How to be in Three Places at the Same Time

The busy mum’s guide to carpooling 
Before you become a parent carpooling means sharing the drive to work or a social outing with a friend or colleague in order to save time, money or the hassles of parking. If you’re the driver, you can travel in transit lanes for more passengers. If you’re a passenger, you can drink alcohol and not worry about parking tickets. You talk to or text your friend and make an arrangement. Often just minutes before the trip.
When you’re a parent, carpooling becomes a badge of honour worn only by the super-prepared and deployed with military precision by extremely organised mothers armed with a mental map of all local activities, memorised schedules of two other families plus their own, and an array of car seats and boosters. It’s something you wonder about as you again get to after school care two minutes before soccer starts for child #1 and seven minutes before piano ends for child #2.
Inner West parents often have the added torture of being relatively close to locations (as the crow flies) but unable to make it on time due to a nightmare of roadworks, traffic and unhelpful public transport. One mum has even taken the extreme measure of developing an Uber-style ride share for kids. (check it out here)
Yes carpooling is magic. Yes it requires planning. It also helps the environment and your pocket. But it is possible. And you too can achieve the busy parent’s nirvana: An afternoon where everyone arrives in the right place with the right stuff at the right time with considerably less stress on your part. These are some points to follow:

  1. Talk to other parents who look sane and sensible while at your child’s school/soccer practice/netball session/after school or weekend activity. Check they are decent and that their children are in the same team/training session/school/class as yours. Discuss schedules, home and activity locations.

2. Suggest that you could help each other. Bring up carpooling and if they  are amenable, swap mobile numbers. If they can’t help you now keep them in mind – things like activities, work places and schools do change.
3. Work out a plan for one afternoon or activity per week and get agreement for a trial.
4. Arrange everything by text as mobile phones are always on and checked often. Plus it’s in writing.
5. Make sure one person is the coordinator of the carpool. Swap each week if you want.
6. If you’re the coordinator, set an alarm each Sunday to check the arrangements are okay for another a week and send the schedule by text.
7. Make sure the schedule is clearly understood in a text message. For example:
Mum Sandra has daughter Lucy and sends this text to Mum Debbie who has daughter Amy.
“Mon: Sandra: L&A fm sch to netball. Debbie to bring home. 
Thu: Debbie: L&A from sch to dancing. Sandra to bring home” 
8. Make sure everyone in the car pool confirms the schedule. Older kids can check this from a family calendar, via a text message or in their diary. Remind younger kids in the morning of what is happening that afternoon and put a note in their lunch box. Teachers at school, day care or pre-school will also need to be informed, often in writing or by email.
9. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
10. Continue to build up a network of parent contacts. You may be able to help each other in the future.
Top tips from this expert carpooler who has had two children in up to 2 weekly carpools each for over 10 years.

  • Only have one contact person for each family even if both parents can help with the driving. This person answers for the family in terms of children’s schedules and availability of drivers.
  • Make sure all parents of all families involved (whether or not they are the coordinator or driver of the family) and any child passengers with their own phones, have stored all the contact numbers of everyone else. Use only in emergencies.
  • Make sure all the adults have the phone numbers and addresses of all schools and activities and know the start and finish times. Even if they are not regularly driving the kids.
  • If there are last minute changes, the coordinator or driver should be the one to contact the coordinator of the affected child’s family and they should contact their child and advise of the change. Unless there’s an emergency.
  • Keep to all road and car seat safety rules. Do not use the mobile phone while driving. Do use all correct car seats and boosters. Always account for under 7 year olds including younger siblings who have to come along for the ride. Click here for details on car restraints and kids.
  • Always ask a parent for their permission before allowing their child to travel in the front. Kids under 145cm tall and 12 years old are not recommended to travel in the front.
  • Have the courtesy of keeping your car relatively clean and tidy. If a child complains about having to hold your dry cleaning while travelling in your car, the carpool may not last long.
  • Children do not need to be friends to travel in a carpool together.
  • Never let a child – anyone’s child – out on road side of a car or to run across the road by themselves.
  • Walk them to door of the activity or home or make sure you can see them entering.
  • Be nice. Be respectful. Be flexible. If you need an extra favour, always offer a time to help out in return. Try to alternate weekly so that no one family or driver has more of the burden than others.
  • Always say thanks in person once a week and ALWAYS make sure your child thanks the driver EVERY time they get out of the car.

This article was written as a collaboration between Helena Tosello, IWM and a fledging writer, and Susanne Thiebe from LessMess; Susanne and Helena met through their kids school and shared many cups of coffee over the years pondering how to better the world.
More articles from Susanne:
Nobody is Born with Clutter
Sharing, not Owning
Wardrobe Wonders – How to Create a De-cluttered and Organised Wardrobe – for Everyone in Your House
Start now
How to time manage… cleaning your house
Back to School – Start School
Life Hacks for the (Lazy) Smart Mum
Free the Dinner Table

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