If you’re having a stressful day because the school shoes you ordered haven’t turned up yet, or you haven’t managed to iron in all the name labels, then spare a thought for Zoe and Ben Sullivan.
Because however hard it is getting two, three – or even four – kids ready for the first day back to school, at least you don’t have to do a spreadsheet and a mid-holiday audit to prepare.
The Sullivans have 11 children, nine of them at school, and three of those starting either primary or secondary for the first time tomorrow.
Here, one of Britain’s Biggest Families has given us a glimpse of the mammoth task of kitting out nine kids for that all-important first day, from polo shirts to plimsolls.
And as a bonus, we get a wee chat with twins Erin and Leah, the family’s P1 new starts.
The Sullivans go back to school
As our picture shows, the Sullivans range in age from Elizabeth, who is now 16 and going into sixth year as a prefect (time for a blazer), to five-year-old twins Erin and Leah, who start school for the first time and need a brand new uniform.
In the middle, Noah, 11, is starting his first year at secondary school, which also needs a new get-up.
Zoe explained: “I have a spreadsheet for back to school. I do an audit halfway through the holidays, and then I know what I need to buy.”
She 43-year-old mum said she hates throwing things away if they have life left in them, so the shopping list isn’t as big as it could be.
She added: “The older ones are quite easy, because they don’t grow as much, they can use stuff from previous years.”
But new schoolbags and jackets virtually all round can add up, even if there is some hand-me-downing to be done for the smaller items.
This year, everybody has had new school shoes, at a cost of about £350. Eight of them have had replacement schoolbags, for about £150, and eight new jackets came to about £300.
As for socks, Zoe warned: “Don’t even go there.”
It all contributes to a staggering £1,200 overall total to get the Sullivan family back to school.
The Sullivan family’s back-to-school regime
Old or new, clothes need to be clean – and Zoe says the washing machine is on three times a day at least in term time.
And it’s not all about the financial side of things – getting everyone ready and out the door is a big job on its own.
Zoe and RAF worker Ben, 46, will be up at 4.45am tomorrow. Ben does the sandwiches and Zoe sorts out the rest of the lunches for the primary-aged kids. The senior school pupils either buy lunch at school or come home.
And if you think Zoe is one of those mums who (understandably) feels a tiny bit of relief at the end of the longest holidays of the year. then you misunderstand her.
She “only” has two at home now – Agnes, four, and two-year-old Joseph.
She said: “I hate it when they all go back to school, it’s so quiet.”