This morning, I got completely and utterly lost whilst driving around. Perfectly understandable, you might think, given that we’ve lived in this area for just 10 months, and I didn’t have the GPS switched on. Except, I was driving home from Evie’s pre-school. A journey of 3.7 miles, which should only take 10 minutes and was the reverse journey of the one I had just taken to drop her off in the first place!
It took me 39 minutes to get home. On the plus side, I did find a hitherto undiscovered drive-thru Tully’s nearby, and managed to pick up my (clearly much needed) daily latte. But, on the other hand…I suspect this accidental little detour may be cause for concern.
I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel, and I didn’t “zone out”. But I was definitely distracted. Henry had been up 4 times in the night (as usual), and I suppose that 4 months of such a disturbed sleep pattern has led me to inhabit a world of fatigue and caffeine dependence.
It doesn’t come as any surprise to me that driving, while so sleep-deprived, is a risky business. After all, cars can be lethal weapons at the best of times, but add into the equation the fact that Americans don’t drive cars, they drive big-ass ole beasts (or “SUVs”, to the uninitiated), then I’m quite sure you have a recipe for disaster.
The fact that I was driving with Henry in the backseat, and Evie had been there just 5 minutes previously, got me thinking about responsibilities and all the “could have beens”. Yes, I know, you might be asking “What’s the big deal? You missed your turn, we all do that!”. Maybe so, but it’s a route I’ve been taking twice a week for the last month, and pretty regularly even before that. And once I had missed my turn, my mind just went completely blank on what alternative route I might be able to take to get home. Now, of course (now that I’m suitably caffeine-fueled), I know exactly where I should have gone, but at 9.15 this morning, all I could do was pull over, turn on the GPS and let Garmin lead the way.
But what is the alternative? There are no buses where I live. No trains, bicycle paths or sidewalks. Even if there was a sidewalk, where would I walk to? I have no choice but to load the kids into the Highlander every day, in search of entertainment, food or friendship. Henry is 5 months old now – if I’d taken the “don’t drive tired” rule literally, then I’d be covered in cobwebs and climbing the walls long before now!
I know I’m not the only one, though. My recent post on sleep generated lots of comments, including one from a friend whose 2 year old is still not sleeping through the night. This friend has been back at work for a year, so she has the double whammy of sleep deprivation plus the fatigue that comes from a full day in the office to cope with – is she supposed to flush her car keys down the toilet, then? Or get her husband to drive her everywhere she needs to go?
Of course not. Having children means lots and lots of driving – to playdates, to the grocery store for emergency diapers, to doctors’ appointments and petting zoos. But having children also means lots and lots of night wakenings, and a reliance on certain coffee shop chains to get you through each day. You can’t possibly not drive, just because you’re tired, can you? Not as a long term solution. But is there any way to make it safe to do so?
I’m aware that this is turning into a bit of a rambling discussion– yep, I’ve still not slept since this morning’s slip-up – but I do wonder…. How many other bleary eyed, or caffeine buzzed parents are out there on the roads at any given time? Mums with aching bodies, fuzzy heads and greying hairs, or Dads with work stresses, financial concerns and squabbling toddlers mashing Goldfish Crackers into the back seat? Frazzled, desperate parents who have loaded their screaming infants into the car in the hope that the motion will finally send them to sleep, but always aware that every red light might tip those tiny passengers completely over the edge and into full meltdown?
Should we be terrified at the thought of all these zombies at the wheel, or reassured that these are the people likely to be driving slowly and carefully, well aware of their precious cargos and personal limitations?
I can’t be the only mum driving around with only a vague idea of where I’m going, or where I’ve just been. So come on, share the load. What mistakes have you made behind the wheel? What brilliant anecdotes of laptops left on the roof, or babies accidentally forgotten at home (!!) do you have to tell? Or have you ever considered ditching the car altogether until the little darlings start sleeping through the night?