I passed my driving test when I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child and because of that my examiner didn’t make me do an emergency stop. Which was nice, and sensible, but I had to do the more difficult stuff instead (I liked emergency stops, they were easy, you just had to slam your foot on the brake – like, duh? Who can’t do that?)
I then took a Pass Plus test which involved driving at night, on the motorway, and on winding narrow country lanes, in really bad weather (I remember it well, lashing torrential rain, rolling thunder, the occasional crack of lightening against a black sky, a swirling low-level country fog, visibility nil, pot-holed flooded country lanes with menacingly high hedges either side, it was like being in a horror movie).
Then came my first drive as a fully-qualified licence holder. A 45 minute jaunt to the coast behind the wheel of a Toyota people carrier which contained my whole family. I remember knocking down a signpost at the side of the road as we went through a tiny village, but it wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t a proper road sign or anything, it was only wooden. Probably wasn’t fixed in the ground properly anyway.
And that’s what made me think: why are women ridiculed for being bad drivers? Mothers are the best drivers in the world (Fathers too, obviously, but I’m leaving you out here because you don’t get any flack anyway). You know what a real Pass Plus test would look like? It would look like this:
You’d have three kids in the back, including one in a baby seat and one in a child seat, plus one child in the front. You will have just spent half an hour getting them into these positions, with much ill-feeling all round. The child in the front (the oldest, obviously, the one who won) will keep up an inane line of chatter and weird questions throughout the whole journey. Those in the back will fight, scream and whine while the baby keeps up an unremitting wailing. Juice will be thrown. One child will be sick, and there will be a long lead-up to this, a kind of will-he-won’t-he for a good five miles while everyone scrambles around looking for plastic carrier bags, blaming each other for forgetting to put any in the car.
The baby will start to scream, a child will somehow undo the buckle on the child seat. There will be sudden screams of ‘Mummy, mummy! He just..!’ There will be distressed sobbing and a tearful ‘Mummy, I just did a wee!’ You glance in the rearview mirror and notice all three children have bright red flushed and glistening faces streaked with tears at various stages of drying out. Your child in the front continues relentlessly ‘…and then if I get a train track I can make it go all round the country can’t I Mummy? Mummy? Can’t I?’
Forget the emergency stops and the parallel parking and all that rubbish, this is what a real driving test would look like. Mothers: best drivers in the world.