Last school year was quite the debacle for my family. I was nine months pregnant with my fourth child, shuffling my kids to a school that was literally 25 miles away. Believe me, if their school had a bus I would have gladly put them on it to avoid the 5:00 breaking news story, “Mom gives birth on the freeway.” Our new house was almost complete, and I thought it was best to let the kids start school where we would eventually plant our San Diego roots. I was adamant on not moving schools twice, and it was a decision I am glad I made. However, with the impending birth, I rarely got out of the car when dropping the kids off at school.
After the baby was born, I still didn’t get out of the car during drop-offs or pickups. The sheer thought of it was exhausting. You would have thought someone had asked me to climb Mount Everest. What do you mean get out of the car? Are you crazy? I was so sleep-deprived, I became lazy. The bucket seat in my Chevy Suburban was the closest thing I got to a massage.
The school drop-offs and pickups happened during my most fatigued parts of the day. For that reason, I didn’t have (or make) the time to meet the soccer moms, the blogger moms, the room parents, the PTA moms, the millennial moms, the seasoned moms, or even the bad moms. Who knew I would miss out on so much? If you think you don’t need all of these moms in your life, you are sadly mistaken.
During the Summer Olympics, I heard the poem Human Family by Maya Angelou play over and over between games. “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” I can assure you that even though we all have our own unique story, we truly are more alike than we are unalike. Sure, there might be quite the variety of moms out there, but we all have traveled far to get here. Some conquered an obstacle course, some walked on a tightrope, and some were lucky to experience smooth sailing. Regardless, we all took this unpaved road to get to this place called parenthood. Having a child, whether naturally, through a C-section, via surrogacy, or adoption is no easy feat. Some have been through pregnancy losses and some braved the fertility battle. Whether we go to work or stay home, we all made it here, we are all moms, and “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
Having said that, in an effort to bridge the gap, moms should really make more of an effort to get out of the car at school drop-offs and mingle with the other moms there. Here are four reasons why moms should get out of the car this school year:
1. Growing Your Tribe
We know how difficult parenting can be. Whether you are a full-time SAHM or a working mom, you will benefit from growing your tribe. You better believe with two of my four kids in school, I am getting out of my car to introduce myself to these other awe-inspiring moms. I want to know who’s going to have a glass of wine with me, whose shoulder I may end up sobbing on one day, and who I can cheer on in this crazy world called mommyhood. And what about the über-organized moms? You gotta appreciate the moms who send the text reminder: “It’s spirit day! Don’t forget to wear your school colors.” I will see these parents for the next 10-plus years, and becoming a community of parents will only make us stronger.
Today I arrived more enthusiastic than normal — I kind of felt like a mom cheerleader — ready to walk the track with a handful of other moms on the same journey. Strangely enough, no matter how many times we do the first-day-of-school drop-off, I still get butterflies. I would even say I’m a little anxious. Whose first day was this anyway? Smiles were sent and returned, numbers were exchanged, and so my tribe grows. I left with an awesome sense of belonging, and get this, I’ve already got a coffee date with one of the moms on the books. For this reason alone, I advise you not to take the easy road by just staying in the car at drop-off and pickup. Listen to me (spoken in the aggressive New York Italian tone that my grandmother so lovingly passed on to me), park your car, walk your kids to school, and meet your new squad — because “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
2. Be That Helping Hand
No mom is perfect, and we all need help from time to time. Living on the West Coast while my family is on the East Coast, you’d better believe the parents of my kids’ classmates are now my extended family. We all need one another. Whether it’s help shuffling the kids to school, intel on specific teachers, or even props needed for school theme days, you’ll be much better off having an arsenal of phone numbers at your disposal. More importantly, what if someone needs my help? I would gladly shuffle kids back and forth. I want to be that mom. The joy in helping out a fellow sister (or brother), in being able to lend a hand — that’s the mom I want to be remembered as. I want everyone to know who I am and that I am here to help in any way that I can.
3. Building Your Community
I am new to this community and like I said earlier, I was in survival mode last year. I spoke to no one on the regular, and because of that, I didn’t remember the names of fellow parents. My kids would tell me tales of their friends, and I could barely put a face to a name. And now, I am over it! I want our family to be part of the community, to be aware of and a part of the community happenings. We get one chance to do what’s right, and showing up is part of it. If I didn’t get out of my car today, I wouldn’t have known about one mom organizing gently used items donations for a family in need. I also found out from our principal that she is instilling a morning running club so kids and parents can walk the track before school starts. Now I am all in. I love this new community!
4. Be a Role Model
Sure, it’s important that I feel good about myself, but the gym class can wait until later in the day. The kids come first. So what if I miss the 8 a.m. barre class? There is always another one at 9 a.m. My kids have been so excited to have me back. I want to be that stellar role model for them, so they too will want to do this for their kids one day. I want them to feel that my love for them is bursting at the seams. Seeing that sparkle in their eyes when I walk them to their class is what’s most important. Who knows how long they will want me there? So I will embrace it while I have it. It’s the best part about being their mom.
Strapping my baby in the carrier and holding my 4-year-old’s hand while making them part of this process has also been great for the younger two. Even though they are the two littles left behind, they too will be here soon enough, and I always want them to put each other first. I know my efforts are paying off when I hear their sweet little voices say, “You’re the best, mom.”
I would say I am #winning and being realistic if I can park the car three out of the five school days. Whether it’s volunteering for their classes, asking the front office if they need help, or just giving my little people a hug, I am finally going to be present. I am ready to brave the parenting crowds, introduce myself, and offer a helping hand. Like C.S. Lewis once said, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”