Stay-At-Home Moms And The Price Of Gas

I never realized until I became one how much the term “Stay-At-Home Mom” was an oxymoron. Quite frankly, I did more staying at home before I had my daughter than I do now. I’m the sort of person who’s quite content to be by herself (i.e. hermit), and before Cassie came along, that’s exactly what I did. Don’t ask me how I spent all that time by myself, because I honestly can’t remember much about my life before Cassie. I just vaguely remember I had one and it was very quiet.

These days though, Cassie and I have quite the booming social life. Because I think it’s important for my daughter to socialize with other kids her age, I joined up with a mommies’ group. Now Cassie can meet and play with other toddlers and I can meet and talk with other adults (hey, even hermits get a little stir-crazy). We also spend time with my handful of friends who have kids but aren’t part of the mommies’ group. We’ve sort of become a second unofficial mommies group because we get together so often. Between these two groups, I find myself shuttling back and forth between Chuck E. Cheese, Chick-Filet, various parks and playgrounds, and the houses of other moms. I take Cassie to two play dates a week, which turns into quite a lot of traveling because none of these families live in my neighborhood. On top of that, I’ve got Cassie signed up for the pre-school story time that meets at the local library every week. Cassie loves to go to the library and hear stories and sing songs, and I really want to encourage her to read. We also go to the YMCA a couple of times a week, right across the street from the library. On those days, Cassie either gets to play with other kids in the Y nursery or I take her swimming in the pool. Then there’s the two days a week we go to karate class. This is my activity, not Cassie’s. She gets to sit, watch and cheer as I punch and kick my way through an hour-long workout. I was worried at first that Cassie would be bored by it because she’s the only kid there, but she seems to enjoy watching the class and loves chatting with the other adult students. And I, of course, get some much needed exercise.

When I look at all the activities we do, I realize there’s probably not a single day of the week when Cassie and I stay at home. We’re always going somewhere, and that’s really starting to bother me in light of the current gas situation. Admittedly, gas prices have recently come down, way down, in our area. Three weeks ago, the prices topped three dollars a gallon. Today I saw one station advertising as low as $2.39 a gallon. That’s an astonishing drop in just a couple of weeks. But I still worry about wasting gas and money every time we head out the door, so I’ve been trying to think of ways to avoid using the car. Unfortunately, I can’t come up with any.

This is where the rant starts, folks. I live in the suburbs, a nice upper middle-class area in Southeastern Virginia where we have all the amenities a person could want, except sidewalks. I don’t know why, but there are very few sidewalks in our locale. Our neighborhood has a sort of jog trail that runs intermittently through the blocks, but that’s about it. And that jog trail doesn’t lead to any of the places I’d like to take Cassie, like say to a playground or park. There are supposedly two playgrounds in our neighborhood, but one (the really nice one with lots of slides, swings, and a huge jungle gym) is strictly for condo owners so we can’t use it, and the other isn’t really a playground. It’s just a rusty old slide that lets out into the nearby swamp, plus a couple of creaky swings. The whole thing is falling apart and I won’t let Cassie play on it for fear she’ll fall through a rotting board and hurt herself.

Thus we have to go outside our neighborhood to find a decent playground. Fair enough. There are some places only a few miles away. I could bike there. Unfortunately, in addition to the lack of sidewalks, we also don’t have bike lanes on any of the major highways in our area. Now this really bothers me. The YMCA and the local library are only five miles from where we live. That’s an easy bike ride, if only I dared to bike on Magruder Boulevard to get there. The speed limit on Magruder is 55 MPH. Most people drive a lot faster than that, and there have been more than a few fatal accidents on that particular stretch of highway. So there’s no way in hell I’m going to risk my life or Cassie’s by trying to ride a bike alongside that kind of traffic. I was considering it for a while but killed the idea last Friday when I saw a van skid fifty yards down Magruder to avoid running a red light. Fifty yards, people. That means this guy saw the red light far enough out to stop without a problem… had he been doing the speed limit. He almost didn’t manage to stop, and I had my heart in my throat as I waited for him to smash into the cars that were crossing the road as he came tearing down the asphalt. The intersection where he finally managed to stop is right in front of – you guessed it – the YMCA and the library. If I’d been trying to cross the road to get to either place, there’s a good chance Cassie and I would have ended up as small greasy spots on the front of this guy’s grille. Did I mention that there are no crosswalks in addition to no sidewalks and no bike lanes?

Oh, and before anybody asks why I don’t just take the bus, forget it. There isn’t one to take in our area.

So I’m ticked off. I really don’t want to have to drive everywhere I go, especially when so many of the places I go to are within a few miles of where I live. But at the same time, it’s just not safe to walk or bike anywhere I want to go. I’m considering sending a letter to my state delegate to complain about this, but the state of Virginia is having so many problems funding the scheduled repairs and maintenance of all its highways, I have little hope that anybody will set aside the funds to build sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.

It’s a real shame because the only way I can think to save gas is to stop using it. Thus I’m left with the decision. Become a hermit again (forcing Cassie to become one too) or burn up the gas to get her out where she can play with other kids? It’s not a fun decision to make.

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
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