09/18/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

Dumpster on Wheels: My Car After Kids

Lisa Oppenheimer

I used to drive a car. Then I had kids.

When my family grew, I graduated to the mom-mobile -- code name Closet on Wheels, French-Fry Wagon... Dumpster.

The metamorphosis is insidious. One day you're behind the wheel of a cute little wagon, and the next you're driving a mobile garbage dump with fossilized Goldfish on the floor and previously undiscovered life forms multiplying under the seat. The physical decline might well be a metaphor for motherhood itself:

Pre-Baby #1

Purchase new vehicle; wash weekly; vacuum; detail. Buy lift-gate dividers to organize groceries. Marvel at pristine trunk. Recall friend's mom-mobile with all that clutter. You will avoid this fate. You will even preserve that new car smell.

Welcome your new baby.

Wipe down car seat after each use. Religiously spot clean. Buy handy seven-inch auto trashcan to handle all garbage. Declare it forever a no-eating/no-drinking zone. Avoid clutter by taking out every item you bring in. You will do this... forever.

See baby fuss as you put her into seat. Offer teething toy. Absently leave toy in car. Don't worry -- it's just one toy. You'll remember to get it... later.

Notice child items beginning to collect. Invest in seat-back organizer. You've got control of this.

Welcome baby #2

Lure toddler into car before baby cries by bringing a couple of books.

Forget books in car...

Lure toddler into car before baby cries by bringing a couple of stuffed animals...

Forget stuffed animals in car...

Lure toddler into car before baby cries by bringing a box of crayons...

...a tub of LEGOs

...a box of plastic soldiers

...the toy car set

...the TV remotes

...the contents of your kitchen junk drawer...

...the accessories for the vacuum cleaner...

...a set of plastic measuring cups... eight-piece plastic tea set...

...two garden flamingos... wooden spoons

...a tiara

Enter paper bag phase

[Undocumented toddler developmental stage during which children fill bags with random household items ranging from small toys to your entire collection of kitchen spatulas.] See full range of small accessories begin to vanish and re-materialize in the vehicle now formally known as The Black Hole.

Begin toddler playdates. Commence eating occasional snacks in the car.

Begin preschool carpool. Commence eating regular snacks in the car.

Begin child activities/sports. Commence eating regular meals in car.

Notice Cheerios on floor. Don't worry... it's just a few... Resolve to vacuum... later.

Observe goldfish crackers on floor next to Cheerios. You'll vacuum later.. .definitely.

Notice French fries on floor. Huh... how 'bout that.

Begin second child's activities/sports. Leave cleats in car -- for now.

Begin travel teams. See back seat turn into fully stocked athletic supply store.

Notice mystery aroma. Resolve to figure that out.

Hear husband observe how neat his car is. Remind self to suggest taking next road trip in his car.

Drive carpool. Remember strange aroma. You really have to investigate that... later.

Arrive at school for morning drop-off. Realize you forgot lunch money. Search car for change. Look under seat... on floor... under beach towels... winter jackets... soccer ball... raincoats... cleats... discarded energy drinks... basketball... old socks... stuffed animals... broken ear buds... Oh, look -- the reading glasses I haven't seen in six months! Reach into handy seatback organizer... pull out petrified bathing suit. Identify source of odor.

Attempt backseat cleanup. Feel overwhelmed. Toss all items over backseat into lift gate. There. It's clean.

Pick up mother at airport. Observe horrified expression.

Consider complete cleaning, disinfecting, and detailing.

Reconsider. Remember, the kids are still young. Resolve to drive it this way until they're grown...

Then you'll donate it to automotive science (the parts junkyard).

Or bury it... as toxic waste.