Reminder: The questions posed here have been asked by actual people.
Dear Savvy Sister,
We live in a small town and because of that I don’t feel I can always be truly honest with my feelings. Take, for instance, the idea of car pooling. I am often asked by other moms if I want to car pool the kids to school. And the truth is, “No, I don’t.” However, because everyone knows everyone where we live, I feel I can’t just say that without being “labeled.” On the other hand, I sometimes feel like something is wrong with me because I don’t want to.
The truth is, even though I own my own business and I have several volunteer committments, I relish my job as mom above all else. I am fortunate that I have a flexible schedule to allow me to drive them to and from school every day. I love our routine and the time I have with them in the car. Just me and them. This is where we connect.
I feel selfish telling people, “No, I like driving my own kids. I consider it one of my top priorities of the day and I don’t want to share my only non-busy time with my kids with anyone else.” After the car ride to and from school, it’s homework, practice, dance, gymnastics, etc… so, Savvy Sister, do you understand me? How should I handle the dreaded carpooling questions?
Thanks and peace,
Dear Mama Bear,
About a year ago, I was chatting with some other moms and we talked about keeping our daughters all together in a clique as the girls navigated their way through middle and high school. They’re all good kids, and the idea was that they’d keep each other out of trouble. We changed the subject, and a few minutes later I mentioned that I was excited to get my first tattoo. One of the moms actually gasped, then said, “If you get a tattoo, you can’t be in the group.” I thought she was kidding, and I rolled my eyes. But she said it again, with emphasis, eyebrows raised and everything. PING! LABELED! Guess who I don’t see much any more? I decided I didn’t want to be a member of a group that didn’t want me as a member.
Don’t be so afraid to be labeled. Sometimes, it serves to separate the wheat from the chaff. What’s somebody going to say about you? That you like to drive your kids to school? That you relish traffic? That you don’t trust other people’s driving? So what? If you become labeled as someone who likes spending time with her children, so be it. Believe me, there are worse reputations to have. (Oh, shut up! No one calls me that any more!)
When someone approaches you about carpooling, your answer should depend on who’s asking. If it’s a good, trusted friend, then be honest and tell her exactly what you told me – that it’s your special time with your kids. But if it’s more of an acquaintance, be brief and breezy and friendly about it – “Oh, thanks! But my schedule is so whack that it’s easier for me to do it myself, and the kids and I have a pretty good routine going.” If you’re worried about sounding selfish, you can add: “But let me know if you’re ever in a bind, and maybe I could pick up Esmerelda for you.” Don’t expound on the whole “special time together” thing. To people who don’t know you, it will sound judgmental. I, for example, will pawn my children off on anyone who has a driver’s license. Don’t make me feel guilty about that, okay?
Still, you’re right to determine that you can’t always be honest about your feelings, and that’s not just a small town thing. You can’t always be honest if you’re a civilized member of society. Can you imagine? Ma’am, you have bitterness oozing out of your pores and your roots are showing. No, no, that won’t do. You simply smile and say, brightly, “Good morning! Can I help you carry those lattes to your Lexus?” If that’s unbearable, remember this: the verbal translation of the silent Fuck You is a syrupy sweet That’s nice! For some people, that’s plenty honest enough.
Good luck, Mama Bear! Enjoy those car rides! And if you use the time to introduce your children to National Public Radio, I’ll send you a free autograph in the event that I’m ever featured on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
the Savvy Sister