all at.
The family has lots of fun whenever they're on the go!
We prepare for the school run by…
It's really quite chaotic. But the thing that I always just try and do is make sure that his homework and his books and all the kit that he needs are ready the night before and then the bags are literally ready by the door and I can't miss them.
I'd say get the books, the stationery, the extra-curricular activities stuff, the sportswear, get all of that ready the night before and then things like the food you can prepare fresh on the day. I think that's the best way. So you can just make it as stress-free for them and for you as possible because they feed off of you at the end of the day.
Martine and her musician husband, Jack, take turns to drive Rafferty to school
To motivate Rafferty when he’s having one of those days, we…
Always think of something that he's going to love and he's going to like. So I'll say, 'Oh, you know what, we can watch that film tonight that you like, Google it on Mummy's phone on the way to school and you can tell me which one it is,' and he'll talk about the film on his way to school. Or we'll say, 'You can DJ all the way to school today and I won't pick a song today.'
As much as people say don't give in to that, I think that in reality, when you're actually doing it day in, day out, it's so important to pick your battles if they're upset or a bit stressed out. Distraction is a really good thing as long as they've got it in a positive way.
The family try to make laughter and fun a key part of their mornings
Our family’s favourite songs when we’re on the go are…
We've always got music playing in the car. We're always fighting to play the next song.
I would say if it was Jack, he still really likes the Dua Lipa Elton John song, he really liked that collaboration, so he would probably choose something like that. I like a song called You are the Universe by The Brand New Heavies, it’s a really positive, upbeat song and no matter what mood you wake up in, it makes you go: ‘Oh yeah, I'm going out there. The world is there for me, not against me!’ If you're in a great mood it affirms it and if you’re not, it helps you turn it around a bit, which is lovely.
At the moment, Rafferty loves Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars and he’s obsessed with Bugsy Malone as well, he likes the song Bad Guys.
The family plays upbeat songs to get everyone going in the mornings
To wind down after a busy morning, I like to…
I just make sure that I come back and at some point through that day, even if it's half an hour, I'll have that time to meditate or just rest or just breathe or just be silent or have a bath. Just something that calms the nervous system down and calms me down as a result.
As a mum, the minute there's a chink in the chain of life, it's important, I think, to just calm down, take stock and just think about what's the simplest way forward for me. I just always think about what's going to be the most productive way of doing things with the least amount of effort or stress.
Martine recommends meditation for a bit of me-time
If I could give any advice to parents starting the school run this September, it would be…
Make it fun. Talk to them in a positive and encouraging way about their day. Anything that you think they might be worried about, tackle it with personality and love and support and just let them know that, whatever happens, it's going to be a great day. They're going to make friends and it doesn't matter if everything's not perfect on their first day.
Talk to them and set the tone for how you want it to be for your kids and how they want it to be. It's going to be such a big part of their lives going forward so it's just good if you set the tone. I think they can take a little bit of that into school with them.
Like this story? Sign up to the HELLO! Family Hub newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.