The Lunch Lady is a Chemical Engineer

No, I’m not joking. The lunch lady at my daughter’s school is, indeed, a chemical engineer.


I was shocked. Chemical engineering is hard. Damn hard. She graduated from a good school. Had a terrific job at a Fortune 100 company. Then, she and her husband (who is also an engineer) decided to have kids. She went back to work after their first child was born, but she didn’t go back after their second child and has no intention of returning to her old job.


She can’t work and do all of the things she needs to do with kids. That includes finding care for them during the multitude of school holidays and over the summer, getting them to and from school (school by us starts after most people have to be at work, and gets out long before most people are home), and getting them to the myriad of activities that require a day time chauffeur.


My first thought was what a waste of human capital.

She is smart and well-educated. She was doing some cool work on batteries I barely understand, and there is so much more she could have contributed.

But an antiquated education system designed during an era when women didn’t work outside of the house has created a paradigm where a chemical engineer puts aside four years of grueling college work and another six years of industry experience to serve lunches and chauffeur kids around.

Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t it feel like such a waste?

Yet, I am starting to understand as I struggle to find .

Our VP of HR hires a nanny during the summer even though her kids are all in elementary school. As she said, it was the only way to get them to all of the soccer camps, ballet camps, and various other summer activities that suburban children are expected to attend or risk “falling behind”.

Yeah, already worried about falling behind in elementary school. Because if all the other kids are in soccer camp and yours isn’t…  You get the idea.

I have no idea what a good solution to this is. I like to delude myself and think that there are people out there working on it, but I fear there aren’t.


That for some reason we’re content with this waste of human potential. I’m not even sure why we’re okay with it, just that we seem to be.

Maybe I’m just more aware of it as out little ones become school-age. I’m already seeing the issues as we have to cart DD1 to dance class, tumbling, or swim lessons. I recently received the school schedule, and counted 21 days off that the kids have that do not correspond to a normal work schedule. So, yeah, gotta find some kind of care for those 21 days.

I wish there was a magical place I could drop my kids off in the morning, pick them up there in the afternoon, on every day I have to work. They would be educated, get the activities that they need, and the socialization. This magical place sends me a monthly bill, and all is well.

I suppose we all have our dreams.


If you have kids, how do you handle all of the activities, especially if they are during work hours? Any kid chauffeur services I’m not aware of?













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9 thoughts on “The Lunch Lady is a Chemical Engineer

  1. She is not the only professional to give up lucrative careers because of raising children. A promising Air Force enlisted I know left the AF to raise her children. The cost of care was too much.
    As for optional car services, grandparents are one. I know because on weekends, I often play taxi driver. During the week, my wife sometimes is the driver. We are fortunate to be close enough to help. Not everyone has family to help.
    The expectations placed on parents is much greater than when my children were in school. Amazing.
    I wish I had the answer.
    Excellent post though regarding the problem.

    1. I don’t really have an answer, either. But I do understand why so many professionals I know are forgoing children.

      Seems like an issue that should be addressed. Does it really make sense to educate 1/2 the population only for them to leave the workforce for 20 years they have kids in school? I hear it doesn’t get better as they get older.

      I wish those self-driving cars would be more of a thing 🙂 Okay, maybe I don’t. Not really. But I am desperate for solutions!

  2. This is the brick wall that all mothers face. My Mum was a stay-at-home mother, and although she must have been horribly frustrated at times, I actually appreciated having someone there when I came home from school. When I became a mother, I stayed at home as well, but I was lucky in that I could work from home because we ran our own computer business. Sadly such work doesn’t earn any superannuation and it doesn’t look that great on a CV. Then I had my Dad to look after. ..
    As far as I can see, the only way a woman can juggle both worlds without going mad is to be her own boss. The trouble with /that/, of course, is that you rarely make a lot of money that way.
    I wish I could offer a bright ray of hope but nothing will change until parenting is shared equally. Only then will our male dominated society make the changes necessary to allow all of us to have it all.

    1. So, so frustrating.

      Me staying home simply isn’t an option for,our family. DH didn’t want to, and I totally understood.

      Still, makes me wonder if the economy would come to a grinding halt,if all women stopped working.

      There has to be a better way. Yet, our politicians can’t figure out why birth rates continue to drop.

      1. It’s the bloody myths we tell ourselves. And yes, I do think the economy would grind to a halt because one person can no longer provide the standard of living we’ve come to expect. And that the economy is predicated upon.
        Can you imagine what would happen if cars weren’t replaced every few years? Ditto fridges, washing machines, tv’s microwaves…
        The list goes on and on.
        Sometimes I think that a dead economy might not be such a bad thing. Heresy I know but is this really how life is supposed to be?

        1. My grandmother has a washer she’s had since the 1960s. It still works.

          We bought a washer when we first moved into our house. It broke 4 years later. My uncle told us it was more expensive to fix than buy new (he was a repair technician for years). We bought a new one. Ten years later it died. Same uncle told us yeah, that was about how long they last now. They don’t build them like they used to because they want you to buy new.

          And yes, consumerism is most assuredly not the panacea we’ve been sold.

          1. -sigh- planned obsolescence. My car is almost 30 years old and it’s still going strong. What a difference a generation makes.
            I heard something on the news tonight that really surprised me. Some talking head finally spoke out, saying that capitalism in its present form was unsustainable. I think that’s a great big yes. 🙁

          2. I agree with his assessment. But I have no idea what to do about it. Too many people make too much money and have a vested interest to keep it that way.

            We do what we can, keeping cars for at least 10-15 years. Still in the same house we bought 15 years ago rather than “upgrading” once we had equity.

            Still, it’s a huge change in mindset. Buy not what you can afford, but what you need. And save. For yourself. Your children. And all those that come after that.

          3. Yeah, it is a huge change in mindset, especially as most Western countries are still unbelievably affluent in comparison to the poorest countries. But the spending curve simply can’t stay up all the time.
            I’m very much into saving for a ‘rainy’ day. It may arrive sooner than we think.

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