Guest Post by Jessica Sherman
I want to share my recent liberation. I did not shed 20 pounds of flab, wean my young child, start a new career or leave my husband. I gave up our car.
Okay, I admit I live in a borough of NYC where a car is not a must have but it is a significant mention and need for many families in my neighborhood. Please don’t tune me out because you live in the ‘burbs or the country and you seriously need a car. I know…I am from NJ. Cars are key pretty much everywhere there. But I really am surprised about what I found out about myself once I lost thousands of pounds of steel.
I found out that I really was letting trips to my beloved Costco and Trader Joe’s stunt my relationship with my daughter. Working moms work all weekend on stocking the shelves and cleaning the house so things can run without a hitch during the work week. And I as a working mom had been perfecting this weekend work to a science. There was no new product to appear on a shelf at the aforementioned stores that I did not personally sample and could not review for friends everywhere.
My daughter thought lunch on the weekends really was just a lot of samples of those yummy seafood dips they hawk aggressively at Costco. She fell asleep in her car seat covered in Trader Joe’s stickers literally from nose to toe on the way home from our shopping excursions. We had a pantry ready for the apocalypse, especially if a surplus of quinoa and Trader Joe O’s (spaghetti-o’s) were going to ward off the zombies. But what I didn’t have, was much time for her.
That lovely Honda Accord we had didn’t make me better at remembering my daughter. The dealership called to remind us it needed servicing but it never called to remind me not to make a return to Target so I could do a little painting with my daughter. The car would tell me to check the engine but not to check in and take a walk with my daughter instead of driving across the tri-state area so we could go visiting. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to see family and friends. We are a family of extroverts and enjoy visiting. But since we ditched our lease I have found out we are also a family that greatly values a day in our home, cleaning drawers, playing library, and catching up on us.
Being a horrible over-scheduler, I don’t think I could have ever found this out if I still had our car. Days when I push a stroller 15 blocks with groceries hanging low off the handles do give me pause. But when I actually have time to sit and read three books with Perri in the afternoon, just because, I feel really good about it.
It took a few months to get comfortable with life without the car. We had to learn to shop differently (online and thoughtfully). We sometimes have to turn down really fun invitations because we can’t make it work on public transport. Finding ground cardamom used to take a couple stops in the car and can now take a couple hours on foot, cold, hungry, and tired. But damn, is it good actually let go of things I thought I needed to buy. I just can’t pop out for shoes without a 30 minute trek on the train. It can really change your perception on what you thought you needed but actually just wanted really badly.
You read these stories on how people change their lives by eating only raw foods or wearing only clothing they make. Or you read articles about a person who bartered for things and did not carry money for an entire year and you think, that is cool but really??? I know that getting rid of a car probably sounds like that to mostly everyone. But if you, like me, let those errands get in the way of living, maybe you should pretend you don’t have a car for a weekend. Take a train where you and your kids and your partner can look at each other instead of only seeing through a rear view mirror. It can change your perspective.