When my children were born, I was faced with the four horsemen of the parenting decision Apocalypse: work versus home, daycare versus nanny, breast versus bottle, and whether to cruelly abandon them to a crib or allow them to sleep on my chest until age fifteen.
Let me kill the suspense: work, daycare, breast for a while but then (fuck it) bottle, and cruel abandonment. However, unbeknownst to me, there is a little known, fashionably late fifth horseman that drags along behind it all of the same self-doubt, emotional reckoning and polarizing social commentary as the other four.
It’s the Mom Car.
I actually don’t care about cars. They don’t impress me, and I would never spend a significant amount of my income on one. I have three simple requirements: updated safety features, reliability and winter-weather performance. I wasn’t planning to sink any money into a new car once my firstborn came along but I got incredibly lucky. My in-laws were getting rid of a used minivan, and, rather than push it off a cliff for charity, they gifted it to us. I’d hardly bothered to switch the title before I adjusted the mirrors, installed a car seat and started scattering trash through all three rows, the way God intended. It was a free car. I was busy and I still had the other four horsemen of parenting judgement to obsess over.
And obsess we all did. My generation of mommies tried — we really tried — to avoid condemning and brutalizing each other. But we failed spectacularly and found ways to make each other feel like shit — just like new moms of today. The best we could do was keep our nattering to a low-key guilty pleasure. I was pretty confident, as far as parenting went, but I started to notice that a Mom Car was a big part of having a Mom Brand. Especially among moms who were considered “hot” before pregnancy, and were working hard to keep up the facade. I could barely be bothered to recognize my own car in a parking lot. I absolutely I wasn’t taking note of what anyone else was driving and what it said about their mom-hotness. Yet there was one comment that seemed to flow effortlessly out of the mouths of so many objectively Hot Moms that made the situation clear:
“I just…can’t…drive a minivan…” (Hand on chest. Wounded shake of the head. As if a minivan was the last red line of humiliation they’d never cross in their journey into motherhood.)
Wait — you mean you don’t know how? Or maybe you aren’t allowed?
Look — “you do you” and all that, but if you, Hot Mom, feel this strongly about your Mom Brand, let me share with you what you’re missing out on:
1. Racking up Favors: I’d drive a horse-drawn buggy as long as it had a third row. And eight seat belts. Good luck getting through the car pool years without them. Every time you drive someone else’s kid, that’s a favor you’re buying. So do the math and see how quickly it adds up to surviving soccer season, or whatever bullshit your kid is into. And yes, I know that other cars have them too. Keep reading.
2. Hiding in Plain Sight: I’ve done some pretty questionable things in my minivan under the cover of inadequately tinted windows. People assume it’s a mom car and that nothing interesting can possibly be going on in there. I know what you’re thinking, but dial it back to something more PG-13 such as changing clothes for a party. Or crying your eyes out to a friend. Things moms, especially Hot Moms with lives, still do. Sometimes they even do it while waiting in the carpool lane. Embrace this. Think creatively. Ever needed to be invisible? There is a pretty significant upside to being judged and overlooked.
3. Squeaky Clean Parking Etiquette: Sliding doors keep your karma clean. Your kids will never get you in trouble by flinging their door into a neighboring vehicle. And you’re far less likely to maim cyclist by “door-ing,” which kids also excel at. If this isn’t enough, watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith and tell me if you can honestly disagree with Brad Pitt about the convenience and value of those sliding doors.
4. On-The-Go Kid Purgatory: Someone in your car is in big trouble. You may need the entire drive home to collect your composure and refrain from strangling them. Every parent has been there, and so has every kid. Banish yours to the third row. It’s ok. They know what they did. If they’re smart, they’ll take the time to think through the consequences of their actions by the time you arrive at home.
5. Cover from Eavesdroppers: This is a little-known minivan superpower. If you’re in the third row, you simply can’t make out the conversation going on in the front. If the music is on, you can’t even tell there are other humans in the car. Think of all whisper fighting you can do with your partner while driving to Thanksgiving with kids in the way back. On the other hand, if you need them to hear you, just yell. They’ll get the point.
6. Ability to Flee: You can turn that Family Friendly Vehicle into a borderline creepy utility van in a heartbeat by popping out all the seats and consoles. That’s how you make a quick exit with all of your personal belongings in a single trip. I mean- if that’s a situation you find yourself in.
7. Glamping: Hey new Hot Mom — at some point, you’re going to be leading a camping trip. It will rain. You will want to go home. You’ll need to set a good example. You can easily sleep a decent handful of little kids and possibly yourself in the back of a minivan in a pinch. Again — the seats. They pop out.
8. Convenient Mobile Storage: Bags of clothing for goodwill, packages that need to be dropped off at the post office, dry cleaning…you name it. These are things you want off your dining room table, but you aren’t ready to prioritize dealing with. In this case, you convert your third-row passenger space into an ancillary walk-in closet on wheels. I’ve also been known to stash multiple umbrellas that may or may not work, stadium chairs for swim meets (there’s always one coming up), sweaty and stale running clothes that have been worn multiple times, and wellies.
Hot Moms: Nobody cares what you look like in your car. If you see yourself off-roading and hauling freight, I could be convinced that you actually need that massive SUV. If you want something smaller and fuel efficient, that’s a worthy goal as well. But before you turn your Hot Mom nose up at a minivan, consider, for a moment, its unique ability to meet your needs, your changing and evolving needs, needs you might not articulate but absolutely have, unlike pretty much anything else in your life. Once you do, you’ll understand why, for many truly smoke-show moms, it’s the sexiest car around.
This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born and is republished here with permission from the author.
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