This month I found myself stuck in excruciating traffic on the highway while visiting a friend in a Toronto suburb with my 8 month old daughter in the backseat.  I looked at the car next to me and saw a four-year old girl in the backseat with her nose pressed against the glass and the saddest expression on her face.  It occurred to me that this was part of her daily routine between 3:30 and 6:00 pm.  Right there and then I promised my daughter that she would not spend her childhood afternoons like this.

Before I became a parent I took pride in my support for alternative modes of transportation.  I regularly took the bus to work.  I donned a helmet and hopped on my bike.  I became so fit I even began to run the 8 km trek home.  My colleagues looked at me sympathetically because my husband has our only car or they think I’m crazy for foregoing my free parking pass.

Tess and I enjoying a stroll at 8 weeks

I can’t blame them, because I too was married to a car-centric lifestyle before I worked at an NGO filled with environmentally savvy do-gooders who inspired me to discover that commuting need not include hours stuck in your car on the freeway.

Now that I am entering the last leg of my maternity leave, I do not want motherhood to force me back into my car.  Granted, I am anxious about the kind of commitment involved.  I see frustrated mothers on the bus, struggling with their strollers and unhappy children.  I question the safety of child seats or chariots strapped to my bike.  I think of how easy it would be to pick Tess up from daycare in our Volvo and be home in no time.

So this week I experimented with our commuting options… I figure if I can get us around without a car in the middle of January then we’re golden when I return to work.  We went to a play date yesterday, with Tess in her Ergo Carrier on the bus and we cuddled happily all the way to the YMCA (she even slept soundly on the way home).  Last week I bought some winter treads for my trainers and strapped Tess in the BOB stroller— she laughed and laughed as the wind blushed her cheeks and her stroller trudged through the snow.

I realized that I don’t have to swear at traffic while my children stare listlessly out the window.  Commuting is central to the quality time I spend with my kids as long as it seizes the opportunity to bond… just like going for a swim, reading bedtime stories or putting on a puppet show.  Quality time is not something I have to wedge into my schedule, but part of every single minute I spend with my daughter.

As much as I can, I pledge to leave the car at home.  Even though our commute may take a little longer our journey will be filled with love and laughter.