Four and a half months ago, I became a Dad. Roughly a year before this I purchased a Ford Mustang.
You might think that would be a problem...
Ours is a 2006 and like every other Mustang in the history of time it was never designed to be a family hauler. The two-plus-two styling and sharply sloping coupe profile mean comfort for the two in the front and add a rear bench as an afterthought. A quadruple amputee from the bush lands of the Kalahari Desert would find the seating cramped. This is because the Mustang, like all Mustangs, has two very different atmospheres – one is a welcoming space with comfortable seats, abundant legroom and good visibility while the other is a cramped, poorly lit space with neither headroom nor legroom to speak of. It follows that the Mustang has neither clout nor redeeming quality when it comes to the task of hauling a family around.
Or does it?
Sometimes in life a thing most poorly suited to a task can better accomplish it then those purpose built for it. These things encourage us to approach a given task, no matter how mundane or complex, with unconventional thinking. Our Mustang is just such a thing.
Months before the arrival of our daughter, my wife set me about the task of sourcing a car seat and stroller and it wasn't until I started fitting rear-facing seats that I realized how unfit for family duty a Mustang would be. After much ado, I eventually found the seat and stroller I liked (and on which the wife signed off) before beginning the arduous process of getting the base situated on the rear bench which, thanks to Ford adding a dramatic slope (called the "butt trap" by my niece), required cutting and shaping foam supports to achieve the correct angle and provide sufficient bracing. I had to achieve a careful balance between saving enough room in the front for my wife while still making the ungainly, rear-facing seat fit but once it was in and I could stand back and survey my work, I started to consider that maybe, just maybe, the Mustang could baby.
Thanks in part to my consumer-savvy ways, the stroller I had selected for us was easy to collapse and folded into a small enough package that it would fit in the trunk without compromising the remaining storage space. It did mean that I had to be conscious of the cargo limitations of the car while shopping but I am of the mind that this is a good thing and that consumer consciousness should be better encouraged anyhow.
With those two items sourced and the seat installed I went about adding a small mirror to the rear glass so that I'd be able to see my daughter in the rear-view mirror along with adding a few other baby friendly accouterments. Then with all my preparations complete, all my rubber duckies in a row, set about the game of waiting for our daughter.
Even with child and car-seat behind her, my wife was able to sit comfortably in the car or get in and out with ease but on that last day, driving to the hospital while my wife went into labor, I felt like everything I'd done (in life, not just with the car) would never be enough. You can imagine my trepidation then when, three days later, we left the hospital with our newborn daughter in tow.
Amazingly, however; babying in the Mustang got easier with every passing day.
Sure, trips to Costco need to be planned and we can't just go crazy shopping because we've only got so much space left in the trunk with the stroller in but the empty rear seat will help in a pinch. Sure, loading the car seat means flipping the front seat forward and expending a little effort to clip the thing in. Sure, we make compromises.
But, our daughter loves the rumble of the motor and the occasional pop-bang of the exhaust. But, daily driving is still enjoyable. But, we don't have to live with a minivan.
Living is all about compromise while creating life is nothing but compromise.
You can compromise your passion in the name of convenience. You can trade occasional difficulty for the perpetually mundane. You can substitute speed for safety and style for substance.
You can drive a minivan, a boring front-wheel drive crossover or just a box on wheels and, as a first time family just starting up, this might seem like an appealing option but let me assure you, readers, that all of that is top trumped by the feeling I get when I load or unload our daughter from the back of the Mustang in front of all those other Dads with their dull, doe eyes watching me green with envy is worth the occasional owie associated with Dadding in a 'Stang.
In summary, what I have to say is that the best car for a new parent is the car which lets you retain as much of your life, your identity as possible because it's all too easy to let who you are now be consumed by who you will become once that little parasite breaches the womb. I've known car guys turned Dads who hopped into a minivan and never looked back but I've also known Dads who stuck with their cool cars and made it work. It is that latter group of Dads who now share their automotive enthusiasm with their no-longer-new children, as a direct result of making the choice not to choose compromise, which I hope to emulate. I want my daughter (and any others we may spawn) to watch her Dad change gears, to see her father find joy in driving and to never be embarrassed by, but instead find inspiration in, my car. One day we'll add a family hauler but I stand by my assertion that the best car for new parents is the one that reminds them, "You're more than just a Mom or a Dad, you're a driver."