You know what Sheryl Sandburg never mentioned when she was on that lean-in tear, selling the rewards of keeping up a career (ugh) into motherhood? The goddamn magic of the daycare pickup. Going to work can suck, Sheryl was right about that, but going home to pick up your kids after missing their unbelievable little faces? Greatest of all time.
My kids’ daycare is located literally across the street from my home in Brooklyn, which means that even if I get out of work early, I can’t sneak home to watch Nashville by myself in an empty apartment, because they are WATCHING THE STREET. The daycare window faces my actual stoop, so unless I wear a disguise, I hear “Mummy! Mummy!” and detect bodies jumping up and down in the window as soon as I’m within 100 feet of the place. And I damn well love it.
From the street, the kids’ faces stand at sill height underneath their artworks, waiting for a glimpse of their parents. It reminds me of nothing so much as puppies in a pet shop, and every day as I haul ass off the subway and hotfoot it there, I think: I’LL TAKE BOTH! Sold!
What better merchandizing of chillun' has there ever been?
I do not think that putting 6-month-old children into someone else’s care for 10 hours a day is ideal (I’m Australian, so no one is surprised I give this the thumbs down), however, the chance to miss your kids, and to not be the sole respirator for their lives is kind of a gift. It takes me about a quarter of a Saturday at home with them (or approx. four Octonauts episodes) to realize this: parenting all day is hard.
I structure exactly zero percent of our free time. I don’t know all the songs. I’m lazy and want to do my own crafts and not someone else’s. By pouring a vast amount of my paycheck into child-minding services, I get free Pop Triangles at work and genuine full-bodied excitement at scooping my kids up and singing a jolly " POM POM POM POM POM" as I carry their tiny, heavy bodies home each afternoon on my creaky motherloving hips.
Meanwhile, the kids have their complex little friendships (“Stacy and Lila both wanted to sit on the letter K today, and Stacy got mad, but I got to sit on the M!” Okay!), and that’s pretty great, too. My kids need a world that doesn’t revolve around my tired-ass sun all of the time, and nothing brings this home better than the dance I do at 5:55 p.m. every weekday on seeing those little faces in the window. (If I beat the dong of 6 o'clock bell from the local church, even betterrrrrr.) When their teacher opens the door, my kids pelt their bodies at me like Liv Tyler at Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor, and I often fall over from the sheer force of it. Sometimes they jump up and down on the spot cheering and it feels like a freaking home run. Sometimes, on the trek down to the traffic light, across the road, and back along the road, we see Dad coming home, and the kids break into a sprint and tackle him on the sidewalk. It is The Notebook playing out day after day, and it only gets better.
My own mum worked part-time as a teacher across the decade she had us small kids, and she has talked about how much she loved that moment at the end of the day when she’d go to pick up my sister from the babysitter. I’m picturing her zooming home in her 1977 chartreuse Renault 12, cranking the French gearbox as she blazes a path across town to her child: isn’t that the true Grand Theft Auto?
Beep beeeeeeeep, do not get in the way of a mum excited to see her kids, jackholes! 🚗🚗🚗
I was working from home one day when I looked out the window and saw my daughter sitting in a triple(!) stroller, playing peekaboo with the girl behind her. They were all saddled up to go somewhere, a place I might not even realize she has visited ("you went to Chillies Too without me?!"). It was the first time I understood that she had a life of her own, and that it wasn't the worst for her to miss me a little too.
For more pieces like this, visit Shiny Happies, our collection of the best parts of raising those little people you love.