Moms are here for the self-serve parking lot trend — and so are psychologists

Jamie Senke arrived at Target Thursday afternoon and noticed the parking lot was unusually crowded. As she walked through the rows, she was surprised to see women sitting in their cars.

When she returned home, she posted on a local moms’ Facebook group: “Why didn’t you tell me the Target parking lot was the place to hide from the husband and kids!? I can literally see a bunch of you just chilling in your car…hey 🙋‍♀️.’

Her post quickly received hundreds of likes, along with comments from group members raving about the alone time tactic.

“So this is what I’m doing guys!” Amber Myrkle wrote. “Order online and then spend two hours ‘shopping’ sitting in my car in the parking lot enjoying a hot Starbucks and some peace and quiet.”

Corinne Jones joked, “The first rule of the Target Parking Club is don’t talk about the Target Parking Club…”

Sorry, but the truth about Parking Club is clear, so moms might as well own it!

In fact, many already own it. TikTok user LeeAnn Braun posted a video of how she sits in her car to eat so she “doesn’t have to listen to her kids fight or her husband chew.” The video has more than 1.7 million views.

In the video, Brown eats fries and just relaxes. Like Brown, many other moms who engage in “parking lot self-care” choose to use that time to eat junk food in peace. In fact, the practice is so popular that Potbelly, a national restaurant chain, caught on to the trend in 2020 and put up parking signs advertising “Alone Time” parking spots.

Belly isn’t the only business benefiting from the trend. Retailers have created tons of accessories to make time in the car cozier. For moms who love to snack, Amazon has more than 250 results for “Steering Wheel Rack,” and some are pretty fancy. There are models with phone holders, crystal decorations and bamboo finishes. Yes, it’s the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Please.

While moms love to munch on junk food while sitting quietly in their car, many of them also need entertainment. It could be rocking a dance mix, relaxing with spa music or maybe Eminem singing angrily:

If you’re new to self-parking, rest assured – there are plenty of ideas out there. You can listen to podcasts, stream a show, indulge in coffee, learn to meditate, read, knit, or finally clear the crumbs from the cup holder.

Experienced parking professionals even decorate their cars with aromatherapy diffusers, sparklers and massagers. If your car is your sanctuary, embrace it, like this glamorous mom:

As this trend gains momentum, you may be wondering if it’s a healthy habit or if moms need to hit the brakes. To find out, we asked several psychologists, and the answer was overwhelmingly in favor of supporting a mother’s need for self-care, as long as the activity is positive and healthy.

It’s okay to do self-care in the car, says Dr. Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and host of the How Can I Help? podcast. She recommends that mothers try any self-care activities they find joyful and relaxing, as long as they don’t represent harmful behaviors such as drinking alcohol secretly, using drugs, or cheating on a partner.

She also encourages moms to be honest about their time in the car. Mothers should feel comfortable letting their husband or older children know when they need a quiet moment. Of course, younger children may not understand self-care, so they don’t need to completely exhaust your routine, but overall, the goal is to strive for truth and transparency. It is only natural to make time for your own thoughts and interests.

“I don’t think this practice is new,” Saltz says. “Social media just means more mums are sharing that they’re doing it. Mothers are less embarrassed to admit that yes, they do need time away from their children to just be.”

So here it is. Expert advice that you should go ahead and take a few extra minutes when you need to. As moms, we recharge on the go, whether it’s at home, at work, or in the car. And that’s good.

See you in the Target parking lot, ladies.

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