What’s the one thing about back to school that’s hard for your family? Last week, Katie shared her struggles around making lunches -- and her clever ABCD lunch planner solution. Another major problem for parents: transportation. Todd G. works on our creative team. This week, he shares how shuttling his kids to all their activities was wreaking havoc on family time. But with a little help, they were able to get on track.
The trouble started when our kids’ dance and basketball schedules overlapped. We had been doing fine until then, but then suddenly my son and daughter were expected in different places at exactly the same time. Umm…
With all the back-to-school chaos that could possibly derail our family’s finely tuned schedule, the logistics of getting our elementary school-aged kids where they needed to go stumped us the most. With only a handful of after-school activities, the kids’ schedules weren't particularly crazy. But with my wife, Jen, and I working full time, we realized there was no way we could do it all.
The hectic pace of racing home from work, packing the kids in the car, driving 30 minutes to an activity, waiting until the activity ended (usually while frantically catching up on work) and making the long trip home was relentless. By the time we got home, it was usually 8 or 9 at night. The kids were hungry and one of us frantically threw together some kind of dinner. This just wasn’t manageable.
What we really needed an extra set of hands -- and wheels. So we hired someone to drive the kids to and from their after-school activities.
Mary, a teacher, became our engine. She got us back on track -- fast. Mary shuttled our kids around, but was more than just an extra driver. She also made after-school snacks for the kids and helped them with their homework. My wife and I could finish our workday and not have to leave early and then work late into the night to catch up on those lost hours. Her constant reliability made our whole family run smoother and we could actually enjoy time together at night.
There was also an unexpected benefit. Apparently all of our rushing and stressing over timetables was trickling down to our kids, making them anxious as well. Now they didn’t have to fear being late because I was stuck in traffic or Jen’s conference call ran over. Their stress levels went way down, they had more time to focus on homework and they even had the freedom to sign up for activities we couldn't have coordinated otherwise.
As a family, getting help with transportation gave us the gift of time. (You can hire your own helper on Care.com.) But if hiring someone isn’t for you, there are lots of carpooling options for parents. Compare schedules with other parents. Can you take over pick-up duty if another parent can do drop offs? Or maybe alternating weeks would work best (especially helpful if another parent travels).
Our kids are older now (my oldest is even driving!), but I am grateful for the calm Mary’s help restored and for the subtle ways she made our lives easier, my kids less stressed and our family time better.