The novel anxiety of driving with children in tow

Wall-E model in front of a toy car

The last time I drove was in the very early stages of my pregnancy. We were house-sitting in a stone house in the French Alps. Nacho, my partner, had gone to Russia to report on the World Cup. I had to get into town for groceries, pick up friends who were coming to visit, and make it to Geneva to pick up Nacho who was on his way back. I did all of that, in our van that kept all of our belongings. I did it safely. I even listened to podcasts while driving. I did it because I had no choice.

Right now I’m trying to figure out what I hate about driving because I am trying to learn how to drive again. I’ve had a driver’s license since I was 18. I have never felt particularly comfortable driving, but over 20 years I drove many cars in some twenty countries around Europe and the Americas, even if reluctantly. Yet I have been unable to drive since I got pregnant for the first time, over three years ago. A friend told me that US reality star Kim Kardashian went through a similar block after having one of her babies (not necessarily connected to her being a mother) and she overcame it through therapy, apparently.

I do plenty of therapy, but a friend gave me money for driving classes for my birthday and that obliged me to be more productive about my “driving block”.

The truth is that I don’t like cars. I loved riding a bike along the canals in East London all the way to work at the BBC World Service headquarters at the Strand. I loved lugging it onto the train to reach Buenos Aires from the northern outskirts and having my freedom around the city — though plenty of Argentines will tell you that the capital is not especially bike-friendly, except for its flatness. I still love riding a bike, but the southern outskirts of Athens are not bike-friendly, especially with a baby in the back seat. Public transport is sketchy and walking doesn’t get you many places — except for the beach, for which I am very grateful.

If I can’t drive, I depend on Nacho to do it for me. He likes driving, he is good at it, so it’s a no brainer. But is it so easy? Psychologically, having him take responsibility for something that…

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3 thoughts on “The novel anxiety of driving with children in tow

  1. I have a driving tip for you … you are already taking lessons. That’s #1 in importance.

    Next, I suggest you always plan your drive (even if it’s just a local destination) by mentally tracing your intended path. I use a highway / street map that I bring up on my computer (well I have an iPad and I use an App called WAZE). Any online map will do the same thing. Even if you know the route, take a few minutes to drive it virtually. Try to picture intersections where you plan to turn. If your route has street names and highway numbers, note them. Be deliberate. If there are multiple lanes, which should you be driving in? As your driving instructor says, this is dangerous business. … so think “RISK”. Where should you expect hazards like merging traffic lanes? Think through your drive as you would plan a meal or any challenge.. You might discover that you enjoy driving.

    Not everyone plans their drive: They react to every situation as if they enjoy surprises. So you need to watch for their erratic behavior.. Slow down at intersections and watch for other drivers. Try to anticipate problems they might throw at you. Be defensive. They will thank you when you save them the trauma of an accident.

  2. Irene, you really stroke a chord last week. I have to confess that I’ve always hated driving. Probably because my father drove me to school for around 10 years, regularly cursing at the morning traffic and climbing on the sidewalks in order to gain a few meters . Taking a bus was one the major achievements of my adolescence. So, when I turned 18, I didn’t want to get a driving licence. My friends persuaded me with two arguments: 1) What if somebody needs help?; 2) The licence allows you to drive camper vans. I still prefer to walk and live in “car-unfriendly” cities (cities where you don’t feel a car is needed). I wish this was normal for my daughter. And I hope to buy a camper van soon.

  3. Driving was a big “issue” for me. It took me a long time to stop being afraid when driving and enjoy it. It all started because I wanted to feel the independence that driving would give me. I felt that driving is too much of a men’s ability -and for no good reason.
    i am a greek female but I started to drive when I moved in the Netherlands. I drove a lot in NL, even a road trip to Switzerland, however when I had to drive to Greece it was a different thing all along…
    It is not easy to drive in Greece -drivers do not always adhere to road rules- and overcome your fear at the same time. Driving in Athens, having an instructor that doesn’t speak english, being the first carer of your child and the responsibility that brings…seems a lot.
    Sometimes we put ourselves into situations that are predefined to fail and then we feel even worse when we indeed “fail”.
    If I could give any advice, choose a route and repeat it. Make yourself familiar with this one route. Try not to add extra challenges, for instance parking. What would make you feel more comfortable ? Maybe do not take your child with you the first times, maybe a friend or even alone feels better?
    Starting to feel comfortable in this one route and the challenges will add themselves; only this time you will be familiar with the basics and you will only have to face the extra challenge! This is something that worked well for me. It took me time and patience and fear (and it still does sometimes) but I saw later that the quote “feel the fear but do it anyways” needed to be combined with the some balance (you don’t do bungee jumping when you fear heights, you first walk a high bridge).

    P.S. Driving in Athens is itself a fearful and difficult task.

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