Many of us leave our children behind to be cared for by nannies or in-laws or our own parents so that we can spend our days at work. This process has become so routine for me that most days I don’t even think about it anymore. When the alarm goes off early in the morning, I wake up, brush, pack my gym bag, rush downstairs to let the dog out, set up breakfast, and then do a few last minute things before rushing back upstairs to get the kids ready. Days my husband has an early meeting, I’m on my own (and on days I do, he is on his own). We get the kids up, brushed, fed and dressed.
This year, my oldest started Jr K. His school is in the next town over, and since we can’t brave the bay area traffic to drive out there and make it to work on time, he takes the school bus. It’s tough for him – at the tender age of four, his morning starts at 6am and isn’t over until he arrives back at the bus stop (usually fast asleep) at 4:30pm. Do I wish it didn’t have to be this way? Yes – but some of it is my fault. We moved to a new city and I didn’t get him registered into a new school in time. The waitlists were crazy and this was the only school we had for him to go to. Part of it was him – he wanted to stay with his friends in the old school.
Yesterday, I stayed home from work due to jet lag recovery. I called up the school to let them know that I’ll pick my son myself at 2:20pm. No need for him to ride the bus. I pulled up at 2:30pm to pick him up and he was so happy to see me. He jumped into the car and told me all about his school day: they learned to write the letter “S” and the number “5” and did jumping jacks in PE. And then came the question that I was dreading, “Mommy, can you pick me up everyday?”
When I heard those words leave his mouth, I literally lost it. How do you tell someone so young, yet so significant, that you would love more than anything to pick him up every day, but you just can’t because you have to be at work. I told him, “Oh sweetie, I wish I could pick you up everyday. But I’ll pick you up any day that I can, and the other days you’ll catch the school bus. And mommy or daddy will be on the other side to pick you up – always.”
I don’t know why this moved me so deeply. Maybe having been a child in a dual income family I could relate with him more deeply – when I was little one of the things I used to crave the most was my mom picking me up from school, right when it was over – not after day care. She tried so hard to make it happen, but the reality is the workplace hasn’t changed that much even since that day. Picking up our children everyday when they end school just isn’t something that’s going to happen for most of us. But we have to get over it.
I told my husband what happened and his take on it was so interesting. “Oh, that’s so cute. Well, we can’t becuase we have to be at work.”
So matter of fact, so resolute. No sadness, no longing. It just was what it was.
Considering working is something I must do, and picking up my child every day at 2:30 just won’t happen, I better figure out how to pick up some of my husband’s sensibility. But my four year old son doesn’t ask for much, so I still do wish I could pick him up.
Have Kids, Will Work