I. Just. Can’t.

Three kids. Two locations. Two drop-off times. Three pick-up times. I do the math. Over and over. It’s nine separate car journeys a day. Forty-five car journeys a week. I am broken.

We’re only two weeks into the school-year and my new work from home life, and I am broken. Almost literally. My knees hurt. My legs hurt. And most delightfully, I’ve got pelvic girdle pain – something I had during pregnancies, and not something I thought I’d ever have again. The glamour. The absolute glamour.

I googled it. You can get it when you’re not pregnant , if you do “hard physical work” or “sit for long periods at a workstation.” So I suspect doing forty-five car journeys a week plus carrying the three-year-old to and from the school once we park is contributing. Then sitting at the kitchen table to work every morning and every night, on a not-exactly-ergonomically-designed kitchen chair is not helping. But the main problem is the school-runs. I. Just. Can’t.

You know what the worst thing about the school runs is? Not just their very existence, but the in-between hour. The killer in-between hour.

The preschooler finishes at 12, and there’s time to go home and grab a sandwich before heading off again (his current favourite lunch is peanut butter, cheese and paté on a bagel; I generally turn down his offers to share.)

We leave at 1 to pick up the senior infant. Then we have an hour to kill before the second-classer gets out. Often we go home. Typically, we get eight minutes in the house. That’s not an exaggeration for dramatic effect – we literally arrive home at 1.52 and have to leave again at 2.

So sometimes we stay near the school – there’s a playground that’s a ten minute walk away. Or a twenty-minute walk followed by a carry if you’re a tired preschooler. Hence the pelvic pain. We get about six minutes in the playground before it’s time to start the struggle up the hill back to the school.

the journey takes longer when he rolls a toy every inch of the way
the journey takes longer when he rolls a toy every inch of the way

Sometimes we go for coffee, and I try not to buy treats for them and I make them swear not to tell their sister and spend silly amounts of money on hot chocolate because it’s not cake, but still.

Sometimes I just can’t bear it, and I put the far-too-old-for-a-buggy preschooler into his buggy and we wander down to the library – this option is, relatively speaking, blissful.

Killing the hour five days a week is back-breaking and mind-numbing, so I’ve resorted to after-school activities. My senior-infant will do GAA on Mondays – yay, because she loves it, but boo because it ends for the winter at mid-term. Upon the horrifying discovery that GAA is only a temporary solution, I’ve just signed her up for Hip Hop on Thursdays. “What’s hip hop mum?” she asked. “You’ll LOVE it,” I said, crossing my fingers behind my back.

When I was making the decision to finish up in funds and switch to WAHM life, I worried about lots of things. Would I get enough work to make it sustainable? Would I be able to work at night after a day with the kids? Would we be able to pay the mortgage? Would it be lonely? Would I regret it?

But I did not worry that school runs would kill me. Or give me PGP. Who knew.


Being ‘good’ at minding your own children and keeping your own house isn’t recognised formally, and other than proffering reasonably clean, well-mannered children as proof, there’s no real record of ability. So often along with the badge, goes at least some of the self-esteem and identity. I am very grateful to Jenny Keane and Kate Cuddy for sharing their SAHM stories with me for this piece in the Irish Examiner: Home truths: Life as a stay-at-home-mother is a tough job


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38 thoughts on “I. Just. Can’t.”

  1. That sounds rough alright. You’ve me sympathy. I’m not fluent in these matters, and though you’re not looking for unsolicited advice – I wouldn’t worry too much about the buggy. I reckon it can be a necessity until they completely outgrow it and/or start school proper. I’m relying on it a fair bit for our inbetweener of a pre-schooler. Pity they haven’t after-school club to accommodate the middle one for an hour. But you’re already thinking that so I’ll pack up my platitudes and wish some stabilising of pain and stress. G’luck.
    tendernessontheblock recently posted…A portrait of peaceMy Profile

    1. I think you’re right – I’m bringing back the buggy and forgetting my lofty ideas to get him out of it. The poor child is exhausted, as am I. Even using it for one of the runs each day will help.
      Weight officially lifted from shoulders!

  2. I’m on year four for two school pick up or year six if I include preschool. Next year all three of mine will finish school at same time, the countdown has already begun even though it’s 49.5 weeks away.
    It does get easier when the eldest can walk a bit of the way home or to the car. That’s all I have. It’s shit.

    1. I was wondering how you do it. I can see why you’re counting down to next year.
      I presume the smallie will be homeschooled in order to avoid all future double pick-ups 🙂

  3. This too will pass, although that is easier said than believed and bridging the period in between is still going to be a pain, literally in your case.
    I have ten runs with two children in two separate facilities (kindergarten breaks for lunch at 12pm and resumes at 2pm) and am accompanied by my one year old on all of them. But I am lucky that I can walk or cycle to both school and kindergarten, meaning no traffic issues and no need for gym membership.
    If I had gone back to work this month, as was my original intention, I would have to drive to a childminder with the one year old, in the opposite direction to my work. That was the main catalyst in deciding to stay at home for a second year.
    i kmow where you are coming from. Any chance to car pool with other families?
    Fionnuala recently posted…The Engineer That Made Me CryMy Profile

    1. Wow a lunch break – that’s a bit of a pain too! But great that you can walk or cycle. I am very envious of the people who live within walking distance from our school.
      Car pooling is on my mind but most of the people near us have childminders or grandparents doing the pick-ups. I will continue to stalk the class lists until I find someone – even one day a week would help!

  4. Again, you have it nailed! My 3 year old finishes Montessori at 12:30, a drive away from the house. I collect him, arrive at home at 12: 50, quickly urges him to eat his lunch (soup and sandwich or scrambled eggs and beans), leave house at 1:15 and we walk to school to pick up Middle Boy. Then we walk home (oh so slowly), spend about 20 or 25 mns at home and have to walk again to pick up First Born. Both Last Born and Middle Boy just winge and drag their feet. They complain and want to know why we can’t take the car (that’s because it’s impossible to park the car anywhere near the school unless you arrive one hour early). I have to wrestle the little one in his buggy and my sciatica is at me constantly from the lifting, struggling, bending over, pushing the dammed thing. So I have a plan. Which cost money, so much for saving on childcare as a SAHM. The Montessori has an option whereby you can leave your child til 2pm (and he gets fed lunch). So I’ll drive early to school to pick up a parking space in time for 1.30 for Middle Boy, run back to car and collect Toddle, drive back to school and park wherever I can (double yellow line???) in time for First Born. We’ll see. Silverlining is less winging (???) and more time for me. (Time to get part-time job to cover childcare costs after all and petrol costs!)

    1. Your plan sounds good! And I think it’s more than the money it costs – it’s about sanity too, and logistics, and making life less stressful for everyone. Do it! And good luck 🙂

  5. Hi,
    I read your post nodding as i read. pick up and drop offs are so hard especially when you increase the children.
    have you tried seeing if there are other children near you you can share the trips with? although that is equally tiring having tried this for the first time last week and this week. tiring in having other peoples children in your care.

    I just wanted to say i feel your pain!!
    Love Mxx

    1. Thank you! Yes, I’ve looked to see if there’s anyone near me who is also collecting – most people near me have childminders or grandparents collecting, so I need to look further afield! Best of luck with your runs – not easy…

    1. A week later – we’re so back with the buggy. Using it now for the later (busier) pick-up every day, and things are MUCH better already!

  6. Dealing with Pelvic Girlde Pain and not being pregnant? That is madness, at least when you are pregnant you know you are going through the pain ‘for something’! You need to get to a physio and get some stretches and exercises to do, it will help ease the pain. You can’t be expected to do all that running around if you are in pain. Hope it sorts out x
    Fiona @adventure_seek recently posted…Not due yet, but one month old!My Profile

    1. A week later, things are much better. I stopped carrying the small boy after last weekend, and within three days, the PGP was gone. Using buggy again for some of the runs and it’s much better. But I know, you think these things should be pregnancy-only and we should never have to deal with them outside of that!

  7. Laughing my head off at the photo and the caption!!! But, seriously, you need to home educate…come on over to the darkside!

    1. Sheesh is right. I did not picture myself here!
      But a few days later, things are much, much better – I’m starting to think I can do this after all…

  8. Forty-five trips! And there you were being sympathetic to my pathetic little complaints. I feel like a right fraud now. I have no possible ideas. Teach the smallie to meditate, maybe, and bring a book for yourself. Ugh. Much symp.
    Christine recently posted…A little farther awayMy Profile

    1. Ah but it’s all relative – your journeys are very long and four times a day is a lot. Am working on the mediation thing – that’s a great idea. He has no idea what I’m talking about (and I don’t either) but it’s enjoyable to see his reaction.

  9. Oh I feel your pain Andrea. I only have one in crèche and one in school and I find that hard enough, especially now with bump in tow too. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like with nine separate journeys a day. I find the lugging around the two year old in and out of the car at the school very tiring too and the in between hour is a total killer, it’s dead time..so annoying!! what’s the solution? I’m fecking wrecked today. I haven’t even started thinking about after school activities. I can’t even go there right now!
    Ali Coghlan recently posted…Brooke & Shoals Candle Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Everything is harder with a bump – you will probably find it easier with three than you are finding it with two plus bump now!
      Yes that dad hour is such a pain, and apparently it’s not even necessary – it’s discretionary. Schools could choose to have everyone finish at the later time…

  10. Very ironic, I just made the decision today to ask about putting my senior infant little man into afterschool, which is adjoining the school as was doing a two and three pick up, fine last year when I lived nearer to the school, not so fine now when we are 20/25 minutes away. Today there was nobody in their granny’s house which we sometimes go to, and so (again) I drove around for half an hour so I could get back early enough to be relatively close to the school and not have to take the other three out. Worked out that in a few years I’m gonna have a one two and three pick up and so decided the two o clock one has to go unless we move closer, which I suppose, might happen too! First world problem but still, when you’re wandering around the school at two with three kids trying to kill time, as I did last year when I just couldn’t bear depositing them in the house and then picking them up just twenty minutes later to get in the car, it can wear you out and make you feel so guilty for all the time they have to spend in the car.

    1. Oh that wandering around aimlessly to kill time is just awful! And you feel like if you hang around, the time stretching out ahead is ridiculously long, but if you go somewhere, it’s ridiculously short.
      After school sounds like a great option!

  11. Friends of mine in Canada are thrilled with the introduction of ‘all day kindergarten’ where the younger kids (Junior and Senior Infant ages) stay as long as the older ones, with more play time worked into their days. One pickup, one dropoff, to mixed schools. Sounds like bliss I’d say! I’ve got two drop offs but one’s close to the house, the other is beside my day job office, so it’s not so bad at the moment.
    Yvonne recently posted…Experiment resultsMy Profile

    1. That just makes so much sense – pick everyone up at the same time. I can imagine that the rationale for younger kids finishing earlier is that they get more tired, but if the alternative is getting in and out of cars and being rushed around for the hour, I can’t see how that’s better than school…

  12. Oh God, I feel for you. I really really don’t understand these silly hours. I mean, do the schools not think about parents?? In France, all classes in primary school finish at the same time: 4:30 or 4:45 (The dream, I know!), and if you can’t make it, there is still after school care within the grounds of the school. I’m glad I don’t do the school runs, I pay my childminder to do it 🙂 But still, I don’t know how she copes. She drops my youngest to playschool, my eldest to 1st class, then her own 2 kids in a different school, and does it all over again the afternoon! After-school activities seem a good alternative, and I really hope it gets easier for you 🙂
    Nearly Irish recently posted…How I got to see U2 in Croke Park…twice!My Profile

    1. I’m doing way, way better on PGP now – once I stopped lifting the little guy, it went away after about three days. So now I know the cause for sure, and can watch out and react more quickly next time. No doubt there will be a next time…

  13. Oh Andrea, I can relate. My husband does the school runs here. His busiest day at the minute is Tuesday. Eldest girl into town at 8, then the next two and now Abbie to school and pre school at 9. Collect pre-schooler at 12, collect older 2 at 3, literally drop them and into town for the eldest girl, in the door in time shovel dinner before bringing two to Hip Hop classes and then collect them an hour later. (Hip hop is great btw)
    Now we are fortunate enough that we can share school runs with a neighbour, the days he’s working she does the national school and dance runs. Our eldest does get a lift into town the mornings he’s working but we do have to collect her every day (20-30 mins away depending on traffic!) It s a constant juggle.
    Nicola Naessens recently posted…Cheering up a Little BoyMy Profile

    1. Nicola that sounds hectic! And I know what you mean about shovelling dinner – it’s all rush, rush, rush isn’t it. We have in the meantime started hip hop and indeed, the six-year-old loved it!

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