The problem with hiring a chauffeur for your kids

Yeah, kind of an odd title I admit, but this weekend I attended an Internet marketing event and there were a couple of high-powered “motivational speakers” (I use quotes because I didn’t find them very motivating, personally), one of whom made a very interesting comment…
To set this up, the guy, cut from the Tony Robbins Type-A mold, had spent the previous hour on stage telling us how successful he was, how much money he made, how he had a private jet and how the one time recently he flew commercial he was lost and had no idea what it was to “line up”, yadda yadda. Big, big ego, and very proud of his financial achievements.
Part of the shtick these guys use (and yes, it’s almost always powerful, forceful men who give these sort of talks in my experience) is to talk about their troubled childhood and their families. Is it true? Maybe. Is it manipulative and deliberate on their part to build sympathy so they can sell you something shortly thereafter? You betcha.
So this unnamed guy is showing off his $20,000 watch and showing us pictures of his private jet and he made an interesting comment…

He showed us a picture of his three children and his wife and said “I didn’t want my wife to be a taxi driver, so I hired someone to drive the kids around and gave her the freedom to pursue her own goals!”
People in the audience were impressed, but the more I thought about that, the more I realized that there was a profound lack of understanding behind his comment, a cluelessness that’s going to — in my opinion, at least — doom him, and perhaps his wife, to have a poor to non-existent relationship with his children.
Why? Because I think parenting happens accidentally. I think that it’s when we’re driving to the library, walking down the aisle of the supermarket or standing in line to get a latte at Starbucks that we have those little conversations with our children and gain insight into who they are and what they find interesting, important, repulsive, motivating, attractive, etc.
To put this another way, I don’t think parenting happens via appointment. I have never been able to have a “conference” with my children, solo or in a group, and get any sort of benefit from the experience. Parenting happens “between the cracks”, when you’re part of their lives and them yours.
Does that make sense?
In fact, I say, it’s precisely when I’m driving my son to grab a new book at the store or taking my daughter to look for a new pair of sneakers that we have those incredibly important little conversations that add up to a full, deep, rich relationship.
That chauffer? I can already imagine how it goes: kids in back, texting away, in their own world, Mom and Dad in their own worlds, and it’s like a happy little corporation with everyone working on achieving their personal goals and objectives. Once every day or two they all rendezvous for a quick meeting over a dinner doubtless prepared by their chef, and never do they actually connect.
To many in the audience, I think it sounded very appealing, and goodness knows that with three kids I have definitely spent too darn much time shuttling people around. But that’s what parenting is. Not the meetings, not the shepherding, but the participation in their lives, day to day, tedious and boring along with fun and exciting.

9 comments on “The problem with hiring a chauffeur for your kids

  1. As in all cases – it depends.
    The guy sounds like the type who views his children not as people, but as accomplishments of his. This is my jet, this is my watch, these are my wife & kids…
    But while I agree that parenting occurs at unplanned moments – the parents with the chauffeur could just as easily have those moments at dinner, at bedtime, or in the course of any day.
    The key isn’t in the driving, it’s in the engagement.
    It’s more than possible that type-A-guy’s wife wouldn’t engage her children while driving them about either… The image of her chatting on her cellphone and the kids texting away in back is just as valid.
    We parent (or don’t) as an active engagement. Whether in the car, at the random moment, or anywhere in-between – I’d say your guy’s issue with his kids isn’t the chauffeur, it’s the basis of the relationship.

  2. It’s an ugly thing when parenting is eclipsed by vanity. I have no problem with ambition, and I have no problem with children.
    But I have a problem when one’s ambition is at the expense of one’s children.
    Step up and be a parent.

  3. Our best talks happen in the car too, but an even better source of information is listening to them talk to each other or to thier friends in the car. If you keep your mouth shut, they tend to foreget that you can hear them. We have about a 5 minute drive home from school, but that is the best time to hear about their day, before they get home and get distracted by other things. My kids could take the bus, but I choose to drive them.

  4. I am 100 percent with you on this. The value of these car conversations is that they are organic – they just flow with the events of the moment. You get an immediate sense of what sort of day your child has.

  5. I agree. It’s much the same as getting a full time nanny and ignoring your children so you can be free to do whatever you wish.
    Once in a while it’s ok to hire a driver, but it should be an exception. Quite the opposite viewpoint is to spend more time with your kids as you get more and more successful. Isn’t that the dream?

  6. I was in that conference, and yes – he was certainly “over the top”. So much so, that you have to wonder how much of it is true, and how much is for impact.

  7. Amen Dave,
    Many years ago Readers Digest had a little article about the “Extraordinary Ordinary”. I used that with my youth group at the time and my then 9 year old son was with me, that young man, now 41 was at that conference with me this weekend. You have hit the nail on the head, being present to our children doesn’t happen in the back of the Limo. Let me say that again, being PRESENT to your children is my definition of love. Last week you mused about being too attached to your daughter when she was younger, I bet you wouldn’t trade that time for any thing now. NEIL

  8. Hi Dave,
    What a good reminder to stay connected – attached. We tend to move the real and important work off of our plates first in our society.
    I wanted to share this with you – I write a AP blog ( and this month I am hosting a Babywearing Celebration. Lots of positive stories, photos, poetry, and lots of sling giveaways/Mothering Mag subscriptions/etc. I’d love it if you’d share this with your readers. Feel free to email me for details.

  9. It makes me so sad that I am considering hiring a driver for my kids. I have 5 kids, and this year we often had days when 4 of the kids would have games in 4 different towns at the same time. There is no physical way I can do that! But I wish I could. I want to be the one watching every game and every rehearsal. I am so glad I was the one driving my 5th grader home from school so I could see him with his head between his knees in misery. If I hadn’t been “the taxi driver,” I wouldn’t have known how that school was beating him down. No, I am not hiring a driver so I can go to the gym instead of t-ball. When I think of my dear oldest son riding home from hockey with a random driver, it breaks my heart. I won’t be there to hear about the practice! I won’t be there to watch the practice! It’s my job. I am the parent. If I had not wanted to parent, I would not have had 5 kids. I only wish there was some way I could be there every day, every time, for every one of them.

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