When I quit my job in investment banking many years ago to stay at home and care for my three children, I wondered what career path I would choose if I ever decided to return back to “work”. Little did I know that the career path chosen for me would be the one of a livery cab driver servicing all of Fairfield County and parts of Westchester (and occasionally Long Island, New Jersey, and Massachusetts depending on travel team schedules). Clearly the book “What to Expect When you Are Expecting” deliberately chose not to extend into what I like to all the “Chauffeured Years.”
All those people who claimed “It gets easier when they get older” clearly were focused on the hardship of sleepless nights caring for fussy babies and not the endless driving it takes to get your children to where they need to be after school and then home again. I, like most stay-at-home mothers in Darien, enjoy my “carefree” mornings and early afternoons by running errands, volunteering at school and local organizations, and, occasionally, dropping by the gym. I then brace myself for the impending flurry of activity that takes place every day shortly after my kids return home from school and promptly need to be somewhere else.
In order to get everyone where they need to be when they need to be, I rely heavily on technology. I have color coded iCal feeds that stream directly into the calendar on my computer, which links to the calendar on my iPhone, which sets off reminder alarms, email messages, and texts that tell me where and when I need to be depositing and retrieving my children. I then load up the car with my kids, water bottles, protein bars, and bags of sports equipment and begin my marathon driving session.
Most days I just circle around Darien and Norwalk (since my oldest son chose to row crew and Darien lacks a river) dropping kids off and picking them back up. On special days, travel sports mandates that I extend my driving circle to far off regions in towns I may or may not have ever heard of before. Thank goodness for my car’s GPS navigation system, since I am extremely directionally challenged (my husband has been known to call me Mrs. Columbus).
My livery cab service often also involves other children with whom I car pool which can certainly help manage the driving demands. However, I have found that getting into a well functioning car pool can be very competitive. For example, within 24 hours of my daughter making a travel team, I emailed a mom in my neighborhood whose daughter also made the same team to suggest a car pool. I was shocked to find that she had already been “car pooled” with three other girls but I was welcome to join the four of them (regardless of the fact that her car could not hold 5 passengers…) Driving all around Darien to pick up 4 other children and then drop them off at Sono Field House or the High School did not actually seem to ameliorate my overall driving duties so I declined.
Car pools are great but, for the most part, the onus is on me to make it all happen. Unless of course it is the weekend, when my husband and I divide and conquer. There is, however, one huge advantage to spending quality time with your child in the car; it forces them to talk to you or at least listen as you talk to them. While I remember driving my daughter around in the car when she was a colicky infant to get her to stop crying and fall asleep, I now strategically plan what important topic I want to discuss with her on our car rides together. My eldest son and I also seem to have wonderful discussions on a variety of topics creeping along in traffic toward Norwalk on I95 (that road is seriously broken!) Conversations seem to flow more easily when your eyes are focused on the road and not on each other.
So, perhaps it is no coincidence but a natural progression that the driving aspect of parenting increases as our children get older and their horizons expand beyond our own family and home since the need to better communicate with them also grows in the same way. I will certainly try to keep this in mind as I cruise in and around Darien chauffeuring my kids.