We’re a one car family

by Ginger on December 9, 2010

in Day in the Life, Mom Thoughts, Oh Baby!

Have I ever told you guys we’re a one car family?

Yup, you read that right. Here in Southern California, land of the cars and the commute and the craptastic (to the point of almost being non-existent) public transportation, we only have one car.

I wrote about it once, in the early days of this blog, back when N.C. and I were commuting together (he had a long-term contract job, I had my job, they were on the same path, didn’t seem worth the money for a 2nd car). But I’ll be honest. I always thought that once we had a kid, we’d get another car.

Well, Jackson’s 15 months old and we’ve still just got the one car.

Mostly, it’s fine. N.C.’s home with Jackson, I take the car to work. We generally spend all the rest of our time together anyway, so nights and weekends we go places together. Or one of us takes the car. It’s *mostly* not a big deal. But it is an added level of complexity for some things.

It does mean that N.C. doesn’t do errands during the week, like some (not all) stay at home parents do. Instead, I do them on my lunch break, or we do them on weekends or evenings together.

It does mean that if there are any appointments for N.C. or Jackson during the work week, we have to strategize how to handle it–does N.C. take me to work, have the car all day, and then pick me up, or do I work from home so that he can take the car, or do I take a day off?

It does mean, as we found yesterday when Jackson was running a fever, that if the kid is sick, we have to make a determination on whether I stay home so that we can get him to the doctor if need be, or if we drag a sick baby though a couple of hours in the car to take me to work.

It does mean I go to Target on my lunch break to get the few things we forgot at the grocery store that weekend. Or I go to the pet store because we never seem to get there on weekends. Or N.C. makes 2 trips to my office, so he can have the car to take the kid to the park.

It does mean N.C. can’t just take the kid to story time, or the park, or to play dates, or the like, without preplanning.

It does mean, frankly, that it’s not as simple as I work & N.C. is with the kid. It means juggling, and planning.

It’s not that I’m bothered by it most of the time–I like saving the money, we honestly don’t need a second car 85% of the time, and I’ve always liked our time together in the car. But when I say that, as a working parent I sometimes get overwhelmed with it all, this is part of what I mean. The logistics of managing one car, 2 adults, one toddler (and my job, PTO, and “flexibility”) can be draining. It’s one level of complexity that people don’t think of as part of the equation when we talk about balance and “trying to do it all”.

Today, someone at my office (innocently, I hope, not maliciously) asked me why I feel like I feel like I’m buried sometimes. After all, she said, my husband is at home to handle that part of our lives, so really, beyond missing the kid, my job is to be the worker and his job is to be the manager of the home space.I get weekends and evenings to play with the kid, and days to work. What’s the problem?

Beyond my inherent issues with this (stay at home parents, do you do *everything* in your homes? Does your spouse get off the hook for anything home related because they work? Even if you do *most* of it, do you do ALL of it? And working parents, do you not help out at home? Do you not have responsibilities there, beyond just showing up?), it’s just not true. I don’t have the ability to leave it all to him, in part because of who I am (and who he is) and in part because of the logistics of it.

We’re a one car family.

Megan December 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Ummm, I’m hoping that wasn’t a malicious comment, but it sure was an obnoxious one.

I don’t think it is as simple as that for anyone. We might have roles that take us out of the houser to work or keep us at home with a kid, but that doesn’t mean our lives are that compartmentalized. Chris helps out around the house and with Charlotte because…he just does. We assign jobs in a way that works for us, and we’re flexible. So, some days he picks up my slack, and some days I pick up his. I can’t go to his work and do his job, obviously, but I will try to make his life easier when he needs it.

I tell you all the time how incredible I think you are for juggling the job, the kid, the blogs, and everything else you do. And, I didn’t even know about the car issue! That really does complicate things, and I am not surprised that it can be overwhelming at times.

Sarah December 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm

You know… we’re a one car family, too. I’m the one who’s at home with the kids, but it’s still more than just “taking care of the home stuff”. And the juggling of the car doesn’t make it any easier. I, too, love our together time in the car — I actually love when I get to drive him to work because it means I get to have that much more time together. I love that we’re saving money, and in the warmer months he can actually bike to work and loves that.

But I think everyone gets overwhelmed at some point. If you weren’t having moments like that I’d be surprised — the questioner must not have any responsibilities or something? How else could they ask a question like that? Reminds me of the ones I get sometimes, “You’re a stay at home mom? What on earth do you find to do with all that time?” I just laugh…

Ginger December 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

There is the flip side of it too, that it’s not easy for the parent at home either (I hope I didn’t imply that it is!), with one car. It’s challenging on that side as well–especially when I know he gets to feeling like he’s cooped up in the house non-stop, or when he has stuff to do out and about but doesn’t have the means to do it. It’s the challenge of it, overall.

I do wish we lived close enough for me to bike (I mean, I’d even consider getting a bike if that was the case!). But biking to work would take me approximately 2.5 hours, and at that length of time, all use of my limbs for the rest of the day. So car it is.

Perpetua December 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I give you all the credit in the world for managing on one car. We did that for the first seven or so months of having E and then I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started to just feel trapped here at home, a fact that is compounded by our living in a suburb where basically nothing is walkable.

As for your coworker, I’d like to smack that person upside the head, malicious or not. I’m sensing a bit of a Bitter Betty, an “oh, you have it so EASY, Ginger, what with the SAHD in your life!” Um, no. It’s not as if you do out stuff he and does in stuff and never the two shall meet. Taking care of a kid is too complicated to be delegated so easily. Plus you have your after-work-work, and NC has his art, so it’s not like life is 9-5.

Ugh. And speaking for the working side (which in my case is my husband), you don’t just “play with the kid” in the evenings, as if it’s some kind of happy-fun-time no-effort-involved sort of thing. Playing with toddlers is generally hard work.

I’d be shocked if this person has kids. Okay, done ranting. 🙂

Alexis December 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

The co-worker’s comment is priceless. So if you have it easy being at work and doing nothing at home, and NC has it easy being at home with nothing to do, just who does all the crap required by real life? If you have a lead on house-elves then you best be sharing! 🙂

The car thing is pretty tricky. It is definitely one of those situations where it is all pretty smooth sailing with one vehicle, except for 5 days a year where you can not live without two cars! I give you guys major credit for making it work.

Rachel December 10, 2010 at 9:58 am

We were a one car family briefly (mine was broken) when Diana was the same age. Our biggest fear was what if something happened to her? How do we get her help? This resulted in me borrowing my MIL ancient Volvo station wagon for a while. I hated it.

As a stay-at-home parent I probably put too much on my husband when he gets home. I am a horrible cleaner and I also have a bad back so what cleaning I do get down can cause me to be sore for days. So basically you can just roll yours eyes at that coworker. She obviously doesn’t “get” how the SAH parent relationship works.

Kt December 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I would love to be a one car family! That would save so much money!!

Kallay October 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

We’re a one car family. I get up early with my husband, I drive him to work, and come home. The girls, of course, come with us and then we start our day at home. It’s tough because he gets off work right around the exact same time that the girls want dinner, but it’s the price I pay for not feeling “stuck”. If I want to go somewhere, I can. If I need to get groceries, I can. If I don’t? At least the option is there. We can’t afford another one right now and it’s working for us, for now. Plus, we get to talk in the car and sometimes it’s the only time we get to talk, when our nights get hectic.

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