Pram-free freedom

I’ve had a few whole weeks recently during which I didn’t use a buggy at all. Not even for long trips. Such is the freedom of having a 2-and-a-half year old toddler instead of a baby (and being physically able to lift/carry her if needs be).

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Admittedly, this means things take a little longer than usual, as she walks at her toddler pace – unless I can convince her of how fun it would be to run instead – but the slower wander is counter-balanced by the wonderful real sense of freedom of travel. We can hop on any bus we choose, rather than wait for one with space for a buggy (often the wheelchair space is already full, which to most London bus drivers means occupied by two buggies or a wheelchair, though the latter is much rarer). In particular this has made our commute to our childcare setting much less stressful. We can take any route on the tube or train, not worrying about huge flights of stairs and constantly thinking about step-free access. We do however ideally need public transport door-to-door, for instance I’d choose a longer bus ride over a shorter train ride if it meant we didn’t have to walk very far at either end (as I said: walking is slow going, and she’ll often end up asking me to carry her). We had a nice journey one Sunday sitting at the front of the top deck of the bus all the way from Tooting to Waterloo. Lots of fun for her, much less stressful for me.

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She has been walking for a long time, but part of the reason for taking a buggy for longer trips – especially into central London – used to be that she absolutely needed to nap somewhere. Now it is less crucial – I can either wait until we get home in the afternoon, or risk pushing through until bedtime… she has always been a nap resistor anyway! It is a bittersweet freedom, as it puts me off every having a baby again! Though perhaps I would be more inclined to use a good sling for as long as possible (which we didn’t have until a good few months into her existence – Baby Bjorn carriers should be burned!).

One of the things I hated most about commuting with the buggy is the feeling of taking up ‘too much’ space. Especially if she had a strop and wanted to get out of the buggy, so we’d end up with an empty buggy taking up precious space on the bus while she sat on my lap or – worse – sat next to me, rather than being in the buggy with me standing up next to her. I don’t think I am being precious by suggesting this is a feminist issue. I hate taking up too much space in public, as a woman, as a mother, with my child. My (male) partner takes the attitude that a small child is entitled to take up a seat on the bus. (They can’t stand up safely anyway!) It genuinely doesn’t occur to him to feel the ‘too much space’ guilt. Pregnancy kicked off or perhaps compounded this sense of wishing to have as little impact in public as possible – I often needed a seat on the bus or tube as I was physically uncomfortable, yet I felt guilty for my massive presence as I claimed a seat for myself.

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