You found the perfect house, just a short distance from your child’s school district. But the school doesn’t offer school busses, or you live just out of district. The house is inviting and the school system has a lot to offer so you think that driving your child to school every day won’t be such a bad thing. Not only will you get a few extra minutes each and every morning with your child in the car, but the drive is less than 20 minutes. How bad can that be, right? A great house plus a great school district is worth what seems like an insignificant inconvenience of chauffeuring the kids.
Driving your kids to school, at first – may seem like a small sacrifice for great gains. In 1969, only about 15% of all school aged children were driven to school. The vast majority, during wind or rain or snowstorm, fastened up their shoes and hiked the distance to their neighbourhood schools. Many biked to school. The first school buses were actually horse drawn carriages introduced in 1827 that were designed to take children who lived many many miles away from their school to the local school house.
Today, there are almost 500,000 school busses transporting close to 30 million children to school on a daily basis. Some of these kids travel less than one mile to their school, while others who live further away from the school spend up to 30 minutes (or more) on a school bus. The rise in school bus use has increased yearly for the past 5 decades due to safety concerns that parents have about their children walking to school unattended. And despite the mass transit available for school transportation it is estimated that 3 quarters of all children are still driven to school every day by parents or caretakers for various reasons. Some parents live out of the school bus route, others send their kids to private schools without bus systems, and some parents don’t feel like their child should have to leave the house an hour and a half early to take the bus each morning.
The problem is that what seems like a simple fix to a geographical problem in actuality becomes an extremely long term commitment that can have many negative side effects.
For one thing, there is quite a bit of time involved in driving your child to school, waiting in drop off lines, picking them up from school, and then waiting in afternoon pick up lines. If your child is involved in after school or extra curricular activities, there is even more driving involved, which means a large increase in gas expenditures and a huge sacrifice of your time each and every day. Remember that driving your child to school every day means that at the very least, you will be required to make the trip twice per day. This can easily add up to anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours in the car just to get the kids to and from school.
Many parents who drive their kids to school have several children with differing dismissal times. If your pre-K student gets out at 1:30 and your 5th grader gets out at 3:15, you have nearly two hours of idle time to waste. After all, it isn’t really worth the 20 mile trek back home only to turn right back around and do it again is it?
For the working parent, driving your child to school can cause a lot of stress and worry. Not only do you have to arrange your schedule so you can leave on time, but you also have to keep careful attention to weather conditions, traffic delays and other time vacuums that could make your child tardy, or make it nearly impossible for you to be at the school on time in the afternoon. Keep in mind that many school districts charge parents fees if they are late picking up their child in the afternoon and have to report tardy arrivals to the Department of Family and Children Services.
Obviously, every family situation is different. Still, before you decide that driving your kids to school every day is ‘no big deal,’ it is important to think about both the time and financial expenses that this will have on your life. You also have to take into account that you will always need a back up plan in case your vehicle breaks down, or life becomes unpredictable. Plus, that nice, calm and relaxing ride to school every morning that you envisioned as more quality time with your children can turn into a nightmare. And fast. The kids arguing in the back seat, rushing around in the mornings trying to get the kids out on time, and starting your mornings off as an off beat chauffeur for ungrateful children isn’t as cheer inducing as it may first sound. You also may resent just how much time you spend every day cruising around town to pick up and drop off kids when you have a multitude of other productive things that you could be doing.
There are trade-offs with everything in life. If you are lucky enough to have a bus system, count your blessings. And before you simply take the plunge into being a full time chauffeur think long and hard about the commitment that you are making. This is especially true if you are relocating to a school system that doesn’t have a bus system in place at all to fall back on. As your children get older, you will still be responsible for remaining available during school hours which can greatly hinder your future plans and employability. (Not to mention your sanity!)