Ever wonder what a “typical” day is like for a mom with two school-aged kids attending two different schools in two vastly different neighborhoods? We are a family in the South Loop, with a first-grader and preschooler. When our son received an offer to attend a highly-regarded CPS Selective Enrollment Elementary School on the far South Side last year, we were ecstatic about his opportunity but also had to give much consideration to how accepting that spot would turn our daily routine upside down.
It meant swapping our 4-block walk to our neighborhood school for a 17-mile drive (34 miles round trip). The morning school bus, with a 6:25am pickup time, was not a viable option for us (much too early for a 6-year-old), but it was doable for getting home after school. There were many other trade-offs to consider, but the new school’s promise of an appropriately challenging curriculum, smaller class sizes, and intimate yet diverse community made the other sacrifices acceptable. We were also fortunate that my part-time job allowed us the flexibility to manage all of the necessary driving ourselves. Here’s a peek into our crazy weekday lives, from September to June:
5:30am Wake up, shower, make coffee, pack breakfasts (to be eaten on the drive to school) and lunches. Check my calendar for the day, breathe, and enjoy the silence.
6:30am Wake kids, get them washed up, dressed and ready for school.
7:00am Corral everyone into the car. Quick scan for backpacks, lunch bags, breakfast bags and anything else that needs to go to school because there will be no time to come back for anything forgotten. Must pull out of garage by 7:05am.
7:05–7:35am Southbound commute on the Dan Ryan. Thank goodness for a reverse, typically traffic-free commute on the first leg of our morning drive. KidzBop on the radio. Some mornings, I embrace it and sing along happily with the kids. Other mornings, I want to put earplugs in.
7:35am First drop-off at my son’s school (Keller RGC) in Mount Greenwood. School starts at 7:45am. If we’re running late, we do curbside drop-off. Otherwise, he insists that I walk him in.
7:45am Back on the road for the slow commute back downtown on the Dan Ryan. Disney tunes on the radio.
8:30–8:40am Second drop-off at my daughter’s preschool (Daystar School) in the South Loop, after she has been sitting in the car for 90 minutes. School starts at 8:30am; we are often last to arrive or late, depending on traffic.
8:45am As I’m driving back home (by now, I’ve been in car for 1hr 40min), receive phone call from my son’s school, alerting me that he is having a mild allergic reaction to something he ate in the school breakfast (this would be breakfast #2 for him; I have already reviewed the breakfast options to ensure there is nothing on the menu he is allergic to). I give permission for school staff to administer his allergy medicine, but he gets on the phone and asks me to come.
8:50am Stop at Starbucks for venti coffee before getting back on the road to Mount Greenwood.
9:20am Arrive at my son’s school, his allergy medication has kicked in and now he is fine. Ask him what he ate; nothing he mentions falls into his food allergy categories. Give him a hug and kiss, thank his teacher for calling me, get back in car.
9:35am Back on the road again for Dan Ryan commute into downtown. Listen to news radio, podcasts — anything but KidzBop and Disney Radio.
10:15am Arrive back home, 3 hours after I first left. Now, finally, my day can begin.
10:15am–2:00pm Work from home. Work breaks consist of whatever is at top of home to-do list for the day (throw load of laundry into washer/dryer, quick trip to grocery store, etc.).
2:00pm Go for a run or take a yoga class. Or, more typically, use the time to run an errand I didn’t have time for earlier.
3:20–3:30pm Pick up my daughter from preschool; drive to my son’s school bus stop at our neighborhood public school.
3:55–4:05pm Meet school bus for my son’s afternoon drop-off. We are the last stop, and my son has been on the bus for at least 1 hour. Thankfully, he uses some of that time to do his homework, which leaves more time for playing before dinner and bedtime.
Of course, our day doesn’t end at 4:00pm. There are still afterschool activities and team sports that both children are involved in, depending on the day of the week. Dinner happens anywhere between 6:30-7:30pm, bedtime between 8:00-9:00pm. After catching up with my husband after work, tidying up around the house, and finishing up any work tasks from the day, I finally go to bed somewhere around midnight (maybe 11pm on a good night). And then we start over again.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s crazy!” yes, indeed, it sort of is. But the key for us has been keeping focused on our family’s priorities and remembering the old adage, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
Didi Lewis, NPN's Program Manager, is leading the CPS 101 workshop at the NPN Preschool & Elementary School Fair on Sept. 24. Free admission for members—RSVP today!