Desperately trying to keep the cool factor and learning that swagger is about me, not my car.
I have a confession: I’ve been avoiding the purchase of a minivan for years, because I thought it would threaten my “cool factor” (which I probably don’t even have because I just said that).
If you love minivans, you are probably wondering why I feel this way. Surely I must know perfectly cool and down to earth moms who drive minivans, right? I do. I’ve even sat in a few minivans with these perfectly cool moms and admired all the awesome features. But sitting in one and owning one are two very different things.
For years I’ve been stuck on this “old school” perception I have of minivans and the people who drive them. Getting over that has been a challenge.
The minivan conversations: My husband fell for the minivan’s appeal but I was determined to hold out
At one point my husband avoided minivan conversations as much as I did. He thought it would turn us into frumpy parents and damage the New York City swagger we both hold with such pride. After all, we grew up riding buses and the NYC subway system. People like us don’t get minivans, right?
But one day my sister-in-law started showing off all the features in her new Honda Odyssey and hubby started to fall for it a bit. I thought he was a traitor. I mean, we both vowed that we would not be minivan people. Why would he betray me?
Yet, despite being tempted by the shininess of his sister’s new minivan, he kept his commitment to me and a minivan was still out of the question. It was an easy decision, really. We only had one kid at the time.
But then number two came along and every few weeks my husband would dish out a complaint about how we needed more space. I felt fine in my vehicle, but he insisted that more space would make us all more comfortable. I kindly reminded him that families of four do not need to own minivans. He left the subject alone.
Then, unexpected changes mean more people, more gear and a need for more space
Then the unimaginable happened. Right before my youngest child turned one, my mom had a stroke. It changed things a lot. I became responsible for taking her to countless medical appointments, running errands for her, and now making space in my trunk for groceries, a stroller, and a walker.
About a year later, my mother-in-law, who actually lives out of town, began to have a number of health issues as well. My husband and I realized that we were wrong about what life in our thirties would look like. We were being faced with challenges we didn’t anticipate. We started to think about what needed to change so we could meet the needs of our growing family, while still meeting the needs of the women who raised us.
Reassessing our needs: Can we do this in an SUV?
Needless to say, talks of a minivan came up again, but this time it wasn’t just about our two little ones. It was also about another generation that now depended on us more than we expected them to at this point in our lives. It was about taking road trips to see my mother-in-law and being able to travel around town with all of us comfortably seated in the same car. It was about taking my mom to a medical appointment or to run errands with all of us in the car and plenty of room to spare in the trunk.
We talked about getting another SUV. I currently drive a 2010 Toyota Highlander, but that won’t work because once you pull out the third row, the trunk pretty much vanishes. Not to mention, no one over 5’2” can comfortably sit in that third row (just my opinion since I am 5’9”). My husband then suggested larger SUVs, but when we considered the cost of the vehicle, the cost of gas, and everyone’s comfort, the minivan always won.
So now, swagger is the last thing on my mind (okay, maybe not the last thing on my mind). The more I think about the type of car we need as a family, the more I think about comfort, safety, space, and style. Yes, style is still a concern. I need to feel good about something I spend a ton of time in. Call it superficial if you want, but feeling good matters. Thankfully, I now realize there are plenty of minivan options that will make me a happy camper.
Keeping the swagger through life’s challenges
I’m not certain what’s next for us. Both of our moms have good and bad days, and neither of us knows what the future holds. But because we have a clear sense of what may happen, we’ve started checking out minivans and it’s actually been a great experience. My negative perception about minivans was way off.
Life is a bumpy road, and sometimes we have to change what we use to navigate this journey. I know we aren’t the only family that’s thinking about purchasing a minivan for reasons other than the kids. There are tons of families out there in situations very similar to our own. Baby boomers are aging and more and more of us are becoming a part of the sandwich generation. We don’t have all the answers, but we are trying to figure it out.
I’ve realized that my swagger comes with me, no matter what I’m driving. I’ve also realized the highest level of coolness is putting the needs of my family first and finding a car that makes everyone smile.
I think the perfect minivan is out there waiting for me if I decide to get one. I’m convinced that there’s always a perfect car waiting to meet our exact needs if we are patient enough to look for it and smart enough to shift our perspectives.
Martine Foreman is a proud New Yorker now living in the suburbs of Maryland. Martine is a lifestyle and relationship expert dedicated to helping women create healthier, happier lives. She is the author of lifestyle blog candidbelle.com, and a contributor to Black and Married With Kids and Madame Noire. She enjoys a good glass of wine and the crazy, happy life she’s created with her husband, two kids and sassy cat, Pepper.