Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strolling Mamas

We've all seen them - humongoid, monstrosities with tiny adorable babies cooing in cushiony comfort. Strollers must be a multi-million dollar industry to judge by the variety and number of them on the streets of our cities. I myself used up 5-7 strollers during my daughter's infancy and toddlerhood. I had four different brands.  There were times I used two different ones interchangeably depending on where I had to go.  I never had one of these uber-strollers, even though I have to admit I sometimes caught myself drooling over them the way a native New Yorker yearns for a Classic 6 apartment. When I was in the market for a stroller I always wanted one that was sturdy, easy to fold, preferably one that stood on its own when folded and with plenty of storage in the basket underneath because I was always busy shopping,  in school, working,  getting this getting that.

I remember clearly being disappointed that I couldn't use my stroller to transport  my daughter to her babysitters.  Most of them either had no elevator in their building (one had an elevator but it was constantly out of service!)  or were caring for even younger children who really needed to have a stroller.  I don't know why, but this was such a blow to me.  I think I just imagined being like women I encountered downtown while I was pregnant.  Mostly older, more mature mothers, who didn't work or had nannies or at least were advanced enough in their professions that they could take extended maternity leave. They walked confidently from place to place with their babies in their strollers, securely surveying their world.   I remember how relaxed most women were leaving their strollers outside the doors of places like the 92nd Street Y or outside their kids' schools or wherever. It was a given that a stroller was an appendage of motherhood, like a diaper bag or burp cloths.   Sure I could use a carrier, but you couldn't go on an extended trip with just the carrier. 

How foolish and middle-class thinking of me!  It was a different reality that confronted me in the neighbhoroods where my daughter's caregivers worked. I just expected I would easily transport my child in her stroller with all of her stuff ( and babies need a lot of STUFF!) I expected to lean the the stroller in the babysitter's foyer where it would stay until I had to return to get her.   I did use a smaller very lightweight stroller that I would drag up and down three flights of stairs every day.  Sometimes I used the Baby Bjorn carrier, but I would be so tired after work that I couldn't really carry her that way in the evenings.  When she got a little older and started pre-school I still wanted her to use the stroller, but the elevator was an issue for one woman and the other had a younger child that really needed a stroller. 

Whenever I had to travel I always thought people were angry at me for taking up space with the stroller on the bus and subway.  I just knew they were saying to themselves, "why can't she just carry her child on her back like most women in low income countries?" And of course several people felt free to come up to me and say, "she's a little big for a stroller isn't she?  Shouldn't she be walking?" These comments would irk me most after my daughter started walking with confidence.  She would squirm and wiggle out of her stroller.  It was like proof that I was holding her down and not allowing her to grow up and become independent or autonomous.  Now even my daughter yearns for the days when she could plop down in the stroller while mommy, the urban gondolier, pushed her around the city.

We have not seen the last of the uber-strollers. There must be a reason for their popularity, after all people pay five, six up to eight or nine hundred dollars for some of these strollers!!!   Many are ergonomically designed. Some of them are really inconvenient and way too big for some women to manouever.  Others just look bizarre. Every parent who buys one of these has the comfort and safety of their child in mind, but, come on, there has to be a glam quality to it as well.  You don't want your baby in last year's model, do you?


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