When it comes to starting a family, it's forgivable that most of your focuses are quite broad. You are likely to look at as many different aspects as you can, but - without having an actual kid around - your thoughts are likely to focus on the big things. How will you educate your children? What values do you want them to learn? Where do you want to bring them up?
These are the kind of things that you think about when kids are a concept and not a reality. It is hard to describe the difference without feeling like a "mommy-jacker", but...
You know how, when you get your first job, you think you'll spend the money on worthwhile books, enriching holidays and fun nights out? Then you subtract from your first paycheck what you need for rent, food, and transport. You look at what's left and think "Well. Maybe I can treat myself to a shot of syrup in my morning coffee tomorrow."
The truth is, when your first kid arrives, you will keep the grander, broader concepts in mind. However, practicalities will inevitably take over. How you educate them is important, but how you feed them is immediate and essential. Moving to an area with great facilities is a laudable goal - but babyproofing where you live now is a priority.
So, when you start trying, or you get a positive pregnancy test result, those wonderful schools may be the first thing you think about. When you're actually getting ready to be a parent, you're more likely to think: "Do we have the right environment to bring a baby back to?" For example, is your current car the kind of car that will work for a parent?
"Wait, That's What I'll Be Focusing On?"
Among other things, yes. Let's face it, when we don't have kids, we like to live a certain way and see ourselves in that way. Single people and young couples have certain priorities for their travel. High on that list are things like how quickly it can make the work commute. How good does it look on your driveway? Can you sync your phone to the sound system so you can make calls on the road?
When you have kids, those priorities will change. Your first car may have a firm emotional pull for you. It's unlikely, though, that it will have what's needed in a parenting mobile. Sorry, but it's true.
"Okay, So What Is Important Now?"
It's not that safety doesn't cross our minds before we have kids. We're human, and naturally risk-averse. However, when someone tells Single You that a car has a roomy crumple zone, you're likely to nod and say "Nice!". When you have a child on the way, it's like hearing that your car will be carried on its every journey by a choir of angels. Safety is everything.
When we first buy a car, we want something that is slick and compact. How to choose a baby car seat that will fit in it is the last thing on our minds. So you may need to trade in that cheerful muscle car or sporty Italian model for something a bit more practical.
"What Am I Looking For Specifically?"
There are some obvious features you will need. Seatbelts are, of course, compulsory anyway. It's also advisable to have airbags in as many places as possible. In truth, as careful a driver as you may be you still have to allow for the fact that not everyone is as careful as you. Side impact protection is essential - for the car, yes, but also make sure you get a baby seat that is as protective as possible against side-swipes from other drivers.
You may be best served with an SUV. And if the next words out of your mouth are going to include "roll over", stop now. Yes, there was a tendency, in the past, for these vehicles to tip over on abrupt maneuvers. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were death traps. Now? A modern SUV is rated as less likely to roll over than a similarly-aged standard family car.
If there is a word of warning to be issued about such vehicles, in fact, it is that you may feel too safe. Some people have reported that being behind the wheel of an SUV makes them feel cocooned to the point that they behave less conscientiously on the road.
This may seem like a minor quibble to some, but there are signs it may contribute to being at fault for accidents. Road safety is important for everyone, not just those in your vehicle.
"So, It's All About Safety?"
If you're choosing a car that will - hopefully - serve you through the early years as a family, then safety is, of course, the number one priority. There are, however, other reasons you need to be realistic about the car you want.
Those charming sports cars that appeal to us before parenthood are great for zooming around in, no doubt. It's when you start to look at a settled life that they become frustrating. You can convince yourself it's a fine "couple" car only for so long. You know in your heart of hearts it's not a "trip to buy groceries" car, though. Not unless you eat a lot of very flat foods.
Especially once you have had kids, you'll need the greater trunk space that comes with a more "grown up" car. You've heard more than enough about the amount of shopping you'll need to do early in parenthood. Well, you'll need a car that can handle it. It needs a sturdy suspension (because it will be carrying a lot more weight) and solid road handling.
One other, small, piece of advice about the car. You may be tempted to buy a sign for the back window that says "Baby On Board" or "Little Princess On Board". Or even "[Child's Name] On Board". Not to be a party pooper, but think very carefully before you put such a sign in your car.
These signs are intended for emergency services, so they can arrive at the scene of an accident and know whether to look for a small human. So if your baby is not on board, take the sign down.
As for the name on the sign, be cautious about this too. Although the risk of child abduction is much less than most people think, it's smart to play the percentages. If someone is hanging around with a malicious intent, it's a gift to them to know your child's name. Don't make life easier for them.