Q. I am a working woman with four young children and a wonderful husband who is devoted to us.
He's perfect except for one thing that casts a cloud over my life: He insists on riding a motorcycle from our suburban home to his job downtown, traveling on one of the most dangerous highways in the area. He says the motorcycle saves him money, time and trouble. According to him, he can park it free, instead of paying the $120 a month to park the car; he has at least an extra hour a day to spend with the kids and on church and school affairs; and he doesn't have the hassle of arranging car pool schedules.
He does take the subway if it's raining or snowing, but says it's usually too costly and time-consuming, even though it only takes him 35 minutes door-to-door.
My husband doesn't think the motorcycle is risky because he wears a helmet, has passed a motorcycle safety course and is never in a driver's blind spot. I have total confidence in his driving ability but little confidence in other drivers. I almost hit a motorcyclist once, and find them hard to see.
I know that almost everything in life has some risk, but I think this one is unacceptable, unfair and even immoral, since five people are dependent on him. I couldn't support our family if he died or became disabled, and though he has made some good investments, he still has the same life insurance policy he had when he was single. Who's morally right?
A. Inside every 40-year-old is a 20-year-old, pushing to get out. Your husband doesn't really choose a motorcycle because it's cheaper or quicker or simpler, but because it gives him a chance to feel free twice a day.
The rest of the time he's Mr. Responsibility, dealing with the steady, relentless demands of marriage, children, school, church, job, mortgage. Somehow or other, he has to get a break.
A twice-a-day motorcycle ride is a questionable way to get it, however, and enough to worry any spouse.
Although most highway accidents occur in the first 500 miles that a biker -- or a driver -- spends on the road, even experienced bikers are at greater risk than they'd be in a car. No matter how defensively they handle their cycles, there are always some drivers who can't see them or can't judge their speed or who impulsively cross in front of them.
A helmet, goggles and leather or leatherlike clothes give a good deal of protection, but the National Safety Council has chilling statistics.
Although the number of motorcycles on the road is dropping, 3,100 bikers died last year and there were 340,000 disabling injuries, both temporary and permanent. Over the years head and spinal injuries have turned thousands and thousands of cyclists into paraplegics, and most of them are otherwise healthy young men who will live a long, long time.
Your husband may change his mind if he reads the free fact sheet on motorcycles published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1005 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, Va. 22201; but if he keeps on riding, ask him to get more insurance. A term life policy, which is much cheaper than straight life, would help to cover the family expenses and at least some of the college costs until the children are grown.
This extra insurance will make you feel better, but your husband seems to need a policy that pays its dividends in TLC. The more you nurture your marriage and each other, the freer you both will feel and the less he'll need to escape on his motorcycle.
Probably nothing would be better than a few weekend getaways a year, just the two of you. Borrow an out-of-season vacation cottage or an RV and farm out the children. You'll find that friends are quick to lend and tend, if you promise to take care of their children for a weekend. It's the ultimate payoff.
There's a caveat to all this advice. Make your case against the motorcycle with as much fact as emotion, and then stop nagging your husband about it. He knows how you feel, and more pressure will only make him more stubborn.
This is, after all, his life to risk, and his judgment to call. No two people have exactly the same values, the same expectations or the same perceptions, which makes us all, in a sense, alone. The more we demand that others think as we do, and live as we do, the more we push them away. Try to count your blessings instead. You have a serious, valid concern, but you and your husband are lucky you agree on so many things.
Don't expect perfection, however. Even if your husband stopped riding his bike tomorrow, you'd be anxious. Worrying is something we do, about someone we love.
Questions may be sent to Family Almanac, P.O. Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.