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.

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