“Where are the kids all day?”

Last night, coming in from a local Let’s Panic About Babies reading after work and some much needed belly laughs, I ran into a neighbor in the hall. She’s a woman I’ve always liked, despite her constantly informing Nate and me that Sage seems nice all but that Thalia is realllly special.

I suppose until you have kids yourself, maybe you haven’t yet learned that parents kind of like both of their children. Or maybe that’s just us.

“So you’re working from home again now?” she asks as we head towards the elevator together around 8PM.

“No,” I say, indicating the 90 pounds of work gear hanging off my shoulder. “I’ve been back at an office for more than a year now.”

“Ohhhhhh,” she says. “I think I remember that now.”

She hesitates.

“So then…wow…so uh…where are the kids all day?”

Where are the kids all day? She hardly disguised the judgment implicit in the question.

Of course a litany of snarky answers popped to mind, none good enough to actually say out loud.

Oh, they’re home alone.

Gee, we just pass them off from neighbor to neighbor. How do Wednesdays sound to you?

The kids! Oh my God, I forgot about the kids!

Well, Thalia is babysitting Sage now. Five seems like a good age to learn responsibility.

Some guy down the street just got out of prison last week and started a daycare. We’re trying it out. It’s cheap, and he throws in free juice.

What kids?

Because I’m only passive-aggressive in my head–and rarely clever on the spot–I just smiled, told her that they’re in school now, then tried to change the subject.

But the question stuck with me into the night. Even Nate, who tends to dismiss this kind of thing as me being sensitive, paused Call of Duty on XBox 360 long enough to raise an eyebrow.

“Do you ever get asked where the kids are all day?” I asked him.

No. Of course he doesn’t.

Speaking of things you never say to a working mom, I have a whole list of them published in Redbook this month, with thanks to everyone on my original post who contributed. Thank you! Thank you! Next time may it be a whole column and not just a few quips. There sure is enough material.

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