10 tips for handling the class WhatsApp (and #7 is a hard relate)

Here's everything you need to know before you join the class WhatsApp

A woman smiles while looking at her phone and holding her sleeping baby
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When your child starts school prepare to be invited to join the Class WhatsApp - a kind of unofficial communication hub for the parents. But before you get sucked in, here are a few things you should know...

Once you've bought the best school shoes and shopped for the best back-to-school supplies you can turn your attention to all the things you’re looking forward to when the kids go back to school, like regaining ownership of tech and our phone chargers. But the chances are the re-awakening of the class WhatsApp after six weeks isn’t one of them - assuming it went to sleep in the first place, that is.

As a mum of four, parenting blogger, and author of telling-it-how-it-is parenting memoir Confessions of a Crummy Mummy – The Baby Years I’m used to unashamedly oversharing the truth about motherhood. There isn’t much I haven’t seen – or caught with my bare hands. Yet nothing quite prepared me for being indoctrinated into the class WhatsApp when my child started school.

It doesn’t surprise me when parents liken class WhatsApp groups to being radicalised into a club they don’t want to be part of – and as a first-time parent joining the class WhatsApp can be overwhelming in addition to back-to-school worries.

So, as a reluctant member of not one, not two, but four class WhatsApp groups – and their breakout groups - here are ten things they don’t tell you about the class WhatsApp.

1. Save the name of the parent AND the child

This is the number one golden rule because if you don't, before you know it, they'll be in year three and you'll have been friends with 'Theo's mum' since reception, but you'll have absolutely no idea what her name is. And by then it's way too late to ask. 

Other golden rules include not getting ranty after a glass of wine (or two) and not sharing screengrabs from one WhatsApp group with another. Because it will come back to bite you. Trust me - I know. 

2. Overwhelm is completely normal

“The common issue is the sense of lack of choice a parent may feel as to being a part of the group,” says Anna Mathur, a psychotherapist and bestselling author whose new book Raising a Happier Mother is all about finding balance. 

Image of woman smiling at camera
Anna Mathur

Anna Mathur is a mum of three, psychotherapist, and bestselling author. She's passionate about taking therapy out of the therapy room and sharing her own personal and professional experiences to support mums through motherhood. Her latest book, Raising a Happier Mother, How to Find Balance, Feel Good, and See Your Children Flourish as a Result, will be published on 31st August 2023 (Penguin Life). 

“We have no control over how others use the group. Some may be seeking confirmation of details that have already been communicated elsewhere, some may be seeking to build connection and friendship, some may feel absent within the group whereas others may be prolific in their input. The increasing reliance and expectation on constant communication can feel problematic for many who are struggling with the juggle.”

3. You'll learn what type of mum you are

Of course, someone’s got to be Alpha mum (the chances are she’s the one who set up the class WhatsApp in the first place). And Beta mum (who set up the breakout group/s). And Shouty mum (that’s me, by the way). 

But joining the class WhatsApp group leads to a whole new breed of mums. Like Humblebragging mum (with a homework laminating machine). And Lost Jumper mum (because labelled with a biro doesn’t count, apparently). And Ghost mum (also me, but don’t tell anyone). 

“I’m known as Panic Spreader mum,” says mum-of-one Charlotte proudly. “I’ll ask a question like ‘did anyone know it’s sports day tomorrow?’ and there’ll be a flurry of ‘no?!’ and panic amongst them all.”

Female owner using cell phone and drinking coffee while standing in home office

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. WhatsApp FOMO is an Actual Thing

We might bemoan the class WhatsApp, but the truth is we’ve got FOMO (fear of missing out) too. “It’s the splinter groups that I know I’m not a part of that get me the most,” says mum-of-two Leah. “When a casual reply gets posted in the wrong chat it reminds you that you were NFI [not f***ing invited] so you imagine they have the best chat and you feel left out.”

5. People use language they wouldn't IRL

Like 'hello lovely mammas!' and ‘I’m sooo super excited.’ 

Mum-of-three Mathur explains, “The nuances of body language and facial expressions are absent, and so, therefore, people might find themselves using terminology and language that they might not usually use in real life in order to attempt to build connection. Whilst it might create a stronger feeling of online connection, when we meet those same people at the school gates it can feel hard to navigate the relationship in a way that feels authentic to who we are and how we speak.”

6. Get to grips with blue tick tricks

Did you know that by disabling your ‘message seen’ receipts you can appear involved without actually having to get involved, as opposed to leaving everyone in a limbo land of blue by giving the impression you’ve read a message without acknowledging or replying to it? (Like PTA mum begging for help with the latest fundraiser...)

It took me two whole school years to work that one out! Once disabled, nobody can be *quite* sure whether you’ve read the message or not and if challenged you can legitimately feign ignorance.

7. Only reply about lost shoes if you have them

Nobody wants 29 pointless 'no sorree babes' jamming up their feed, least of all the poor mum seeking the lost jumper/PE kit/left shoe. And if you have to ask what colour the lost jumper is when all 30 jumpers are EXACTLY THE SAME then we can’t be friends.

8. The class WhatsApp isn’t just for parents

You might think it is, but it isn’t. If a teacher has a child at the school the chances are they’re a member too, which is worth bearing in mind before you let rip about the teacher in question without realising they’re also ‘Daisy’s mum' with whom you’ve already hearted comments and exchanged messages. (Although if it turns out they’re ‘Theo’s mum’ that’s actually super helpful).

9. Breaking out of the breakout group's breakout group

Especially if you were added to the breakout group's breakout group without your permission. But don't panic. There's no need to turn into Ghost mum in order to extricate yourself. 

You can break out of the breakout group's breakout group by simply leaving it. And it’s not as scary as it sounds. Your exit will only be seen by the group admin, who didn’t ask if you wanted to be a member in the first place. All’s fair in love and class WhatsApp.

10. You can dish the dirt on the teachers (carefully)

“I like to post little gems from my son,” says mum of one Charlotte. “He came home one day and said the Teaching Assistant had a coke habit. He meant diet coke.” 

If you do dish the dirt, just make sure you remember the final golden rule: what happens in the WhatsApp group, stays in the WhatsApp group.

You'll find lots more back-to-school content in our Back to School Month hub - don't miss Confessions from parents about what they’re most looking forward to once the kids go back to school and 12 expert tips for happy school friendships - for parents as well as kids.

Natalie Brown

Natalie Brown is a freelance journalist, author, and mother of four. She has written about all things parenting for a range of titles including Grazia, The Telegraph, Mail Online, and Woman’s Own