I know I am at risk of offending all my fellow mom out there – but if I am honest with myself and all of you, I have to confess, I am a much worse driver today than I ever was before I had kids. And if you stop and think about the way you drive today vs. before kids, you probably are inclined to agree with me. ABC News even recently stressed kids as one of the worst driving distractions. Every ounce of my patience is absorbed in wrangling my kids into the car, keeping them from killing each other and/or me while we are confined to the car, and somehow, getting us from point A to point B in one piece. I am quick on the horn, as it’s the one release of stress and aggression I have from behind the wheel, but also just one more reason why moms are the worst drivers on the road.
This photo was taken before the car even started, while we were still in the garage.
9 Reasons Moms are the Worst Drivers
For the parents out there who enjoy a childless daily commute, and in commiseration with the parents who don’t, I offer up 9 reasons for why moms are the worst drivers on the road.
1. Herculean effort exerted just to get out the door
Before kids, getting out the door on time was a non-event. As long I didn’t hit snooze too many times, I was showered, perfectly coiffed, and would find my purse, work bag, keys and phone precisely where I had left them on the kitchen counter the night before. Most days, I was out the door in time to stop for a delicious cup of coffee to enjoy on the commute to the office.
Today, I could wake up at 4am every day, and still struggle to get out the door in time to make 9am preschool drop-off. Getting Lil’ M dressed before breakfast is an exercise in futility, since she is the messiest eater on the planet. By the time breakfast is over, and I do get her cleaned up and dressed, Big M has usually removed her shoes, just as we need to be walking out the door. Then, there is the careful manipulation to convince Big M to not only put her shoes back on, but also to remove her tutu and leave behind her princesses, to get in the car, often requiring some yelling, and eventually resorting to threatening to leave her. While trying to get her to relinquish all her most cherished possessions, I’m also trying to remember everything we might actually need that morning – backpack, lunch, whatever other item we happen to need for preschool this week (like this week’s tub of nickels for coin wars or ‘red’ fruit for Thursday’s Valentine party), snacks for Lil’ M, diapers… not to mention my own keys, wallet and coffee!
Once we finally make it out the back door into the garage, there is the matter of actually getting them both buckled into their car seats. While Lil’ M wrestles in my arms to avoid being strapped down, Big M issues an adamant “I want ME to do it”… and another 5 minutes later, we are actually all buckled in and backing out of the driveway.
2. Chronically late
All of the above, not to mention trying to eventually get everyone out of the car, with coats, mittens and hats during winter months, leads to us always driving in a state of running chronically late. So when I get stuck behind the school bus stopping every block, or boxed in behind Grandma going 45 on I-95, my patience and any travel buffer has already worn thin. I am also very likely to lay on my horn if you cut me off.
3. 3 year old back seat DJ
To add to the fun, the second the car starts, Big M starts throwing out Siri commands from the back seat. “Play Frozen soundtrack.” About 3 songs in, I hear “How about we listen to something else now? How about we listen to The Nutcracker?” And since the likelihood of Siri actually working seems to be about 1 in 6 most days, while already stressed and running late, I’m now digging my iPhone out of the side pocket of the diaper bag and fumbling with it to stream Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker (because who is going to deny a kid’s request to play classical music, albeit holiday-themed and no longer in season) in the car to avoid the next scenario.
4. Screaming children in stereo
Big M has what I would describe as a short fuse. For a blessedly short period of time, she used to let out an ear-piercing screech while I was driving down arguably the busiest stretch of highway in the entire country. It usually happened when she decided she had to go to the bathroom… right now… despite saying no the 4 times I asked her before we departed. She also screams when Lil’ M reaches for her (her arm span isn’t long enough to actually reach), she drops something that is now irretrievable without physically removing the seats from the car, her shoes are wet, or she doesn’t like the song on the radio.
For added fun, whenever she screams, Lil’ M now screams too for a great stereo-effect. This also works in reverse. Lil’ M only typically screams when she loses her Nookum, which usually happens when she hands it to Big M who then immediately throws it where I cannot reach it or holds it and taunts her mercilessly, leading to scenario 5.
5. Fighting children
Before my mom got her Honda Pilot, she used to tell my Dad, she needed a car that my nephews couldn’t reach each other in. She often picked them up after preschool or babysat them on weekends, and the 15 months between them led to endless car squabbles. I didn’t fully appreciate what she meant by this until recently. Now that Lil’ M is 18 months old and increasingly independent, she no longer is content to sit idly by when Big M takes toys from her or when her big sister has something she wants – like a water cup, or book, or whatever princess Big M has negotiated bringing in the car. However, she still hasn’t quite wised up to the fact that when her big sister reaches out for something, she shouldn’t give it to her unless she doesn’t want it back ever again! These squabbles often exacerbate to the stereo screaming described above.
More dangerous still is when Big M is truly distraught… Lil’ M, defenselessly strapped in her car seat, often becomes the target of her ire. I am left to shield her with one arm, while still driving and following all traffic laws.
6. Incoming calls interrupt Frozen soundtrack
The Frozen soundtrack has soothed many an ill-tempered child in my car. It can right a wretched day at preschool, and calm a ‘no, you can’t wear your ballet shoes in the snow’ meltdown. However, hell hath no fury like a child whose Let It Go solo is interrupted by an incoming call. So if you are trying to call me during the drive to morning preschool drop-off and you feel red-phoned, you likely have been. Answering your call in the middle of Idina Menzel belting it out is just not worth the drama.
7. Chicken nuggets!
Big M has spotted a Dunkin’ Donuts. Don’t ask me why, I still haven’t figured it out, but whenever she spots one, she now insists on getting ‘chicken nuggets,’ by which she actually means munchkins. Munchkins are not something we get frequently, but apparently on the handful of times we have gotten them, they made quite the impression. I can now not pull through to get coffee or even drive by one, without a ‘Chicken nuggets’ cheer erupting from the back seat. Fortunately, this can typically be diffused by the promise of them at some later, yet to be determined date, but still serves as a distraction and can, on occasion, escalate to stereo screaming and fighting.
8. Road trips during nap time
Genius parents that we are, we often plan to make the 1.5-2 hour drive to the grandparent’s house for holidays or summer weekends during nap time. It will be perfect! We convince ourselves that we will pack up the car, feed everyone lunch, and they will peacefully drift off to dreamland as we back out of the driveway and start the trek. Only this doesn’t always go as planned.
Instead, we wind up with a car full of cranky (parents included) for too long of a drive. I spend most of the drive unbuckled in the front seat climbing halfway into the back seat to retrieve objects to pacify screaming children, and my husband, who just wants peace and quiet to listen to sports radio. By the time we pull into Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway, Big M has watched the entirety of Frozen on the iPad, Lil’ M has finally fallen asleep for the last 15 minutes of the drive, my head desperately craves an Advil and a stiff drink, and everyone remains cranky from a stressful, non-sleep-filled drive.
I never learn though – I regularly try this on my own when making day trip adventures to friends’ houses out of town or to the zoo or farm or Children’s Museum, convinced they will pass out on the way home. The days it does all work out feel like I won the lottery!
9. Sleep deprivation
This brings me to my own sleep deprivation. There is no exhaustion like the exhaustion of new parenthood. While the number of hours you sleep does improve as your children get older, the days of uninterrupted sleep are but a distant memory – and my kids are good sleepers. I just don’t sleep as heavily as I used to, always with one ear open to the monitor in case someone gets sick or has to go to the bathroom. And while I used to sleep through hurricane-force thunderstorms, I now wake up when the neighbor’s dog barks at midnight, and the garbage truck drives through at 4:30am.
This means that I also am operating a vehicle on a daily basis with chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has been proven to impair the brain as much as alcohol can. It causes impaired coordination, longer reaction time, impaired judgment, and memory impairment. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself on auto pilot driving to preschool when it is actually Wednesday, and Big M has dance class. Sadly, it’s usually the 3 year old voice in the back seat asking “Where you going, Mom?” that snaps me back in the driver seat.