Two and one-half hours a day. Two and one-half hours. That's the amount of time I sped carpooling every day. It gives a person pause.

The route is so familiar I could do it in my sleep. I have nine children. Two need to be at school at 8:05, six at 8:30 (one at a separate school), and one at 9:00. I have one child who gets out at 2:00, five at 4:00, two at 4:30 and one at 5:40, except on Thursdays when it's 7:10.

I look enviously at my friends in New York where the state provides bussing.

It's dizzying; it's a coordination nightmare. It's time for a personal secretary.

I look enviously at my friends in New York where the state provides bussing. Or do I?

When it comes down to it I actually enjoy the time we spend together in the car (when no one's fighting). I like being the last one to say goodbye in the morning and the one to say hello again at the end of the day.

It's a time to check in and go over our days together. It's time we spend with each other as opposed to wasted bus time – it's captive quality time.

I confess to being a little sick of children's tapes, a little tired of "Did you bring anything to eat?" and a little worn out from the struggle over who sits where (we do have a seating chart). I am slightly wearied from the constant driving, maneuvering our van up and down narrow streets, winding our way through rush hour traffic.

Only the two o'clock run is a quick one although it has the disadvantage of being at that mid-afternoon "I could use a little nap" time.

Nevertheless I look on my carpools, when I'm awake and in a good mood, as an essential part of my job as a mother.

THE "SACRIFICE" IS WELL WORTH IT

When I drive my children to schools we chose for them because these schools reinforce the values we want to impart, I'm making a statement about our priorities. I'm teaching my children what's important to me and how much I'm willing to sacrifice for it.

My husband once had a teacher who grew up in a very poor family. In order to pay for his Jewish education they sold their stove and went without heat in the cold eastern European winters. And I speak of sacrifice, in my air-conditioned car.

To pay for his Jewish education, his parents sold their stove and went without heat.

Are my children learning the lesson –- or are they just focused on my screaming at them "Get into the car or we'll be late"? At least I know that it reinforces for myself the importance of my commitments and convictions.

My children know that I drive them because I care –- I care about their education, both in the classroom and outside. I care about their values. I care about their friends and outside influences. And I want to hold them for just a few more minutes in the protected environment of our family.

So I'll keep driving (as if there's a choice) and I'll take pleasure in my commitment to my children. I'll enjoy the time with them. And I won't complain about carpool.

At least not until the next professional development day when some schools get out at 12:00 and some at 12:45 and some at 4:00, and the other mothers aren't available to pick up because they're working.