How Do Working Parents Manage Commute & School Drop Off?

Parent Q&A

  • I actually don't have any friends with kids my age where both parents are working full-time, to whom I can ask this question! So: my daughter is 4, and my husband and I both work (let's pretend that offices and schools are open again!) in downtown SF. Currently I leave home at 7.30 for a short bus ride to her preschool, drop her at 8, go to the gym for 30 minutes, work 9-5, pick her up at 5.30, and get home around 6. Husband cycles to work, works longer hours, but is still usually home for dinner at 6.30. All fine and dandy, plenty of work-life balance, we're very lucky, wouldn't change it for the world, except...

    We are craving more of a sense of nature around us, and a yard for kiddo to play in. We'd love to live in the Berkeley Hills if budget allows, or maybe Montclair. But I can't get my head round how two working parents manage to include school pickup and drop-off in a routine that necessitates an hour-plus-long commute for both of them.

    Do a lot of people have nannies to pick up their kids? I don't love that option for us. Does one parent usually leave work early to pick up the kid, and make up the hours in the evening? Again, not loving it. Or does everyone just live close to BART if they need to commute to SF?

    We are (or were, pre-COVID) in a similar situation and chose to live walking-distance to BART and chose a preschool and nanny share (two kids) within walking distance. That was the only way we could actually work and commute without hiring a nanny to do drop-off and/or pick-up or cutting work hours. We live near a BART station and have a yard and two parks within two blocks, so we have plenty of outdoor opportunities but we would love to have more real nature nearby. But we also love that we can walk/bike everywhere, something you don't really get up in the hills. There are trade-offs for sure - we dream about living up near Tilden but the time lost to commuting would mean less time with each other and the kids, and we don't really want to stay up late working at night, so we minimized our commutes and have more energy to get out to nature on the weekends. Now that we're all working from home it feels like we made the wrong choice, but once we go back to commuting I think we'll see the advantages again.

    Hello, and I can definitely sympathize as my family did this for years.  We live in the Berkeley Hills and for years my husband and I worked in SF - completely different neighborhoods, which added to the complexity.  Each of us had 1+ hour commutes each way.  Our daughter went to pre-school and then K-2nd grade with a nanny picking her up.  Worse, she went to before-school care, school, after-school care and then a nanny would pick her up, feed her, bathe her, etc.  We would eventually get home - me at 7 and husband at 7:30 (though our commutes were often unpredictable) and then we had to make dinner for ourselves.  It was incredibly stressful for us and eventually our daughter started to articulate to us how unhappy she was at not having a parent from Monday through Friday.  We gave up hobbies and exercising to spend as much of our off-time with her as possible, but eventually this became too much for the three of us and I quit my job to take a (less fulfulling) job in the East Bay closer to home.  The stress of the commute and the inflexibility of the nanny's schedule became a stress point in our family life and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.  I took either BART, casual carpool or transbay bus back/forth between home and SF for work and I realized that I was spending between 10-15 hours per week just in commuting.  We're all much happier after I gave up my commute and took over the evening parenting routine. 

    Pre-Covid my wife and I alternated roles. One of us would drop our daughter off at school/stay at work longer while the other would go to work early and then handle the pickup.