You’re stuck in traffic running way behind schedule. Your palms start to sweat, your heart is pounding. Is it because:
- (a) You’re late for your best friend’s surprise birthday party—the surprise will be long over by the time you get there?
- (b) You’re late for a flight at a busy international airport with massive security lines?
- (c) You’re late for an important court hearing (you’re the lawyer or the litigant)? or
- (d) You’re late for daycare pickup?
For most working parents, the correct answer is (d).
- Your best friend will forgive you; you’ll laugh about it together one day.
- I’ve cajoled my way to the front of TSA lines at airports—most fellow travelers and TSA agents will take pity on you in those circumstances.
- And, despite the formidable black robes, most judges will exercise leniency so long as you have a decent excuse and don’t make a habit of it.
But daycare providers? Forget it. They are merciless. Many daycare contracts state that you will be charged $5 to $10 per minute for late pickups, no exceptions. And then there’s the guilt factor. You walk in to find your sweetie-pie sitting in the director’s office looking forlorn. “Mommy, did you forget me?”
And, joy of joys, there’s an opportunity for working parents to experience this road-rage-and-parental-guilt-inducing stress Monday through Friday most weeks of the year.
What’s a frazzled working parent to do?
For parents with long commutes, try finding a daycare close to your workplace. That removes the traffic/commuting-time variable, although you may be forced to listen to the Paw Patrol theme song repeatedly while driving in traffic, which is its own form of torture.
You can also hire one of your child’s daycare teachers, put her on the sign out list, and pay her to sign out your kid and play with him outside on days when you’re running late. It will cost much less than $5 to $10 per minute.
If you have family members near your daycare who are willing to help in a pinch, you truly are blessed—thank them profusely.
And when, despite your best efforts and a few creative interpretations of how long that light was yellow, you arrive ten minutes late, do what your child does when she’s in trouble. The sad eyes. The apology and explanation. The promise, “I’m usually so good about picking her up on time. This won’t keep happening.”
Sometimes even daycare providers will relent.