What parenting responsibility would you like to pawn off?
Thanks to doctors’ appointments, piano lessons, gymnastics classes, and other commitments, I spend two hours every day chauffeuring my kids. I would love a reprieve from my time behind the wheel. ~Cynthia Garman, Milford, Ohio; Real Simple magazine
Driving kids around: not one of my favorite things. Some people do like it, I hear – they say it gives them a good opportunity to talk to their kids; captive audience or some such thing. But my kids are still little. Rather than wanting them to talk to me more, I’m usually in the car hoping against hope that maybe, just MAYBE, one of my little darlings will conk out and nap in the backseat while I drive around with my peppermint mocha. It never happens. Sigh… A girl can dream.
There’s a sinister side to this, though. We HAVE to drive our kids around because we don’t have viable alternatives.
I remember a conversation I had with a neighbor a few years ago who told me that one of the reasons she was still home with her kids was that they wouldn’t be able to be involved in any extracurricular activities if she were working. (Not the only reason, and I should mention that she is the kind of stay-at-home-mom the rest of slackers aspire to be.) It was sad, she said, for kids whose parents both worked. Since they didn’t have a ride, there were all sorts of things that they didn’t get to do.
I would imagine that working parents might contest that – but maybe not? I’m interested in your thoughts on this. The decisions about whether and how much to work beyond one’s parenting and household responsibilities are complex and weighty. And now we’re adding chauffeuring to the list of challenges? When I connect the dots on this, it kind of floors me that something so seemingly trivial could be a barrier to workplace re-entry.
Prairie Home Companion nailed this (what – you don’t listen to Prairie Home Companion?). I can’t embed the audio – apologies – but you can use this link and go to 15:39. It’s really worth the extra click; hearing a song is so much better than reading it. An excerpt:
She sits at the stoplight, waits for the green
She’s late for the meeting at 11:15
She texts her executive assistant, Marie
As she takes off in her black SUV
School is out at quarter to three
Macon has basketball, Jordan is free
Until 4:30, when he’s in therapy
It’s a busy day, in that black SUV
She heard a story on NPR
About women who spend half their lives in their car
Career women, with a family
Driving around in a black SUV
She went to Berkeley where she got her degree
In English with a minor in philosophy
She never imagined someday she would be
Driving around in a black SUV
(The woman in the song ends up totaling her black SUV and switching to the trolley. That part of the song is pretty fun, too, just a little off-topic for today.)
I don’t have a lot of answers here. This is life in suburbia, and I’m not complaining so much as observing a flaw in the way we’ve set up our little corner of the world. But I think it shows why it’s to our benefit to begin talking about livability a little bit more. Fifty years ago, our places were built for people. Now they’re built around cars, and we’re not able to get by without spending our lives in them. The automobile is a great tool, but we’ve passed the point of diminishing returns here – it’s beginning to take more than it gives. We don’t want to go back in time. But moving forward into a future that builds places around people again sounds pretty darn awesome.
Six weeks after I originally published this, I found this study on the topic, entitled “High-Mileage Moms.” It’s a good read if you’d like more on the topic.