Of all the things that have changed since I’ve become a parent, the way I spend my time in the car is probably one of the most affected. I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s true. You don’t realize just how many little aspects of your life are affected by a new baby until it happens! Back in my pre-parenting days, we used to be big road-trippers. We’d pack up suitcases, throw the dogs in the backseat, and drive ten hours home to see our family on a whim. These days, an hour in the car is considered a road trip.
And even just on short trips, my time spent in the car is much different than it used to be. I used to head out in the afternoon to “run errands.” This was a loose term meaning I’d be making multiple stops, deciding on a whim where to go next, and having no set finishing time. Now with Cullen in tow, I plan my outings carefully. Do I have snacks? Is his diaper clean? Do we have enough time before the afternoon nap? Spontaneity is out, and calculated, organized outings are in.
Here are a few other ways my driving has changed now that I’m a parent.
1. I used to listen to loud music. These days my radio is either on silent (sleeping baby in the backseat!) or it is playing Caspar Babypants – my son’s favorite sing-a-long songs. Even though I know I can listen to whatever I want at this point, it’s hard for me to hear his grunts and coughs if my music is up too loud. I keep it pretty low so I can make sure he’s okay in the back seat!
2. We used to take long road trips. I mentioned this above, but we were the ultimate road-trippers I loved packing our snacks, throwing our bags in the back, and listening to long books on tape as we cruised through the mountains and the corn fields of the Midwest. Road trips with a baby are the opposite of relaxing – frequent stops, one of us sitting in the back, constantly monitoring and entertaining a ticking time bomb strapped into a gigantic car seat.
3. I used to set out without a plan. As new parents we are all used to being warned of sleepless nights and witching hour screaming. But there are other more subtle lifestyle adjustments that can’t be warned about – they just need to be learned. For me, the hardest one has probably been a lack of freedom. And I don’t mean I am imprisoned by my son. Except that I kind of am. I am a slave to his nap schedule, his mood, and how many snacks I have left in the diaper bag. I used to set out for an afternoon of errands, making multiple stops in different neighborhoods, spontaneously stopping for a walk by the water on a nice day, or even popping in to visit my husband at lunch. These days, my outings are much more calculated. I am armed with snacks, diapers, and toys in hopes of doing something a simple as grocery shopping. His mood directly correlates to the number of times he’s taken in and out of the car seat, so I try to keep it to a minimum.
4. I am a much safer driver now. I don’t think I was a bad driver before, but I know that I am a better driver now. I vividly remember driving Cullen home from the hospital when he was just a day old. It felt like every car was zooming past us, swerving into our lane, and riding right on our bumper. Of course, these cars were just driving as normal, but I suddenly felt so vulnerable with our precious cargo along for the ride. Even though driving with a baby adds a new element of stress, I try to stay very focused on keeping us all safe for the ride.
5. I try to walk as much as possible. I am a huge fan of walking, and some of my favorite places we’ve lived in have been the spots where we were able to walk the most. Kids and car seats can be a tough combo, and so I try to really pick and choose what we’re going to do. Is it worth hauling Cullen into a car seat and driving across town? Is there something closer to us that we could walk to? Many times driving is a necessity, especially now that we live a bit farther out from the city, but I try to make our trips worth the ride.
Read more from Emily on her personal blog Daily Garnish, where she creates healthy vegetarian recipes, recaps her latest running adventures, and chronicles life as a new mom to her son and two crazy dogs. You can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest too!
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