In most of my life, I'm kind of a neat freak. My house (at least the parts any visitor would see) is tidy, my closets are organized, even my gym bag is usually looking good. Based on appearances, I seem to have it all together . . . until you look at my car. That's where it's abundantly obvious that I'm a harried mom of two young kids, and let me be the first to say, it's not a pretty situation. I can't count how many times I've made my 4.5-year-old daughter repeat the phrase, "mom's car is not a trash can," but the mantra hasn't stuck. Rogue snacks and toys fill the floors, and I find myself apologizing to anyone who has to ride with me, most likely while I'm trying to clear my front seat of the craft projects, Winter hats, and bags of Goldfish that usually ride shotgun. Need to decipher whether you're riding in (or driving) a mom car? Here are key things, beyond those dead-giveaway car seats, to look for.
- The front seat. Before kids, the front seat was a spot for a passenger or a purse. Moms, however, use their front seat for so, so much more. First, it's a staging area for any requests that come from the tiny dictators that ride in the back (sippy cups, snacks, and iPads can commonly be seen) and for problems those same tiny people cause (baby wipes, Kleenex, and extra napkins are always on hand). Second, it's a dumping ground for the innumerable bags that mom life seems to require. On any given morning, you might find a gym bag, a large purse, a child's lunch sack, and a school bag, usually sitting on top of a dozen or so craft projects the kids have brought home from childcare and/or school during the last 36 hours.
- The back seat. While 1-3 booster and car seats fill most of the back row(s), look closer to see the real spoiler that this is indeed a mom car. Remnants of pretzels and graham crackers line the floors (watch out for the half-eaten suckers and old chicken nuggets), accompanied by long-forgotten toys, a few stickers, and perhaps a hair accessory or two. Look under the front seats to find a missing sippy cup and a thank-you note mom forgot to mail last month.
- The trunk. There are two main things to look for here. One will be a bulk item (toilet paper, paper towels, water bottles) that mom either didn't have the desire or time to unload on her last Target run. The second is something she's trying to hide, including but not limited to a birthday present for her children or one of their friends' upcoming party, candy of all kinds, and a shopping bag she's waiting to unload when her husband's not home.
- Something disgusting. Whether it's out in the open or well hidden, there is inevitably something foul in a mom's car. Perhaps it's a forgotten diaper she left in the back when she was forced to change the baby on the road. Maybe it's a car seat strap that still carries the scent of toddler vomit. It could be a bit of crust (origin unknown) resting on a door handle. Or, if you're like one of my close friends, it's a pack of baby mice that somehow nestled in your new car's roof and perished. "Stop feeding your kids in the car," she warned me. Of course I didn't listen. I'm a mom, and if you don't believe me, just look at my car.