Momma gets a new chariot

Originally Appeared in : 9822-10/25/18

I recently got a new full-time job. I mean, it’s not actually a legitimate full-time job, but it’s starting to feel like it. I’m shopping for a new car, and it’s kind of becoming an obsession.
It’s embarrassing how much time this is beginning to require, the act of looking and researching and thinking and talking. It really can become something that is all-consuming, if you aren’t careful and based on my recent dreams of mid-size SUV’s, I’m not careful.


Let’s back up a few years to when Isabel was born, and I drove a sweet, loaded SUV. My Z71 Suburban was a thing of beauty. I loved that vehicle. The best part about that car is that it helped me avoid the dreaded “minivan” stage so many women my age were experiencing. There was just no way I was going to buy a minivan because they were uncool and horrible and the kiss of death in the relevance department.


So we got a giant Suburban and it rocked. Before that we had the dreamiest Volvo station wagon. We outgrew that pretty quick, but for a few years I enjoyed tooling around town with Ethan and Elliott in the cutest little Swedish import (found used in great condition).


When Charlie came along we got our first Suburban, which also welcomed Augie to the crew. And by the time Henry came along we were a two-Suburban family. Paul drove the older one and I got upgraded to the shinier of the two.


And then we welcomed Isabel, and that behemoth Suburban started to feel small. Something really weird was happening with me as well. For the first time ever, I just wasn’t worried about my “image.” Instead of considering what message my vehicle was sending, I started to care way more about how easy it was loading and unloading my crew (including newborn Isabel and sons ages 3, 8, 9, 11 and 13). 


So we started looking at vans. And I was totally into it. 


I went from actively working to avoid the dreaded minivan, to actively working to find a giant vehicle to comfortably fit my children. Once I embraced that concept I really owned it. I finally realized that the “coolness” factor of my vehicle didn’t really change the fact that I had six kids, and that I was in the trenches of motherhood. “This is where I’m at in life,” I realized, “and I might as well have a vehicle that gets the job done.”


And now, eight years later, the van doesn’t always make the most sense. Somedays we are all piled in there together, but most days it’s just me. Everyone is in school and three boys are off doing college. I’ve started teaching classes at the university in town, which means I’m dropping Isabel, Henry and Augie off at school and then driving around town alone in a giant 12-passenger van.


It’s weird, and not terribly gas-efficient.


So we’re starting to look at a smaller vehicles, and it’s a little emotional. It’s strange to think that I once had to convince myself to drive this giant van, and now I’m a little sad about moving on. I’m excited, with maybe just the teensiest lump in my throat. 


But here’s what I have to remind myself, when I start feeling sad at how fast the years have gone. In the same way the van didn’t define who I was then, not driving won’t define who I am now. The gift of motherhood looks different in different seasons, but it’s no less important or noble. Having a vanload of children is totally awesome. Driving a smaller vehicle is also totally awesome. 


For me, in the season of change, I find the most peace remembering that where I’m at now is exactly where God wants me to be. Thank you, Lord, for the years of me and all my children going places together in the van. Please continue to bless us in the years to come.


Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at

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