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Adventures in Parenthood: When Mom and Dad Don’t Drive

Drew was born and raised in Manhattan and, as a result, has made it to (almost) 42 without ever learning to drive. When I got pregnant last year, Drew and I had a deal that I would take an introductory class in Judaism and he would get a driver’s license. While I failed on my end of the deal — hey, it’s exhausting work growing a human! — Drew did take three driving classes — not enough to actually learn to drive, but enough to almost run over a mother and child crossing the street and rattle his nerves so much he’s not likely to ever get behind the wheel again. Unfortunately, driving is something that, while I actually have the experience and license to do, makes me a nervous wreck, too, particularly in the city where we live, so much so that I’ve only driven once since moving to New York nearly five years ago. Sometimes this is a terribly disappointing scenario, especially in terms of raising children. I’d always envisioned taking family road trips or driving my kids to the community pool for swim lessons, but if both Drew and I remain hopeless causes behind the wheel, I fear those fantasies may stay just that.

While I haven’t officially given up the idea that we may eventually be a car family — or, at the very least, a family who occasionally takes weekend drives in a sensible rental to pumpkin patches in the fall or lake cabins upstate in the summer, Drew’s idea of being a mobile family is more focused on choosing the perfect stroller for our five-month-old. Instead of poring over Bluebook values of gently used cars like many middle class parents with growing families, Drew pores over consumer reviews and instruction manuals of strollers. He stops people on the street and asks their thoughts on whatever model they happen to be pushing their precious cargo in. And when we finally made it to the baby store in our neighborhood last weekend, he fretted over the difference between an UPPAbaby and a Maclaren (we settled on the UPPAbaby, pictured above).

Rolling our new stroller out of the store, I felt a twinge of sadness that there wasn’t a horn to honk at passersby to celebrate our big-ticket purchase. Marking the occasion instead with a couple Margaritas at a baby-friendly Mexican restaurant down the street, I was reminded of one of the upsides to not driving. After finishing our drinks, we carried the folded stroller onto the street where Drew and I took turns trying to figure out how to open the damn thing. Neighbors walked around us as we passed the baby back and forth and shook the stroller, pushed its various buttons and doohickeys and finally got wise and looked up the directions in the owner’s manual.

I immediately imagined us, instead of on the friendly streets of Park Slope, Brooklyn, on a busy freeway with an overheated engine or a flat tire or a loose axle, pulled over to the shoulder of the road and calling triple-A with a screaming baby in the back seat. The vision doesn’t do anything for my anxiety about driving, especially with a partner who doesn’t have a license, but it does temper some of my immediate disappointment over our current state of mobility. For now, I’m more than happy pushing around a stroller through Brooklyn and darting around New York City on the subway with my baby nestled next to me in a carrier. But talk to me this summer when my craving for a road trip kicks in… I may end up revisiting the deal I made with Drew last year and take those Judaism classes, after all.


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Joanna March 21, 2012, 1:14 pm

I can’t imagine growing up and never learning to drive. It’s just one of those rites of passage. I had friends from NYC in college, and was always boggled by the fact that they never learned to drive. Before I met people from NYC, I could not imagine growing up and not learning to drive. It seemed to be one of those grown-up things one always wants to do when they’re little.

But I guess with as much public transit as there is in NYC, you never really need to learn. In most areas, public transit sucks (such as my city) or is non-existent (like in rural areas).

avatar Anna March 26, 2012, 12:35 am

Yep, that’s pretty much my mindset too. But I’ve always lived in rural Ohio where pubic transportation is nonexistent. I didn’t get to go ANYWHERE for the first 16 yrs of my life because my parents didn’t feel like driving me and wouldn’t let me ride with anyone else, even my older siblings. When I was 15, I was able to get my temporary permit and learn to drive. After a lot of driver’s ed classes and logged hours driving with my parents, I got my license a few weeks after my 16th birthday. I already had a car, as my parents had given me their old ’86 Mercury Grand Marquis that they no longer drove.

avatar Anna March 26, 2012, 12:37 am

OMG, totally meant PUBLIC transportation, not pubic! lol. I’m on very little sleep and a few glasses of wine post-vacation, excuse my perverted typos!

avatar sarolabelle March 21, 2012, 1:17 pm

I live in Houston where there is no such thing as public transportation….must be nice to not have to drive.

avatar Jane March 21, 2012, 1:35 pm

Houston does have the METROrail (which they’re expanding) if you’re inside the loop, and the bus system for the ‘burbs (although I have never been adventurous enough to risk using the buses).

avatar sarolabelle March 21, 2012, 2:00 pm

the buses only run one way (into the city in the morning, out of the city at night). If a family without a car wants to go to the “baby store” to buy a stroller even in the middle of downtown Houston, there is no way to get there.

avatar Jane March 21, 2012, 3:53 pm

Not saying it’s GOOD transportation (it sucks), just pointing out that it’s there in some limited capacity. But I agree that it would be great not to have to spend forever in traffic from hell and then fight for parking in minuscule lots. Am not looking forward to doing that in a few hours from now =/

avatar Britannia March 21, 2012, 3:06 pm

My town is the same way, too. We have a public bus system, but it doesn’t go to probably half the areas of the town, and takes an hour to go 15 miles. Having a car is simply not an option! Only the University students with meal cards are the ones who can get away with not having wheels.

avatar quixoticbeatnik March 26, 2012, 2:11 am

Good old Houston. Always fighting traffic on 610, or just anywhere else really. I wouldn’t mind the “lack” of public transportation (not really in my area) but there is nowhere within walking distance for me. Or if there is, I have to pass through a somewhat shady area of town….no, thanks.

avatar Sue Jones March 21, 2012, 1:21 pm

My stepson is 20 does not drive and probably for good reason…. Living out where I do driving and having a car when you have kids is a necessity. My son’s social life is busier than mine! (Sad but true!) We are a 3 car family. 2 Priuses that we drive around town to work and my son’s events and to his school and an old beater van that we use to lug lots of gardening stuff, drive us up skiing or to the airport with all of us and our luggage. We do not drive it any other time. I am someone who needs to get out into nature regularly so without a car that would be impossible. I always wanted to drive and have mobility. I have heard that in NYC you really do not need to know how to drive. Hard to imagine. Definitely saves money not to own a car…. and better for the planet!

JK JK March 21, 2012, 1:24 pm

As I´ve mentioned here before, I started driving when I was 31 (and totally nervous about it). I never ever wanted to drive (Buenos Aires and the surrounding area, where I live has a good public transportation system), but then I had my eldest, and it was a totall hassle getting on the bus with stroller, baby bag, etc. And working (I was making house calls at the time) was taking way too long, having to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus, then walk to the next house. So for my 31st bday, my husband bought me a car.
I´m still pretty nervous about it, but I have no idea what I would do without a car now! Especially with 2 kids: the 4 year old walks a lot, but not everywhere we would have to go. Not to mention dropping her off and picking her up from kindy, playdates, birthday parties, all the shopping, doctor appointments, etc!
The next step is changing my car, it is getting way too small for me! Hopefully I get to keep my husband´s car and he gets a new one, but I doubt it will end up that way.

avatar musiclover85 March 21, 2012, 1:24 pm

Perhaps Drew should try taking driving lessons on Long Island. It might be a bit more expensive to get out there via the LIRR, but I’m sure you could find a quieter neighborhood to practice in to ease him into it a bit more before facing the city streets.

Driving in the city can cause a lot of anxiety, even for an experienced driver. But the number one thing that you need to drive in the city is confidence. Otherwise, you’ll never make your turn, you’ll have people honking and swearing at you, and you will vow to never get behind the wheel of a car again.

Jess Jess of CGW March 21, 2012, 1:30 pm

But the sub-plot to these posts is always: What does Jackson’ t-shirt say?!

Dear Wendy Wendy March 21, 2012, 1:34 pm

Oh, you guys have seen this one before. It says: “Lock Up Your Daughters.” If this were a feminist site, I’d have to change it to “Lock Up Your Daughters (And Maybe Sons, Too). But we don’t have to be THAT politically correct around here.

Jess Jess of CGW March 21, 2012, 1:49 pm

Haha! I didn’t guess.

Yeah, lock up your sons AND daughters is not as funny.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki March 21, 2012, 1:55 pm

On top of being PC, that would also be a lot to fit on a tiny baby shirt!

Speaking of baby shirts, I was shopping for my friend and I ran across these shirts on LTD Commodities and one of them said “I’ve been on the inside for 9 months!” (Which was extra funny for me because of my husband and he said that’s the first one he’s getting our kids).

avatar Addie Pray March 21, 2012, 3:36 pm

I saw an adorable onesie the other day that read: “Poops, I did it again.”

Hee hee.

avatar MJ March 21, 2012, 3:40 pm

My favorite onesie is “Mommy just wanted a backrub.”

avatar Addie Pray March 21, 2012, 3:51 pm

Hee hee. They should make onesies that say those things for adults. I’d totally wear one around the apartment…. Sexy.

I got my French friend – who speaks no English – the “Poops I did it again.” I had to translate it in French and then explain that it was a Britney song and what “oops” means and what “poops” means and how in English the words rhyme… and it was just not funny anymore. So there’s a baby in France wearing this onesie and no one there gets it. That kid is so avant garde.

avatar Amanda March 21, 2012, 3:44 pm

Not everyone associates being feminist with being a PC humorless hag.

avatar lets_be_honest March 21, 2012, 4:10 pm

I was gonna respond, but then figured I’d get yelled at. Oh well.

Dear Wendy Wendy March 21, 2012, 5:39 pm

Just feminist SITES.

avatar Sue Jones March 21, 2012, 1:35 pm

Another curse of the suburbs…. NOTHING is scarier than being followed by a car driven by a teenager who just got their license! I have another 7-8 years before my little son gets behind the wheel. That is another thing.. *I* certainly am not going to be the one who teaches him how to drive! I’m just not strong enough!

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki March 21, 2012, 1:56 pm

My step daughter turns 15 this November, so next summer she’s getting her permit. I’ll just have to remember to stay off the sidewalks.

avatar lets_be_honest March 21, 2012, 1:39 pm

The phrase “gently used” now makes me cringe…

avatar MissDre March 21, 2012, 1:39 pm

I think I’d die without my car. But then again public transit here SUCKS. When I was in college, the distance between my house and my job was 7 minutes by car, but 1.5 hours by bus, because there was no bus that went in a straight line, it had to meander all over suburbs, then I`d have get off at another station, wait, then transfer to yet another bus that would meander all over the suburbs yet again til it finally arrived at my work. Oh, and no bus after 10pm so I couldn`t even get home from work.

landygirl landygirl March 21, 2012, 1:41 pm

Driving in a big city is frustrating and chaotic. You have to be aware of pedestrians, bikers, other cars, trucks, etc. I’d be intimdated if I had to learn to drive in a highly populated area. I suggest if Drew really wants to learn how to drive, he should start off slowly like in a large parking lot during off hours when no one is there.

For my very first driving lesson, my instructor took me to an extremely windy road in the Santa Cruz mountains, a road I had no business being on as an inexperienced driver. He was kind of a putz and the school eventually went under (no surprise there).

Moneypenny Moneypenny March 21, 2012, 2:35 pm

For my first driving lesson, the instructor took me out on 280 to practice getting on and off the freeway. Totally nerve wracking. Then when I got home my dad took me out to teach me to parallel park in his truck. That did not go so well.

I’ve been driving all over a big city for the last 10 years, and it’s not so bad (aside from the bikes not stopping at stop signs) but I agree, if I had to learn to drive here, it would be so intimidating (much more than the onramps on 280!).

landygirl landygirl March 21, 2012, 3:10 pm

Where on 280? Some of the entrances and exits are so poorly planned its a wonder that there aren’t more accidents.

Moneypenny Moneypenny March 22, 2012, 2:00 am

It was around I think San Mateo and up to Burlingame and back. I remember there wasn’t much traffic at that time of the day, so it actually made it less scary than it could have been!

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki March 21, 2012, 3:39 pm

Our instructor tried to teach us about the danger of over-correcting by grabbing the steering wheel while we were driving. I didn’t do well with that part because I wouldn’t let him do it.

FireStar FireStar March 21, 2012, 4:55 pm

I first learned after my undergrad and I had an instructor ask me if I liked being spanked while I was learning to merge on the highway – I’m still surprised I didn’t crash the car.

avatar Tax Geek March 21, 2012, 1:44 pm

Re: Learning to Drive (or anything new):

Before I was good, I had to be bad.
Before I was bad, I had to try.

avatar Rachel March 21, 2012, 1:49 pm

Good saying.

Moneypenny Moneypenny March 21, 2012, 2:36 pm

Nice one!

avatar Renee March 21, 2012, 1:44 pm

I live in an older neighborhood, built before there were automobiles. I do have a mini-van, but I walk whenever possible. I don’t live near a good department store, we use to until it moved up to the mall 25 years ago when I was a child.

I find it odd we live in a city, but my husband has to get on a highway off to some office park in the suburbs to work. I would die in a cul-de-sac. Commuting (not work) sucks of the life out of people. It is such a large part of quality of life, kids or no kids.

I'm An Earth Rocker! Miss V March 21, 2012, 11:34 pm

I can relate! I live in Philly & have an hour commute to the burbs, on some of the worst roads in the US (Roosevelt Blvd & I-76 aka Screwkill). Worst. Drivers. Ever. Like, ‘OMG a fender bender on the side of the road, lemme just slam my brakes tho I’m goin below speed limit straddling 2 lanes while I chat on my cel phone about it!’

While my initial lessons were on rural roads, I am glad my ex taught me how to really drive in the city. It was panic-attack inducing at first, but now I can drive anywhere, tho with my current 65 miles a day, annoying, brake-destroying, sanity-sapper of a commute, not as eager to be in my car…and don’t get me started on gas prices…thank God for my loud stereo

avatar Zepp March 21, 2012, 1:45 pm

Driving in the suburbs is significantly easier and less stressful than driving in the city. I grew up driving in North Carolina and loved it, I drive stick and everything, and it still took a year of driving only on Sunday (which is a very quiet day here in vienna car wise) before I felt comfortable driving in the city.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki March 21, 2012, 1:59 pm

I live in a medium sized city (about 220,000) and its laid out so that it is nearly impossible to not drive. We have public transportation that is ok, but not great (I actually take the bus to work, but I drive to a transfer point first because there isn’t a convenient bus stop near my house unless I want to walk a bunch of block as 5:30am). Our stores are all spread out and there are very few residential areas near them. Even living downtown isn’t helpful because there aren’t really any grocery stores.

avatar AliceInDairyLand March 21, 2012, 2:14 pm

Madison. It’s totally hopeless. I have had to have a car on campus for the past 2 years because it would be impossible for me to get to work taking the bus all the way out to the west side… With 2 transfers. Ugh.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki March 21, 2012, 2:57 pm

Right now I get off pretty easy living near the North Transfer Point. I drive there in the morning (about 4 minutes away) and take a bus that drops me off downtown right near my building and I have a carpool that takes me to my car at the end of the night. Of course I’m moving to the west side in a month and I’ll have to figure out my buses again.

Crochet.Ninja Michelle.Lea March 21, 2012, 2:20 pm

it makes me nervous to think about not having a vehicle! i grew up outside of a small town, if you didnt drive, you couldnt do anything. no public transportation.

now we do have it here, and i did have a few years that i used it, and i was fine, but i’m not a huge fan.

avatar Clare March 21, 2012, 2:21 pm

I hate to be a spelling stickler, but this kind of stuff just jumps out to me. when you say “pouring over Bluebook values… Drew pours over consumer reviews,” it should be “poring” and “pores.”

The other plus is no worrying about who doesn’t get to have the margarita!

Dear Wendy Wendy March 21, 2012, 2:38 pm

Thanks, I fixed it.

Admit it though: You kinda like being a spelling stickler, don’t you? Just a little?

Jess Jess of CGW March 21, 2012, 2:45 pm


avatar Addie Pray March 21, 2012, 3:28 pm

Thank goodness you don’t point out commenters’ mistakes! I’d be in big twubble.

avatar lets_be_honest March 21, 2012, 4:11 pm

You spelled trouble wrong.

avatar Addie Pray March 21, 2012, 7:11 pm

Your mom is trouble! (I dunno, I’m tipsy. When I get tipsy two things happen: I win all arguments with “your mom!” and I get very handsy.)

avatar Monica M March 21, 2012, 2:27 pm

Not driving is strange for me. I have always lived in the Midwest where there is no public transportation. I currently work 25 miles from home which comes to almost 300 miles a week behind the wheel. I once drove from Ft Lauderdale to Wyoming by myself. I had a rough patch a few years ago when I was in a head on collision. I was terrified to drive for year, but had no choice. I would often be crying behind the wheel. Finally got over it, the whole get back on the horse things does work.

Fabelle Fabelle March 21, 2012, 2:30 pm

I looove driving, even in NYC! The trick is to pretend you’re an asshole cab driver that doesn’t give a fuck if you hit anybody or if anyone else hits you : )

Jessibel5 Jessibel March 21, 2012, 3:34 pm

I grew up in the Bronx and have no problem driving in NYC! You can practice your patience!(Also, get good insurance!!!) Now granted, it took me 3 tries before I passed the test to get my license, but now that I live around DC, I am always driving up to NY, so I have gotten a lot of practice in the 10 years since I’ve had my license. The thing that always makes me chuckle is people bitching about New York drivers. Come down to the DC/MD/VA region and you’ll have something to bitch about, lol!

avatar cdubs March 22, 2012, 9:28 pm

Yes. And the traffic. Holy mother of God. I got stuck on 50 west today after work. Uuuuugh.

avatar Lucy March 21, 2012, 5:20 pm

Ha, this is so true.

mandalee mandalee March 21, 2012, 2:30 pm

I have many friends from NYC that actually do have their licenses and let me tell you, driving with them makes me fear for my life from start to finish. So, maybe it’s a blessing that Drew doesn’t drive lol My one friend rambled on and on about what a good driver she was when rented a car in college to go to LI and she nearly ran over about ten people in the city and drove in the left lane on the main road because “it’s where she felt comfortable”, even though she was doing 15 miles UNDER the speed limit. I’m not religious at all, but I prayed for my life that day. haha

I’m a nanny now just outside of Boston and I can definitely see the benefits to just throwing the kids and all their junk (why do little people have so many things?!) and just hitting the road to the zoo or the playground or swim lessons. However, when everything can be reached by subway, bus, or just walking, it’s pretty nice too.

Leroy Leroy March 22, 2012, 1:42 am


New Yorkers just shouldn’t drive. They shouldn’t be allowed to drive outside of New York either. Because driving in NYC is like a gladiatorial event. Normal rules of safety, and basic decency, don’t apply. It’s a game of intimidation and no one has insurance! So they act like they’re driving oversized bumper cars.

This is also why NJ drivers suck, because they learned to drive in New York. Jersey is actually worse. They have highways and can travel at elevated rates of speed well beyond the capabilities of their feeble driving skills.

avatar cdubs March 22, 2012, 9:31 pm

Why would Jersey drivers learn to drive in NY? Um, no. Most Jersey drivers actually hate NY drivers. And we are good drivers, we just drive in a more aggressive style than most people are used to (which is why I have no trouble driving in the VA/DC/MD area…same style). Doesn’t make them bad drivers..

dabbler dabbler March 21, 2012, 2:50 pm

Driving in cities bothers me more now than it ever used to. There’s just so much to pay attention to, especially it you’re not familiar with the area, and my anxiety levels sky rocket. Driving in baltimore or philly’s not so bad, where it’s more grid-like, but dc is awful and you couldn’t pay me enough to drive in NYC. I was pretty sure I was going to die in a cab in manhattan! Haha.
The beltways around dc get pretty intense too. Agree with whoever said above that in city driving, you pretty much have to drive like an asshole if you want to get anywhere. It gets nerve wracking.

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki March 21, 2012, 2:59 pm

I like to drive, but hate driving in large and unfamiliar cities. When I go to Chicago for concerts I always try to convince someone else to drive me.

dabbler dabbler March 21, 2012, 3:08 pm

For me, it depends on where I’m going. Like, I don’t mind driving to friends houses in the middle of philly, even when the roads are crazy, because I’ve been there enough times to get familiar with where I am. But once I’m in the city, my car stays put and they drive wherever we go.
And parking. Parking is just ridiculous and makes me angry.