Here we are. Back in the routine of rushing morning routines, frantic drop-offs, and later than late after school pick-ups.

Every August, it begins. It grows stronger throughout the school year. As kids become more involved in school projects, school sports, and family fun events planned well in advance, it’s there. It never leaves my mind. It’s just always there, like trees on a street: seen, known, recognized, and not changing. The sadness that I’ll miss some pretty cool school events this year. I won’t get to attend morning functions in classes. I’m never the field trip driver or chaperone. My day job just doesn’t offer that kind of flexibility.

The only time I was a stay-at-home mom was the first 3 months of my sons’ lives. Maternity leave.

I’m not a stay-at-home-mom. I work at a Monday – Friday job, 8 am – 5 pm. These 45 hours per week, I am away from my home, my three crazy dogs, my freakishly old cat, my dirty dishes, my mountains of laundry in various states of unfinished. I’m away from my kids, too.

Of course, I am, they are in school, silly!

But, still.

If I were a stay-at-home mom, I would be busy with my kids’ school functions, help in the library, or the computer room. I could help in the office, too. I’m savvy like that. I can sew. So I know I could help out with some quick costumes or even make some quick repairs on the ancient costumes at the back of the stage.

But, here I am. At a desk. Working so I can pay for the afterschool care, the school sports, the school supplies, and geez, even put food on the table.

What’s so wrong about that? So many families struggle even for that simplicity.

I know. I see those struggles in my day job because I work with at-risk families.

I have mom friends who do get to participate in the school. They choose not to work, or logistically, it makes sense for them to be the “main parent” for their families. Whatever their reason, sometimes I truly envy them.

I wish I could drop my boys off at school, linger around the classrooms in the morning, help the teachers prepare for their day. I imagine I would get to know some of the parents of the students in my kids’ classes. I might get to stick around and help at recess. I could organize a game on the playground. I could even play kickball and kick that ball off school grounds!

The thing is, I can’t be the stay at home mom. Financially, it just isn’t in the cards for my family. Sure, my husband works. Often, his job takes him out of town so, I end up being the “default parent” anyway.

Today, I got a call that my son got injured in Physical Ed class. The teacher called me and apologized four times for calling me at work. Seriously. Four. Times. The injury sounded worse than it was, when I arrived at the school 15 minutes later.

Yes, that’s right. I work close to my kids’ school. And I can get to them swiftly. That’s not so bad. A conciliation, I guess.

And each time she apologized, I apologized for having to work.

But, it’s the nature of the beast, right? Someone has to work to pay the mortgage, the bills, and keep the lights on and the water running.

I wonder if I could stay at home, how long would I last. Would I go crazy? Would I need to be at the school all the time? I mean, helicopter parenting is a real thing, but, is being at the school that much unhealthy? I think yes.

But, still.

Maybe I’ve missed that chance.

My boys are older. Middle school for the elder, fourth grade for my younger.

Would it be uncool to be the middle school class helper? Again, I think yes.

It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Deb Burke

I grew up in the picturesque town of Madison, Wisconsin. That's the only normal thing about me. I also grew up in a family shoe repair business and soon learned that child labor laws don't apply to family businesses. I left Madison to finish college in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here I became a spelunker, a cyclist, a mountain trail runner, an avid hot air balloon watcher (much to the dismay of the drivers behind me) and quite the connoisseur of green chili cheese burgers. Eventually, I fell in love, had 2 children, bought a house, and then got married (in that order). Life is certainly crazy keeping up with my two boys!