We’re still six weeks away from back-to-school reality and yet I’m already stressing about what’s headed my way: carpool. In case you didn’t know, carpooling sucks. Sure, it means someone else picking up your kids from school every day or two so that you don’t need to schlep. But with it comes endless politics and logistics and, worst of all, other people’s annoying, whiny, misbehaved kids.
For working moms like myself, carpool is just par for the course. But it doesn’t mean we like them. They’re simply one of those necessary evils. Here are some helpful tips for surviving your carpooling duties:
- Bribe ’em with junk food. Okay, so this might upset the other moms in your group. But, really, desperate times call for desperate measures. It was taking my crew of three boys and two girls 20 minutes to get from the schoolyard to my car that was parked 10 feet away. The solution? Telling them about the chocolate-chip granola bars awaiting them in the car. It worked like magic.
- Know that sometimes duty calls. Toronto mom Mia Harris waited a whopping 15 minutes one morning for her carpool buddy’s kid to appear. She honked repeatedly and then finally called the house from her cell phone. The kid’s older brother answered and said, “Oh, sorry, Benji is on the toilet.” As Harris puts it: “We waited 15 minutes for this kid a five-year-old in SK to take a crap! And we were late for school because of him!” This is where zen-like patience comes in handy.
- If your child is sick, you still need to make the trek. There’s nothing worse than braving rush-hour traffic and arriving at your desk, only to get the dreaded phone call from a fellow mom saying her kid’s sick and so she’s not doing carpool that day. That’s exactly what happened to Elisha Major. “As a working parent, you rely on your carpool to help you get your kids to and from school. When you’re carpool doesn’t follow through, you’re in a bind,” she says. “I was stressed out for the rest of the day.” Unless you need to get your child to the doctor stat, suck it up. Think how you’d feel if the situation were reversed.
- Be flexible. Sometimes things come up and you’ll be forced to cancel your big work presentation to grab the kids from school even on a non-scheduled day. That’s just a reality of parenthood. It’s a pain, that’s for sure, but it happens. Go with the flow and know that next time around, the mom who bailed will have your back.
- Get comfortable lying. There’s nothing worse than being parked right behind an ice-cream truck on your carpool days. This happened to me at least three times a week once the weather warmed up. The kids begged and pleaded and screamed for ice cream, and I repeatedly told them I left my wallet at home. By late May they were on to me, but it was good while it lasted. Eventually, I made a deal with the other moms that Friday would be official ice-cream day.
- Have a thick skin. After five years in the same carpool, Emma Rhodes got kicked out of hers. “I was told it wasn’t personal, that this woman wanted to shave 10 minutes off her day and so she found someone closer,” she tells me. “But it still stung. Things have never been the same between us since.”
Last but not least: enjoy the rest of your summer! School will be here before we know it but, for now, there’s nothing like hanging up your chauffeur’s hat and avoiding the car altogether. And know that one day you might be nostalgic for the carpool days, when there are no problems you can’t solve with your own two hands (at least that’s what my older sisters-in-law tell me).
(Photo: Digital Vision)