With at-home mothers an endangered species, how are some Washington families meeting the car pooling challenge? Some ideas:
Supervan: Susan and NASA physicist Dixon Butler, who live in Northwest Washington with three children, bought a big van to use for car pooling. Their theory: The more kids you can put in a car, the more families to share the driving and the fewer pickups and deliveries.
Their present car pool transports nine children from five families, kindergarten through sixth grade, to private school daily. Each family is responsible for one day's pickup and delivery. The responsible person drives to Butler's house, picks up the van, drives the kids to school, then drives the van to work so it can be used to pick up the kids at 3 p.m. and return them to their homes. The families chip in for gas.
How do they manage the early afternoon pick-up? Says Susan Butler, who is an executive with her family's discount retail business, "I just figure I have an appointment every Monday afternoon. The alternative is having our kids ride 40 minutes on a bus."
Manpower: Two out of three of Anne and Eliot Segal's children are riders in car pools for after-school activities. Anne Segal, who went to work as a program analyst for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services three years ago, says "many of the fathers are taking off early to get these kids to their activities. Where we live (the Bannockburn/Burning Tree section of Bethesda), the fathers are higher up in their organizations than the mothers--they've been working longer--and they're better able to call the shots on their own time."
Segal says she works fewer hours than her husband, but because her hours are less flexible, her husband, a benefits consultant, "often comes home in the afternoon, drives the car pool and goes back to work. He doesn't have to take leave time to do it, and I do."
In another family, the father adopted a government flex-time work schedule, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in order to be available for afternoon car pool shifts.
Trade-offs and Pay-offs: Fran and David White, both government lawyers, have a 16-year-old daughter who one day a week has two skating lessons with a friend at a rink near their home in Bowie. The friend's mother, who works part time, picks them up at school, drives them to the skating rink for the first round, brings them to her home for dinner, then drives them to their early-evening skating class.
Because she cannot pitch in with the driving, Fran White tries "to make up for it in other ways. Occasionally, I'll cook a batch of chili to contribute towards dinner. When the girls need new skating outfits, I'll buy them. I look for opportunities to pay for things."
Jane Whaley, a single parent and a nurse anesthetist at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, used to have a work schedule that allowed her to drive her share of a private-school car pool. This year she has to be at work by 7:45 a.m.
"I was going to drop out of the car pool and send my son by bus," she says, "but the other parents insisted they'd help out. I wouldn't agree unless they let me pay for their time and gas when they drove 'my' turn, and that makes me feel better about not doing my share of the drives."