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Don’t ask WhatsApp

Millions of messages, and sick of it

Hot House

This article is taken from the May 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Another May, another summer term — and another parents’ WhatsApp group. How many of these effing groups do I have? One for each of the kids’ three schools, naturally. One for each child’s class, obviously. One for various after-school activities, inevitable. Another for fellow parents of children with dyscalculia.

A new one for every single birthday party, complete with musical montage of photos of said party afterwards — guilty. A specific group just for each child’s best friend, and their social arrangements with this other child.

Now, a separate WhatsApp group for Hector’s class (still primary age) purely for the purpose of discussing how we plan to control their future hypothetical smartphone use. This — in some kind of dystopian nightmare — is the most active group yet.

Not a morning goes by without another link circulating on the damage wrought by social media, the shocking effect of smartphone use on attention, the mental havoc wrought by scrolling. We have even had a group discussion on how to curtail the kids’ attempts to start WhatsApp chats. Never have I had to mute any group so often.

Can they just get on with the VAT on school fees already and put us all out of our misery?

Meanwhile, how many parent WhatsApp groups exist in DH’s phone? N.B., that’s “Dear Husband” for the Mumsnet uninitiated. A mere three, one for each school.

Which it took Will years to join, and which he congratulates himself just for belonging to — occasionally sending a cute prayer hands emoji when wellness-influencer mom Jessa “reminds” everyone that she is organising a “healthy bake sale” to raise funds for Hampstead’s most overfunded school.

Speaking of which, can they just get on with the VAT on school fees already and put us all out of our misery? Frankly I’m amazed nobody at any of the schools has suggested starting a WhatsApp group about this, too. Perhaps they’re too afraid, like Will, who’s taking full ostrich approach and refusing to broach the subject with his parents (aka the fee payers).

Other sources of stress and angst as we roll into summer:

  • Distinct possibility of interiors burnout. A real thing. I knew it was bad when I had a nightmare about a new paint colour — “Holt Greige”. I should never have sacked our interior decorator (creative differences over the utility room), naively believing that Farrow & Ball colour consultancy would suffice. It didn’t. I now desperately want Edward Bulmer paint anyway, being less Holt Greige than F&B.
  • Another nanny has quit, citing more creative differences (i.e. my reluctance to let her have her boyfriend stay whilst we’re away). Now facing mad scramble to find someone we can bear to take away with us for half term, to avoid enduring another week en famille — see hell that was our last ski holiday. Will later told me that this comment had made him “genuinely sad”. Which made me genuinely irate.
  • All recent nanny interviews have been sabotaged by Minnie deliberately playing the cello, in a kind of protest. She wanted current nanny to stay, because she fancies the unwelcome boyfriend. A horrifying thought in itself.
  • The cost-of-Kumon crisis. Another real thing.
  • Fact that another A-list Hollywood starlet has moved in round the corner (curse of living in St John’s Wood), meaning I’m doomed to see her walking her pug in ostentatious gym-sunglasses mode when I’m at my roughest — post Hector school run.

Another reason we need a new nanny, preferably live-in. Will’s verdict that said A-lister seemed “really genuine” — apparently because she disposed of dog’s shit and “smiled the whole time”. Genuinely.

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