Look, Kid, I’m Not the Cafeteria Lady or Custodian!

After teaching for years, I know 3 people “run” the schools – the front office secretary, the head cafeteria worker, and the head custodian! If you are not in good with those 3 people, you can forget it!

It doesn’t matter if you are BFFs with the principal, every wise seasoned teacher knows who to go to when things need to get done and the rubber meets the road.

Since March of 2020, I miss these people in my life! I’m still teaching, but it has come to my attention that I need a secretary, a cook, and a clean-up crew.

Back in the early days of quarantining, I cooked a wonderful healthy breakfast before school started and a hot lunch during my “planning” periods. I wanted to make sure that the girls did not go without, and I really did want them to feel the love in a prepared meal. We cleaned if time permitted, but usually, that meant cleaning late at night or some weekends.

Of course, that lasted about 2 weeks.

Then there was nothing!

The girls were eating cereal for breakfast and sometimes even lunch. I needed HELP!

I eventually came up with a system that seemed to work. Here are a few things I did, because, kid, I am not the cook or maid!

#1 Make a “Bell” Schedule

Don’t allow your situation to make you and your child lazy.

Treat each day like you are leaving to go to work and school. That means eating breakfast and cleaning (together) by a certain time. Don’t tolerate your child going to school in their pajamas! Starting the day with a lazy mindset will keep them in a lazy state of mind!

Wake up and get going.

Also, shut things DOWN at a certain time. Do not allow your kids to go into the kitchen between each class. They will eat you out of a house and home and expect you to buy more!

#2 Clean-Up Day

Whatever happened to Saturday clean up days? I remember waking up to the smell of Pine-Sol. My mom would put on her golden oldies of the ’60s and we would dance and clean.

Having a “clean up day” should include laundry (don’t forget to iron and lay out their clothes for the next week). Every age can help with laundry. Little ones can separate light and dark clothes and match socks. Older kids can really do it all with your supervision.

Your head custodian would tackle the toilets every day! You and your child can at least do it once a week.

Put the music on and get to work! Together!

#3 Meal Prep

Most cafeterias and school nutritional programs have made their plans for meals months ahead of time.

Now that this job is yours, decide how far in advance you want to prep for lunch. Put that menu up right next to your “bell schedule” and stick to it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed having my girls pick one meal a week that they want to prepare from my countless collection of cookbooks. We then use the leftovers from their meals as hot lunches.

Why not bag your lunches and label them in the fridge for the week? Depending on your child’s age, have them assist you on Saturday or Sunday with those lunches.

A few hours of preparation before the school week gets started will save on time and stress during the week.

#4 Refuse to Do It for Them

If your kids are like mine, if you tell them you are not going to do something, they may try you or test you to see if you really meant what you said. But if you stick to your guns and refuse to do it, they will believe you.

If the kids are too busy to remember to fix their lunch, have a “ration” lunch on the side ready for them. An apple and a bottle of water may be just enough to remind them to prepare their lunch when you tell them to.

#5 Decide What’s Important

Does it mean more to you to have a clean kitchen by the end of a school day or kids that have focused on their studies and learned their lessons? Of course, I will take the latter on that one. But I also know that there is more to life than learning sentence structure and linear equations.

Children need to understand that life doesn’t stop because situations change. If their assistance is needed to keep things moving, have them pitch in and do their part.

The bottom line is that you can’t do it all, so don’t!

Stay tuned…

If it seems like your workload may make you lose your mind a little, ask for help from your little ones.

“The Middle”, by Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey, brings light to this idea!


Traci D. Fuller, Pearls and Pretty Pens © 2021

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