Why I've had enough of school dress up days

Dress up days: a source of stress for parents.
Dress up days: a source of stress for parents. Photo: Getty Images

I looked at the school newsletter in disbelief.  Next Friday is "Footy Colours Day" and the Wednesday after is "Multicultural Dress Up Day".  
A few weeks ago we had "Crazy Hair Day" and of course, "Book Week" costume day, like most schools around Australia.  

I'm over it. I am completely costumed out. Why do my kids have a school uniform if every other day they need to wear something else?

Here's a terrible confession: I'm one of those shoddy women who cannot sew.  I go to Spotlight and feel like a fraud. I see your Pinterest boards of creative ideas and feel inferior. It's not that my mother didn't attempt to teach me - she was a talented dressmaker, as was her mother before her. But despite her best efforts to hand this skill on to another generation, I can barely attach a button and I'm the reason they invented iron-on hemming.  Whenever I can, I buy costumes for my kids off the internet.  But multiple times per term is getting beyond the pale.

Even if I could sew, there's another little impediment called "being a working mother" that makes it very difficult to jump through these hoops over and over again every other week.   

I am extremely lucky that I work for myself, running a small business from home. It means I am fortunate I can drop everything to do the school pick up every day and run my kids to their after school activities. I can pop out in the middle of the day to attend things at school more often than not. If I had a regular boss in a regular corporate job I would not be so fortunate.  

But the demands of being a small business owner and mum to two school aged kids and a toddler mean I am extremely time-poor and trying to cobble costumes together usually with a week's notice or less isn't something I have made time for in advance in my hectic schedule.  And short notice doesn't help me buy things off the Internet.  Never mind the cost and waste.

The Footy Colours Day is a challenge I have encountered before because despite the fact I live deep inside the state of Victoria, I am an expat New South Welshman and have no interest whatsoever in AFL. Gasp! As a result, neither do my children.  I have sent them in previous years dressed in colours they like that may or may not resemble those worn by a football team. All that has achieved is them being picked on by other kids because I won't fork out lots of money for an official AFL jersey for them to wear one day a year to fit in.

Multicultural Dress Up Day is a new one for our school. I have no multicultural costumes just lying around the house. Believe me, I have racked my brain trying to come up with something. I was born overseas, in Scotland, and despite what every kid who picked on me during my school years would have you believe, I don't have kilts and bagpipes on hand around the house.  The best I've come up with is an adult t-shirt that looks like a long maternity dress on my teeny little girls that says "Canada" on it. That still leaves me a costume short.

There's an episode of The Simpsons where Homer attempts to make a rubber costume in the shape of Florida for Lisa.  Lisa gets a special award because Principal Skinner feels sorry for her and decides she clearly had no parental help making her costume whatsoever. I'm quite certain that's how my efforts are viewed at my kids' school.  You know, among those for whom parenting has become a sport of one-upmanship.

Every one of you thinking of telling me I'm a killjoy and a bad mother, I'd just like you to realise that for some families, constant events, constant demands, constant needs for costumes and other special items to be sent to school is extremely difficult and intrusive. And dare I say it, unaffordable for some families too.

For my school, at least, we just need more balance and more notice. Maybe twice a year - and enough notice for costumes I buy off eBay to arrive.