Monday, May 9, 2011

A Mother's Emotional Odyssey

As the sea of silver surrounds me, my head starts to spin. A wave of nausea takes over and I can feel sweat dripping from my palms.

Where am I?

Confusion bubbles up inside my body, beginning a duel with it's cousin frustration, both looking to be top dog in the fight to take over my entire being. I felt so vulnerable as I grasped the tiny hands of my children, trying to protect them from my fear, yet I couldn't find the ability to lead them to safety.

"Look Mommy, that's just like ours!"

Lucy's squeal brings me back to reality. I take a deep breath and give her a smile that it's all going to be okay. For the drama isn't something new or life-threatening, but just another day for a mom in the suburbs -- trying to locate her publicly-parked silver minivan...
There's our car, Mommy!
Over the weekend, I ran across an article (and corresponding slide show) on AOL titled, 'Vans that Are Both Practical and Cool.'  I bet you an iced, venti, half-caf, whipped, calorie-laden coffee that the writer of that article does not drive one of the aforementioned 'cool' minivans. Yet marketers are hard at work trying to grab the purse strings of our country's decision-making mamas. It's obviously working because minivan sales are through the roof, I think over 75% of them happening within a 15 mile radius of my family's southern California suburb.

I can't judge. It worked on me when we made the 'Hotyssey' purchase five years ago. I was a mother of two babies, falling for the hype that good parenting was directly in proportion to how willing a mom was to sacrifice her own needs and wants. I was a martyr in training -- handing over the last morsel of food to my needy babies, even if they had already eaten and I had not. I would listen to endless hours of Disney Channel theme songs (I swear I will take down those Doodlebops if they even think about ever singing about getting on a bus in front of me again), while Jeff would turn the kids into fans of his favorite tunes when driving them. And I would certainly give up driving a car that gelled with my personality for the sake of good mothering.

For five years, I have tried so hard to love that car. I've washed it, cared for it... I've even bragged about its features to anyone who would listen. But I can't lie to myself, or you, any more...
I really hate my minivan.

It's not just because it adds on an extra 8.5 minutes searching for it when not safely parked in our driveway. Seriously, I now understand why parents slap those student of the month stickers on the bumper -- not in honor of their kid but to find their car in a Costco parking lot.

It's how I feel when I'm behind the wheel -- ordinary... usual... maybe even frumpy. Imagine for a minute, that our cars are instead an outfit... or even a haircut. Would you choose to wear the same dress or sport a similar hairstyle to every other suburban mom on the cul de sac? My silver minivan feels like the four-wheeled version of mom-jeans or one of those matchy-matchy velour leisure suits you can reliably find at Kohls. Wait, maybe I've got something here... I could design a whole designer collection of minivan-driver uniforms -- with matching visor. Ka-ching!

I will admit that my feelings have gotten stronger since turning 40 -- can you say MLC (mid-life crisis)? There's no arguing that I'm entering a new chapter in my life, just one year away from three kids in elementary school, and I'm looking to tap back into the person I was BK (before kids). I'm excited to step more out of my usual rhythm (and comfort zone), working on some new projects and getting myself out there, physically, mentally and professionally. But that's pretty hard to do when the first impression you leave doesn't match how you feel inside -- even a little.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to turn my life upside down. I have no stereotypical plans to leave my husband in order to channel my inner cougar. Can you imagine me pulling up to carpool with my 20-something boyfriend in a shiny red sports car? But I don't think it's asking too much to want a car that reflects who I am, while at the same time providing safety and practicality for my family.

Is it?

But it would be insensitive for me to make this all the minivan's fault. Anyone with a Psych 101 class under their belt knows that this is less about a car and more about my own personal feelings about my life and myself. In fact, I know a few moms who rock the minivan like no one else can, including the principal of my son's school. That physically-fit, sassy and successful woman makes her newer, whiter version of our car look elegant and, dare I say, hot. Yet it doesn't change how I feel.

In a recent interview with Kristin Varela, founder and chief mom at Motherproof, a moms guide to life in the car, I asked her about the trend in moms trading in the family truckster for a more "me" car -- most after the kids fly the coop. During our conversation, Kristin stressed the importance of women thinking of themselves -- first and foremost -- and really considering what you want. “Prioritize your list, figuring out what’s most important to you when you take the kids out of the equation. Women don’t have to choose between safety, style and functionality -- they can have them all.”

While she actually has the luxury of switching up a test car every couple of weeks (where can I get that job?), the single mom skipped the minivan and opted for a Volvo C30. While two booster seats and a car seat (along with the recent sign-up of two kids in soccer) dictate that I drive something a little less zippy and a bit more roomy, I'm inching my way closer to finding my way back to a Jackie car. 

Does the kind of car you drive really matter to you?


Donna Tagliaferri said...

channel your inner cougar? that is a it!!

Ramona said...

And here I was somewhat jealous that your Hottessey was chosen for the neighborhood peenie art and mine wasn't! :-)

dawn said...

Great article!!!!