The Beauty of Not Driving


Tommy, on his very first road trip (Montpellier, France, June 2014)

My friend labmonkey just wrote a blog entry describing a roadtrip (or what passes for a roadtrip: she had a baby just over a month ago, so it was a shopping trip that involved a lot of nursing in bathrooms and the car). labmonkey’s partner doesn’t drive (yet), so she needed to be there to chauffeur… but sounds like it was kind of a fun time.

I’ve been on “roadtrips” just like labmonkey’s on many occasions, and they totally felt like roadtrips. I don’t drive (I may have mentioned this previously: I have a licence[1], I just don’t drive), so there was literally no reason for me to be there: I could have stayed home and nursed baby/ies as needed and not had to drive way out to box stores in suburban hell to buy things.

But here’s the thing: I loved those trips. I think part of it is that my kids have generally slept more reliably[2] in cars than anywhere else, and part of it is that being a stay-home mum with babies gets a tad monotonous and any “event” is welcome, but part of it was just that it’s fun to drive places with Steffen. We get to hang out. It’s almost like a date.

We’ve recently started commuting to work by car for the first time ever in my life. We live in suburban hell now (not to mince words), and we initially tried taking the train/bus, but it’s more expensive than driving, and more tiring, and less convenient, and (most importantly) we get home a little later, which is actually really problematic, because our kids are pretty sleep-deprived. It’s a mad dash to get them to bed when we get home as it is. Because I don’t drive, Steffen is stuck doing all of it, and while he hates it, he doesn’t pressure me. I’d feel like I’m taking advantage of his gentle nature (I frequently do), but I don’t think he’d be very comfortable as a passenger, so I don’t think he actually wants me to drive[3].

So he drives, I knit. I LOVE this solution, needless to say. When we took the train, he did the daycare drop off and I got off the train a few stops later than Steffen and the boys, so I still got about 15 to 20 minutes, twice a day, to listen to podcasts and knit. But I like the current arrangement so much better, not because I get to knit more (just a little more, really), but because I LOVE the roadtrip feel of the commute.

We’re planning to move back to Canada, and I suppose I’ll start driving again, although hopefully we’ll never have to commute from suburban hell into a big city centre again. But for now, I’ll enjoy my daily family road trips, feeding the kids “toast sandwiches”[4] and bananas, and knitting in the passenger seat.

  1. Actually, two: I have both Canadian and New Zealand licences in my wallet. And I used to drive in Canada… I even spent a month simultaneously learning to drive manual and chauffeuring my rural-dwelling dad around to doctor’s appointments etc. after he had a stroke a few years ago. But I’ve driven in New Zealand exactly once, not too long after Tommy was born, when I felt like I really needed to get comfortable driving. Then I got over it.
  2. Also longer: I remember a trip to Europe when Tommy was about 8 months old where he slept for 5 hours in the car, woke up and nursed, then slept another 5 hours. I suspect this particular case was mostly attributable to jetlag, but there were other occasions where he slept shockingly well/long in cars, though less spectacularly so.
  3. I just asked: he has mixed feelings, in that he’d HATE being a passenger, but would like me to feel comfortable driving. Which is what I thought. And we agreed that it’s probably best for our marriage not to create a source of conflict we don’t need to.
  4. We toast english muffins, spread them with peanut butter, and cut them in eighths, which I then hand to the kids two at a time, sandwiched together. We do this mostly because Miso has a tendency to cram all the toast in his mouth at once, then spit it out when he realises he can’t chew it. He has the most disgusting eating habits, we don’t know how to deal with it! I used to give them one piece at a time, but it took forever, and they’d get very loud and demanding if I wanted to finish a few stitches before the next piece. So I started sandwiching them together to speed things up (and give myself slightly longer knitting breaks in between).

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