Why Does School Pick Up Suck So Much?

by Lori Dwyer on April 22, 2013 · 16 comments

I vaguely recall, a long long time ago, vowing never to blog about school pick up. Evidently… I lied.


The really good thing about school holidays is not having to engage in the daily ritual that is school pick up time.

School pick up is the equivalent to social torture.

I’ve spent hours examining this inside my own head, attempting to figure out what my problem is. I’m still not exactly sure why I hate it so much… but I do. It’s a veritable dip in my daily routine. I spend hours waiting for three o’clock.

It’s not something I consciously worry about. Just a nagging, hot anxiety that brushes against my mind at irregular intervals throughout the day, with an annoying frequency. A combination of ‘Do not forget to pick up your son!’ (which, again, I’m worried about for no good reason I can come up with- it’s not like I’ve ever forgotten him before) mixed with ‘Oh God. I have to go and pick up my son’.

The two or three minutes between arriving at the school and the bell ringing are a compressing, heavy knot of boredom and conspicuousness, mixed with a frustrated disgust at my own inability to care. Mums and occasional token dads stand around, mostly singular but sometimes in isolating groups of twos or threes.

I’m bad at small talk, at chit chat. And I have no desire to engage here. I’m sure these people are all lovely and probably quite interesting, if I just got to know them. But I have absolutely no compulsion to do that.

I know it’s no big deal. School pick up should be on the very outer edge of consciousness and, except for the fact that I can’t quite figure it out, it is. 

But I also know I’m not the only mum who equates school pick up with the eighth level of Hell.

It’s the openness of it, perhaps, the feeling of parenting on an visible platter,  lashed with large helpings of lingering parental guilt. That persistent thought you probably should engage here, but can’t be bothered, don’t have the tenacity or ability to bullsh*t required.

I’m envious of the mums who revel in the extended opportunities for chatter and casual friendship that kid-centric social activities bring. I think, maybe, I used to be one of them.

For now it’s undefinable, unmitigated torture. And I have no clear idea of exactly why.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg May 10, 2013 at 3:45 am

When the black dig won’t stop biting your heels and you hate who you are school pick up just tears you apart over and over again. They all look in control, you know they all must bake daily and they can throw a groovy little outfit together without thinking. Meanwhile it’s been a week since I showered I want my bed and the meds make me fat. So everyday a 3:30 the dog and I go for our daily no self confidence poor body image and poor self care reminder while watching these mothers and their little cliques make everything I can’t do look so fucking easy.


Anne-Maree April 25, 2013 at 10:20 am

It’s easier when they’re a bit bigger and you can pick up and drop off without leaving the car….
By mid year for my first, I’d trained him to meet me at the gate. By the time number two started, he told me on the second day “you don’t have to walk me in mum, I’m fine… SEE YA!”
Ahhhh independence! Yay!


Belinda April 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm

I hat school pick up because all the mums at my sons school (well most of them) are a bunch of old stuck up bitches. I loathe 3.10pm but I guess I’m not there for me, I’m there for my son and daughter. But it’s still not easy standing around feeling like a total nigel no friends every afternoon. haha


shannon April 24, 2013 at 9:09 am

I know exactly what you mean.

On top of the hell that is trying to find a car park,the awkwardness of standing alone when everyone else seems to be nattering away in little circles (even though you don’t want to chat to anyone particularly) while you try to look busy & nonchalant waiting those last few minutes before your child leisurely makes their way to you.

Brings back my old school odd-one-out feeling..the most annoying thing is why I care if I dont want to talk to anyone?!


Sue April 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

My youngest is in Grade Two and his older brother finished senior school before he started in Grade Prep. Yep, twenty-six years of school drop offs and pick ups!!
Hate it too, all the ‘Cliques’ but have decided that none of the other parents matter because after Junior school you only stay in touch with the parents that you want to, so I only bother with the people that treat me with respect now.
As for stressing about pick up time, I have set my phone alarm to half an hour before I need to leave as well the when I need to go, so no matter where I am I won’t forget :)


Marie April 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I’ve been a nanny for a long time and I hate pick up with a passion. First of all the die hards get there at 3 and wait half an hour just to get the best parking spots, so unless I want to sit in my car for ages I end up miles away. I actually wouldn’t mind chatting to the mums but when you’re “the help” they won’t have a bar of you. Then the kids never get out on time, then it’s a long walk back to the car followed by nightmarish traffic and kids going in all directions.


spagsy April 23, 2013 at 2:47 pm

HA! Since when do you have time to be bored?

poppycock I say!!

In all seriousness didn’t this happen at Kindergarden? I would imagine it to be worse than the school pick up? And what parental guilt? I am all confused?

Is the school near the library? Maybe you could hang out there for a bit?

I know I know… I suck. I should just say what’s in my head…which is…

“oh crap! not more parental torture to (not) look forward to”

I hope it gets easier for you Lori.
spagsy recently posted…Little AngelsMy Profile


Carol April 23, 2013 at 11:37 am

Yes, yes, & did I say… YES!!! Loathed the pick-up with every fibre of my being. I’m well finished with it all now, thank my kids. I think it has to do with the not knowing of things. The who-fits-with-who, whose kids went to kindy/pre-school together so they’re already a click on their own. The blonde brigade (dear god – how I loathed them), the list is never ending really. First day of school, DS wanted to invite a little asian boy home. No problem there, ‘cept said little boy’s mum didn’t speak English very well. Then there’s the – if the parents don’t like you, will their child be allowed to play with yours? How do you explain that one?
DH did forget to collect DD once after school – she still reminds him of it some 20 years later lol.
See – time does pass. And you can always hibernate in the car ;)


Helen April 23, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yep, it gets easier and you will find once you have a child in higher levels of primary school you will find very few parents hanging around within the school grounds. We live to far away from school for our kids to walk home but I have an arranged pick up spot where I park and read blogs on my phone until they met me at the car. makes for a far better use of time!
Hang in there!


Sapphyre April 23, 2013 at 9:44 am

It gets easier Lori, right now you are transitioning from parent with pre-school kids to parent with one preschooler and one school kid – and it’s almost as big a change to life as having that first baby. Eventually you’ll be a parent with two school kids and it will be different again. I’m at the stage where my kids can get themselves home from school every day – this is wonderful :)

I have forgotten to pick my daughter up from after school care on occasion, but I did generally remember as I pulled into our driveway :)


Anonymous April 23, 2013 at 2:15 am

I loathe school drop off and pick up with every fibre of my being.
Especially in my case with younger children to drag along day in, day out for the whole horrible process.
I live for school holidays and no routine.
And I won’t even start on the chit chat that I never want to partake in. Nor the bloody play date saga, as someone else has already mentioned.
I think I could have a blog dedicated to just this topic!


Miss Pink April 22, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I hate it too. It was expecially hard at the start when I was still working out who was who’s mum, and who of those I could actually strike up a comfortable friendship with. It will come though, as Chop tells you who he especially likes and would like to come play at his house, you will slowly talk to some of the parents. Some you will click with, others not so much. Sometimes even though you click great with those mums you will want to hang your head and just not chat that afternoon, and sometimes they will leave you in your solidarity, and sometimes they will approach you with comfort or a distraction that you may just need for the day.
I mostly don’t like the school pick up, sometimes it is filled too much with the small talk, but sometimes I just need an adult to talk to.
Miss Pink recently posted…Afternoon TeaMy Profile


Sapphyre April 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

Totally agree that the easiest thing to do is just be friendly with the parents of those kids your kid wants to hang out with. There are way too many parents in one grade – it can be quite overwhelming.


Kirsty Forbes April 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Ohhh dude. Could of written this post word for word I swear!!!!! This is my first year of having to do it. And the school run, drop off and pick up, everyday, does.my.god.dam.head.in!!!! I hated it after the first 2 weeks actually lol … I don’t know why either!!! I said to a few friends of mine, ‘is it normal to hate school drop offs in the first two weeks?!?!’ …. School holidays were bliss! (well besides from the screaming and fighting with two kids home, plus the ‘I’m bored’s’) No time frames!!! blergh lol.. so glad there are other mummy’s out there who feel the same!


Istina Mavit April 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I agree wholeheartedly! I hate school pickup so much I contemplated hiring someone to do it for me! If school pickup were a comedy club, I would be the one dying on stage. I often blurt out inappropriate things, I live in fear of teachers calling me over to discuss my children (so much so that I tried to hide from a teacher, only to find she wanted to compliment my son!), and I dread having to organise playdates (unless they are at someone else’s house!). I’ve never forgotten to pick my kids up from school … but, I did forget to pick my son up from after-school care! I think the only thing worse than school pickup would have to be kids birthday parties!!
Istina Mavit recently posted…What Lucy Said!My Profile


WonderWoman April 23, 2013 at 7:20 am

I’m with you on this one despite the years I’ve been doing it.
Selfishly enjoying the change of schools now as the kids are eligible for a bus pass and LOVE it. I get to stay in my pjs.


Previous post:

Next post: