For a brief period of time every school day except Wednesdays, I’m in charge of three kids. The extra voice in our cacophonous crowd is a third grade girl I’ll call Mary, who lives a few blocks away. We shared a bus stop with Mary last year, and over the summer I learned that Mary’s mom had managed to get her work schedule rearranged so she could be home with Mary in the afternoons. She goes in early so she can leave at 3:30, but that’s not quite early enough to meet the bus. So Mary gets off at our stop, and I take her home until her mom can get here to pick her up.

It’s truly no skin off my back, since I have to meet the bus anyway and Mary’s a great kid who Riley and Dylan clearly ADORE. But I know it makes all the difference in the world to Mary’s family, who would otherwise be sending her to after-school care. Local childcare options are tougher than ever, since our school eliminated full-day kindergarten and a neighboring school shut down their before/after-school program. It’s expensive, of course, but I’m not even sure every family who needs it has access to it this year.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever be someone who is completely happy being home full time. Then again, I’ve never once had a job that was 100% rewarding 100% of the time. I’m prone to occasional misgivings and grass-is-greener thinking, but I’m so enormously grateful for my flexibility. I’m grateful to be able to help someone else’s family while taking care of my own.

My brain can so easily get stuck in this self-destructive loop: I feel like nothing I do makes a difference. But god, that isn’t even remotely true.


65 Responses to “On mattering”

  1. jen on September 23rd, 2013 2:34 pm

    Seriously you are amazing for doing that one little thing. As a working mom who has to use the after school option even though he’s only there for 1 1/2 hours (and it is FULL so I was lucky I got his app in early), I can’t tell you how much I would appreciate someone doing that for me. I looked and looked for such an option and found none. And I’m too anti-social chickeny to straight up as a neighbor.

  2. Nicole on September 23rd, 2013 3:50 pm

    Oh my! This brought tears to my eyes! I’m a long-time lurker, but am compelled to comment– this is such an incredible kindness. I’m a working Mom living in suburb with many stay-at-home Moms and I desperately wish I could figure out how to build strong enough friendships to broach a conversation about this type of arrangement. However, I remain too terrified that the person will feel obligated and awkwardness will ensue. (To clear: I would never expect weekly free babysitting, just the occasional help on “early release days” etc… and of course I would reciprocate on night and weekends.)
    I’m actually considering quitting my job in January because I am sick to death of the daily balancing act, and I’ve vowed that I will ALWAYS reach out to working parents and let it be known I’m happy to help out in these types of situations. Thank you for being such an awesome, kind and thoughtful person!

  3. Linda on September 23rd, 2013 4:07 pm

    Nicole, I feel like I want to encourage you to ask, because it’s SO not a big deal for me to do this and it makes me feel good to help a little — but the truth is I’d never ask if the situation was reversed, because yes, the terror. Weirdly, I also felt awkward about making the offer to M’s mom, in case it made HER feel put on the spot or something. We’re all just too damn polite for our own goods, aren’t we? :)

  4. JB on September 23rd, 2013 5:19 pm

    Thank you for doing this, Linda, especially as I know how shy you are. It is massive and you have changed that mum’s life.
    As a working mum, I am always overwhelmed with gratitude when one of the mum’s from my kids class picks up the kids for me or does some little favour that takes the pressure out of my day. I always try to do it for others when I can but its easy to forget that there is a “village” right there if you take the time to reach out to it.

  5. chrystal on September 23rd, 2013 7:53 pm

    As a kid who had to go to after school care, I would have loved this!!! and the after school program I went to was good, and usually fun, but it would have been so nice to be greeted by a Mom and not a Program. The whole family is lucky to have you!

    I know you’re not able to write on this space as much as you’d like to, but I love when you have the opportunity and inspiration to do so. Thank you!

  6. Megan @ Mama Bub on September 23rd, 2013 8:05 pm

    I’m just going to add to what will be a cacophony of voices telling you what an amazing thing this is. I’ve just gone back to work part time. I have a flexible schedule and work mostly from home, but I still have meetings to attend, and they’re not entirely flexible. Usually what I need is exactly what you’re providing – someone to bridge the gap between school and me getting home, and MAN would it be awesome to have someone I could consistently count on.

  7. Amy on September 23rd, 2013 8:06 pm

    This is a super cool thing you are doing. My husband and I are both working full-time outside our home. We’re incredibly lucky that my mother-in-law gets my 5yo daughter on and off the bus each day. (Why in the 21st century does the #%!?£€ school day not line up with the workday?!?) If it weren’t for her, I know I’d be way too shy and overly stubborn/unnecessarily proud to ask a neighbor for this kind of help.

  8. sooboo on September 23rd, 2013 9:02 pm

    When I was a kid I was cared for by my friend’s grandma (who was the same age as my mom) for a few years, every day after school as my mom worked full time. I remember those times so fondly and I liked going to a home to watch cartoons, eat snacks etc after school, rather than a gym or community center somewhere. Just know that you are improving the kid’s life too!

  9. lisa on September 23rd, 2013 11:15 pm

    I’m a teacher, so I jet to do the stay at home routine during the summer, and then I turn around and send my kids to the after school program during the year. My two favorite days of the year are the last day of school and the first day of school. Staying at home is tough on the mind, and every August I am a little bit relieved to go back to something I feel competent doing.

    Having said that, I envy the possibilities available to the stay at home moms at my daughter’s school. My daughter is struggling right now, for the first time in her school career, and I would love to be the kind of mom that could pick her up at the classroom door every day, and check in with her teacher. I’d love to go and volunteer and be more connected to what’s happening in the classroom. I’d love to be able to be part of a carpool and get to meet other moms, even though (or maybe because) I am a giant social imbecile.

    That little bit of time that you give to that other mom each day is priceless. Time with the kids doesn’t always feel priceless when you have so much of it (ie how I feel in August), but it is. What you are doing is amazing, both for her family and for yours.

  10. Connie on September 23rd, 2013 11:18 pm

    I don’t have children, but please don’t ever under estimate your footprint on this world. I think what you are doing is amazing. I could go on and on about how my Mom and I dealt with me being a latch key kid and the horrible day care experiences as an older child in daycare. (THink ten year old taking care of your infant and being the only one in the room older than 1). You are a saint

  11. Karen on September 24th, 2013 6:38 am

    A neighbor did this for me years ago and what a lifesaver it was for me. My husband was in sales and therefore worked out of the house when he wasn’t out of town. My daughter went home on the bus and got off at our regular stop. If dad’s car wasn’t in the driveway, she went across the street with her buddies (boys, a year older and a year younger) until I got home. The mom was so accommodating…made sure they got an afternoon snack, relaxed a bit and got started on homework if I was too late. She even fed her dinner on the rare occasions I was too late. It was such an awesome arrangement, and we “re-paid” by having the boys over for movie nights/play dates so their parents could go out for dinner or run errands etc. You are doing a great thing! And to those who are too shy…you just never know, so ask. What’s the worst that can happen?

  12. scantee on September 24th, 2013 7:38 am

    I will join in and say that this is an incredible thing you are doing. I had planned to go back to work full-time when my oldest start K this year but his school schedule has made that impossible. He starts and ends at weird times and all of the before and after school care spots are taken. Even if they weren’t taken, it would cost us more to pay for care for him to attend public school K than we paid for him to be cared for in a family day care as an infant. So, that’s kind of depressing.

    I find I have this magical thinking where I expect that once we reach the next life stage things will be easier. They never are. We get to that next stage and a whole new set of complications crop up and we’re scrambling to adapt. If I had someone who could watch my son for just half an hour at the end of the school day I would be unbelievably appreciative. It would mean I could go back to work full-time which would be a major financial boost for our family.

    We are all channeling this other family when we say that they are beyond grateful.

  13. Maureen on September 24th, 2013 10:20 am

    I used to do the same thing with two of my daughter’s friends-due to their parent’s work schedules sometimes I took them for a couple hours a day, for several weeks at a time. They were brother and sister, but all got along very well. To those people afraid to ask-I enjoyed having those kids around, and my daughter loved it. Please don’t hesitate to ask, if a mom can’t do it, she can’t-but I know I was glad my daughter had someone to play with during those times, like a built in play date!

  14. Em on September 24th, 2013 11:23 am

    I agree – we are all just too polite for our own good! I recently became a stay at home mom, and I think, like you, I will never be fully happy at home. Like you said, though, I was never 100 percent happy at my job, either. There is the good and the bad with everything, I guess. Also: I am sure Mary’s family is incredibly grateful for what you are doing!

  15. H on September 24th, 2013 12:18 pm

    I’m quite a bit older than you are, and I am just now figuring out that I can do little things that have a big (positive) impact on others. I wish I’d fully realized it earlier in my life. I’m so glad you have.

  16. Jennie on September 24th, 2013 3:02 pm

    I actually teared up reading this, which sounds silly, but I’m in a situation that’s similar to Mary’s mom and the thought of someone being so kind. It makes all the difference, Linda. I bet she’s so grateful for you, it’s crazy.

  17. NancyB on September 24th, 2013 4:55 pm

    That might seem small for you but it is a huge weight off her mother’s shoulders I bet!
    I worked full time until my sons 4th grade. In K he went to the Y after school and then to all 4 2 week sessions at the Y because I had no where else to send him.
    THEN the following school year a woman who became my friend took him after school and ALL SUMMER LONG. She had 3 girls who’s ages were all around his and it was right in our neighborhood so they all played together anyway. It was such a lifesaver and she made money and I had peace of mind!

  18. deanna on September 24th, 2013 5:12 pm

    my favorite part of this is the last paragraph, linda. you do make a difference, and i am so glad you were able to come to the conclusion!

  19. sarah on September 26th, 2013 12:18 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I often question my “mattering” not in a morbid/suicidal sense, but I do question it. We don’t reach out to others often enough to tell them good stuff, or stuff that matters (telling my mom I was sick, for instance. Nothing major, but as a mom, I’d want to know…)
    I’m gonna go home & write some thank you notes to friends, and let them know they matter.

  20. Jenny on September 26th, 2013 1:35 pm

    What a cool way to help somebody out!

  21. Amy N on September 26th, 2013 2:44 pm

    From this working mom….thank you! :*)sniff I am blessed that my mom is still active enough at almost 80 that she enjoys working at my sons’ school and then takes them to my house a couple days a week. (they’re with their dad the other) I work full time, but being a single mom, day care was killing me financially. And my oldest son hated it.

  22. Tricia on September 27th, 2013 11:23 am

    I am curious as to why your school cut the full-time Kindy? Our veterinarian was just telling me this week that she does not like her son in full-time Kindy.

  23. Maryann on September 28th, 2013 2:39 pm

    Good for you for helping out, but beware. Things can get out of hand. Other parents may feel that since you’re at home watching your kids, you may as well watch theirs, too.

    I was a SAHM for a few years and I had one neighbor who asked, nay demanded that I pick up her daughter from school and keep her every day until 6:30 FOR FREE.

    It meant that I ofetn fed this kid dinner and dragged her shopping or to a doctor’s appointment.

    In a pinch, once in awhile, ok. Every day so she could spend what I was saving her on after school care at the hairdresser and nail salon? No.

    It would be nice if school and work schedules lined up more, but some parents forget and regard the school as a free babysitting service.

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