October 23, 2005

Oh, the indignity, the emasculation of it all!

A man and his minivan:
RECENTLY I became a full-time, stay-at-home dad, having assumed the "Mr. Mom" role because my wife makes more money than I do. I have taken this in stride, largely because it is just the slipperiest part of a slope I've been on for a while.

Three years ago I sold my sports car, a Mazda Miata deemed impractical by someone other than myself. My motorcycle stayed - stayed parked, that is - until this summer, when it also found a new owner, in deference to my all-consuming parenting role. Sacrifices have to be made.

But lines must also be drawn: the one indignity I have refused to suffer is admitting that I should now be driving a minivan, let alone actually going out and spending my wife's hard-earned money on one....

It's not just the soccer mom stigma that makes me shudder. I learned to drive in the mid-1980's in a horrid Ford Aerostar, meaning that sliding behind the wheel of a new minivan today is tantamount to embracing the fact that I have become my parents.

If there is any hope that I won't grow into a pathetic middle-age man, it must lie in my refusal to accept the minivan as destiny.
The rest of the article is a review of the Mazda 5 minivan, which the author, Jeff Sabatini, manages to conclude is "cool." (He talks of tossing his snowboard -- which he calls his "plank" -- in the back.)

Something that seems even harder to do than having kids without buying a minivan: talking about a man to staying home with the kids without using the term Mr. Mom.

Too bad the idea of men and children always has to have this aura of emasculation around it!

That said, minivans are awful, and you don't have to have one just because you have kids. I never considered buying such a thing, myself. There are a lot of options between sportscar and minivan.

But, hey, Jeff, didn't anyone ever tell you that a Miata is a lady's sportscar?

27 comments:

digital mule 2 said...

Hey Bubba,
If your masculine identity is bruised by the kind of vehicle you drive around in with your kids then it wasn't none too firm to begin with. Minivans are great things to drive if you live in suburbia, far better than that 4 wheel drive full size pickup your neighbor has; and should be the spiritual successor of the iconic VW vans that populate our youthful memoryscapes.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, the funny thing is that when we boomers were young, vans were extremely cool. Always a VW of course. The only thing cooler was an entire bus -- a school bus, painted with flowers! Especially if you tried to live in it. And you got ahold of some swatches of shag carpeting. Ooohhh... I'm having a flashback!

mrbungle2103 said...

My wife and I talked about this issue long ago. When we have kids I'm dropping out of the rat race and being a stay-at-home dad. She makes much much more than I ever will, and if she doesn't work 60 hours a week she goes bonkers with boredom. I only work part time in a field that pays very little (museums) so it makes perfect sense to us.

I don' think of myself as becoming a Mr Mom but I know others do. I've already had friends ask how I can "let" my wife earn more than I do - her father has even had "the man's the breadwinner" talk with me before. But stranger still is the reaction I get when I tell people I've always wanted to do this. I want to be a stay-at-home dad. The reaction of both men and women is that this is not something a man is supposed to want. Which I think says more about how people still define women's role once they have children rather than a statement about me.

But I'm looking forward to it. Who wouldn't be - I'll have my own kids, a sugar-momma and plenty of time for blogging.

Slocum said...

Heh. I love the anit-mini van angst. Buncha lazy schmucks with weak self-images. This should be so obvious that it doesn't require explanation, but here goes: Look, it's entirely possible, as a soccer Mom or Dad, to keep doing the cool things that you did before you had kids, but you have to actually, you know, DO them--you can't just buy a vehicle that makes people THINK you might do them (not unless you aspire to the status of both suburban soccer Mom AND poseur).

In terms of actually getting out and doing things, minivans fit the bill very well. I can attest that they're excellent for hauling backpacks, skis, kayaks, mountain bikes, and towing a sailboat--and taking your friends along at the same time. They also drive well in snow while being much less likely to end wheels-up in the ditch than an SUV.

Drethelin said...

What's wrong with mini-vans? Apart from the slight difficulty in parking over sedans/whatever, driving a minivan to me is about the same, depending on the minivan.

Anyway, as a guy, the paramount thing to me in a car is sound system, followed by handling. if the car I drive drives smoothly enough for comfort and ease, and has good enough music for me to relax with, I'm fine with it.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean there's no reason to make your minivan look better than it is.

http://photos1.blogger.com/img/263/5917/1024/DSC01897.jpg

John(classic) said...

Kids could do worse things to him. He could be forced to wear bell bottoms.

Ann Althouse said...

Good for you, Mr. Bungle. You could be big in the Dadblog game. Who knows what BlogAds income will flow your way when you're talking about baby food and strollers!

Ron said...

Yow, Ann, "Dadblog game?" Can we buy Mr. Bungle futures? Or play a straddle with CorporateMomBlogs? Perhaps someday we can invest in whole collections of blogs, like a mutual fund...

uh oh!

Ann Althouse said...

Ron: I'm just noticing that my blogging doesn't really relate to products very well. I mean, I get my share of BlogAds, but not because I'm writing about the things people try to sell through this location. Although I have endorsed a stray product here and there -- Saran Wrap, Green & Black's chocolate, the Audi TT Coupe, TiVo -- and I do promote the use of some sorts of things, like chiropractic services, expensive coffee drinks, professional pest control, sweaters ... what else?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

When we bought our new DVD, it cost us $35,000.

But Toyota threw in the van with it.

Professor A: you've also promoted your dinner with Andre. And Tonya. And Nina.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Miatas would be men's sports cars too if we could sit in the damn things with the top up.

Simon said...

I guess I should check in my testicles now, then. I drive a minivan (Pontiac Montana), I have driven minivans since I could drive, and presuming it is possible to do so by the time when we no longer have soccer parent duties, I will continue to drive a minivan.

They're a decent size, comfortable flexible, reliable, and tey get better gas miles than your kids toy pretend-4x4 SUV. I wouldn't drive a sports car if I was given one - I'd sell it for a more recent model Montana. :)

richard everett said...

My wife and I have both a mini-van and a 4-wheel drive P/U. I use that for chores and errands, she uses it to get to work and errands. And, we have two mastiffs, which is what the van is REALLY for!

Ron said...

Ann: I wonder how people who sell law-related products (books, what else?) view your blog. Not hard-core law-oriented enough?

I also wonder how non-product specific (but well written) blogs would sell their raw hits and page views...

Ann Althouse said...

Ron: I get a lot of law book ads, including an ad for Justice Breyer's current book. I should do a survey to find out who reads this blog, but my impression is that a very large segment is lawyers/lawprofs/law students -- probably more than half.

DNR Mom said...

Since '85 I've owned 5 Dodge or Chrysler minivans. I have a '99 as my corporate vehicle & an '05 as my family (of one) car. The Saab was a hog on ice in Wisconsin. The Acura wasn't much better. And the Lincolns, T-Bird, Corvette and full-size Chevy van were hopeless. Gimme a minivan any day.

Meade said...

Colorado Charlie sez: "Miatas would be men's sports cars too if we could sit in the damn things with the top up."

But wouldn't they still be ugly cars only now for not-as-short men?

"Good for you, Mr. Bungle" Ann - was that nice?

mcg said...

There are a lot of options between sportscar and minivan.

Uh, yeah. SUVs.

Care to rethink that, Ann? :-)

In all seriousness, I think minvans are easily the only practical option left these days for toting around several kids and their stuff, all while achieving more than 20mpg of gas efficiency.

Oh where, or where, did those station wagons go? (Yeah, I know: Subaru and, um, Audi? Have I missed any?)

mcg said...

Oh, and I got a lot of ribbing about my Subaru station wagon from my guy friends. (I was single at the time, and the accusation was that I was going domestic.)

That is, until I and 3 fellow passengers and all of our ski gear, comfortably fit inside the station wagon, blew past the tire chain checkpoint on the way to the slopes.

Then they shut up.

bearing said...

Mcg: yup.

I would like a bumpersticker that says "station wagons are for skiers."

Buck Pennington said...

Miatas (Miatae?) are NOT "chick cars!" This meme surfaces from time to time in rec.autos.makers.mazda.miata, usually initiated by some guy who says "I like Miatas, but..."

As a 60-year old guy (with a short grey beard but no recumbent bicycle) who's owned his Miata for over five years now, I can say the Miata is one of the best and most fun cars I've ever owned. The Corvette had more power, the Bimmer more cachet, the Saab more quirkiness, and so on. But the Miata's "smiles per mile" quotient is greater than all the other cars I've ever owned, hands down.

And...I want my LAST ride to be in a full-sized Cadillac hearse, coz I wouldn't be caught *dead* in a mini-van!

Henry said...

MCG -- Who are the guy friends who would rib you about a Subaru station wagon? I sold my old Legacy (+220,000 miles) to a giant Italian stone mason who told me he only drives Subarus. That's a manly vote, in my book.

I wish I had it back.

XWL said...

Having been a Mazda sales consultant on the westside of L.A. I can attest to the types of people that bought the Miata there.

Gay men (the dealership advertised heavily in the local gay media), DINC (double income, no children)couples (usually as a 2nd car), and east coast born students with parents of means attending Pepperdine, LMU or UCLA (the hard part with that group is convincing daddy that the car despite it's size is still safe, main selling point, accident avoidance, nimble cars get hit less) were the main clientele for Miatas.

I loved driving that car and anyone under 6' tall should consider this at the top of their list for a fun affordable car if they don't need a backseat and actually enjoy rather than tolerate driving (haven't sold them for 7 years and I'm still singing their praises).

The arguments for choosing mini-vans over SUVs as a family hauler are legion, but from personal experience I can tell you that people aren't interested in too much reason or too many facts when buying cars.

Car buying is one of the most emotional major purchase that most individuals and couples make and trying to guess what tact to take when speaking with customers was one of the most exhilirating and frustrating aspects of being a sales consultant.

(and the last two cars I leased were Subarus, love the Baroooos)

Tony said...

But I'm looking forward to it. Who wouldn't be - I'll have my own kids, a sugar-momma and plenty of time for blogging.

Not me, I'd have to trade in my testicles. But then again, I would never marry a "sugar-momma".

mcg said...

I sold my old Legacy (+220,000 miles) to a giant Italian stone mason who told me he only drives Subarus. That's a manly vote, in my book.

Not only that, but it would seem that "lesbians love Subarus!"

Sigivald said...

What happened to the Station Wagon?

Well, the big boat-size one was killed by CAFE, in the early 80s and late 70s.

The smaller one is alive and well; in addition to the aforementioned Subarus and Audis, there's Volvo (which has another set of identity issues with it, but at least a V70R isn't very Granola), Volkswagen (no different than Audi, really), Dodge (the very manly Magnum available with a V8), Chyrsler (the Pacifica), BMW and Mercedes both (from the 3 and C wagons up to the insanely overpowered ask-at-a-dealership E55 touring, and those new R-class uglymobiles... but if you need a station wagon that can get to 60 in 4.1 seconds, by God you can get one from Stuttgart, and smoke that loser in the 911 who thinks he's All That).

Oh, and Chevy's Malibu Max is almost a wagon.

somross said...

Hey, I drive a '99 Mazda Miata, the professorial (read cheap) sports car. Found it on Autotrader.com for less than $13,000 a few years ago, and it had only 16,000 miles on it. I call it my no longer a soccer mom car. But years ago I drove a Conversion Van, the kind where the back seat turns into a bed, so we could drive across country a few times a year with three kids and all the baby stuff. I only miss that on long drives.