Since reentering the workforce four years ago, I’ve really struggled in the area of stress reduction. For me stress is related to my perfectionist side. Looking back, the whole reason I gave up my career at Hewlett Packard after my son was born was because of my unresolved issues with perfectionism. After spending three months on maternity leave, an offensive thought dawned on me as I dressed in my work clothes for the first time since becoming a mother. Like a brick falling on my head from the sky, I realized I might have to make some (gasp!) compromises in the way that I would like my child taken care of and how my job duties would be performed. I realize how ridiculous it was for this to occur to me so late into the process, but there it was. And it was unacceptable—I must choose one and do it as perfectly as possible and make no compromises.
Since you can’t (and wouldn’t) put the baby genie back in the bottle, my choice was made before I even left the house that morning. After two days at day care and an impassioned plea to my sister-in-law, my son spent the next ten months with his aunt each day while I figured out how to transition our finances into a one income household and myself into a stay-at-home mom. What happened in the intervening five years is an entire series of articles.
Fast forward from 1998 to 2003—my son is in kindergarten and my daughter is in two to three day church care, and I finally reenter the work force. And the stress demons are back. Making great strides with my perfectionism in the last five years (two children will do that to you), I attacked the stress demons head on. I read books on stress reduction, I tried nightly bubble baths with candles, I tried herbal supplements... you know the drill. Finally what helped the most, was getting up an hour earlier each day to read and pray. Some people would call it meditation, but my mind jumps from one thing to the next so quickly that there is no way you could call what I do meditation. I really rediscovered my faith during these early morning sessions. Today, four years later, I never miss a weekday morning doing something that helps rejuvenate my spirit. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me in parenting, in my marriage and at work.
However, one of the biggest mysteries in my life is why my faith, love, patience, and all the other fruits of the spirit for that matter (including self-control) evaporate at the same time each morning. I mean, the exact moment my minivan hits the carpool line, I loose any semblance of the usually balanced person I am. I want all you mothers to know that if you see yourself in the paragraphs below, I love and support you and pray for you and cheer for you the MINUTE you’re out of the carpool line... but if you do any of these things... please for the love of Pete and everything that is right in the world, STOP.
There is NO circumstance that justifies honking and/or passing in the carpool line... carpool is NOT a normal roadway, in case you do not know this. It is driven by 99.9 percent women in SUV’s or Minivan’s with young children in their cars. This in and of itself, is very frightening. Add to this that said women are under some time pressure, haven’t had their second cup of coffee, and someone in their car has surely left something at home and what you’ve got is a very v-o-l-a-t-i-l-e situation. Forget going postal.... I’m ready to go carpool... I swear, if the same chick who passed me this morning had also been the one who honked at me, it would have, let’s just say, “been addressed.”
The school sends out the “Carpool Flow” map for a reason. If you’re not good with maps, ask your husband or a friend who is. It’s really very simple—follow the arrows. DO NOT go against the flow. This is not the time to push the envelope and be a trailblazing maverick. If the map says enter from the south and turn right - DO NOT enter from the north and try to turn left. By doing this, you’re making me into someone my children should not be around.
And while we’re on the subject... Hummers and carpool lines are really not compatible. Seriously, is it necessary to take your kids to school in a tank??? Environmental concerns aside, I have yet to see a child exit a Hummer in carpool without careening out if it and spilling him or herself and the entire contents of their backpacks out onto the sidewalk. If there is a school project involved, we need the freaking National Guard to clean up the mess and get traffic moving again. I can tell you from experience that this does nothing to help facilitate a smooth carpool flow or that vein in my neck that pops out on occasion.
And another thing, carpool is NOT a valet service. A valet service is where you leisurely drive your car up to the attendant and he opens the door for you and gently helps you out. Carpool is nothing like this, so stop acting like it is. I don’t see you tipping the poor teacher that has been stuck with the horrendous job of carpool duty. The goal of carpool is to unload as many children as quickly as safety will allow. This means if you stop anywhere close to the front of the line, your little prince or princess needs to get out of the car and WALK the rest of the way into the school.
I assure you Ms. Passer and Ms. Honker, these tips will help eliminate your obvious early morning stress. And mine.