FILED IN: Parenting

Facing Unemployment in the Carpool Lane

I remember when Labor Day simply meant being allowed to sleep in late and then watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon, all day, in our pajamas.

I mean, it was only last year, right?

This year, however, my kids started school early (before Labor Day) and it’s funny what a difference 4 days can make.

“It feels SO weird to be back, right?

There must have been about a hundred parents, give or take a few dozen grandparents, lined up in front of my youngest daughter’s school and, well, seeing as this is my 8-year-old’s last year at this particular school – 3rd graders are promoted to my son’s current school, which is grades 4 and 5 – I can’t say I won’t miss some of my most favorite teachers in the entire school district.

It is, however, one year closer to my retirement… as a carpooling mom.

[phone rings]

Good timing.  I just got home from dropping Hope off at school (which, was no easy feat, by the way) only after having to walk, all the way back to my car (which, I forgot was parked over at my son’s school) then, rushing off to get the food shopping done, before the senior citizens’ busing arrived (no, I don’t hate them, just how they shop) so, I couldn’t help but think, what now?

I recognized the number (CallerID makes this quick AND easy) and forgive my hesitation, but – when it comes to the first day of school – I can so be a little selfish.

“My husband lost his job.”


“I didn’t want to say anything in front of the kids at school.”

I felt absolutely awful for my friend.

“My kids don’t know, yet.”

Some people are real good at keeping stuff from their kids – I’m not one of them.

“Okay, I won’t say anything.”

Although, every single one of my kids knows a family whose mom or dad (mostly, dads) recently lost their job and my sister-in-law has been looking for full-time work for over a year, now.

She’s decided to move back to Arizona.

“I’ve decided to move back to Arizona.”


“I don’t blame you.”

Living in New Jersey is expensive – these days, living is expensive, period – but,  I’m not telling my kids that, either.  Not yet, anyway.

“Can I go and pick up the kids with you?”

My sister-in-law has been spending a lot of time with me (and the kids) so, I’m trying to keep our conversations as light and easy as possible.

“My teacher says we HAVE to buy book socks!”

What?  Wait a minute, I thought recycling paper bags was a good thing and, hang on, like that’s 5 books, times 4 kids, times $4.00 and I spent the last of my allowance on school supplies, already.

“We ARE one step away from food stamps, ourselves!”

Some people are real good at thinking out loud – I am one of them.

“Daddy get fired, or something?”



I also have a real bad poker face.

“Are you sure?”



You see, the bank my husband worked for (for the last 10 years) was acquired by another company and, well, I’m just happy he was able to find another job – not to mention,  that he’s still got one – still.

I really do know when to keep my mouth shut.

“I’m going to call Mrs. So-and-So to see if she needs a babysitter.”

Finally, we’re hearing something good at the dinner table.   I love it when my kids think of ways to help others – especially, in front of their aunt – and without my help.

“Because, I am in serious need of some money!”

Okay, it wasn’t a Hallmark moment in the making – frankly, we haven’t had one of those since my youngest started kindergarten – still, as a seasoned parent, I saw it as another opportunity to perhaps, you know, not mess up, entirely.



“Everyone is being very careful about how they spend their money.”

She wasn’t buying it.  So, I reached over and squeezed her hand.

“The So-and-So’s will call, when and if they need you.”

Later that night, I explained to my two oldest girls about how the So-and-So’s came home from vacation and found out that Mr. So-and-So lost his job.

“So what?”

Ironically, I’m getting really good at perfecting my poker face.

“I’ll just offer to babysit for free.”

Biting my tongue?

“I mean, I do it for you already…Mom.”

Not so much.

“Yeah, but you owe me about 13 years.”


“Don’t even get me started on those sleepless hours you stole from me!”

You see, over the years, I’ve also learned that my kids are better off knowing some stuff, even if it might be difficult for them to hear, or understand, or how hard it is to tell them. 

“Besides, I don’t get my allowance until next Tuesday.”

Heaven knows, at the rate our economy is going, these are, most definitely, one of those times.