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Putting an end to pram rage

24 Feb

Today I did something I’ve never done before. I rang talkback radio to add my voice to the debate. What compelled me to pick up the phone? Well apparently an epidemic of rudeness and arrogance has broken out among young mothers – specifically relating to their ‘pram etiquette’ – or lack thereof. The radio discussion was sparked by an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, titled ‘Hey Mum, push that pram, not your luck’. It read ‘Whether it is walking along a path, meandering around shopping centres or strolling in parks, mothers with prams have the general attitude of ”you’re in my way and if you don’t move I will run you over with my three-wheeled chariot of newborn fire, then I’ll give you a dirty look after I’ve sufficiently rendered your toes lifeless”. Wow. That’s harsh.
 But apparently the general population can relate. When ABC radio’s James Valentine took up the topic on his lunchtime show, he was inundated by indignant calls with many tales of mums running rough-shod over them. It seems people feel about mums-with-prams the way motorists feel about cyclists. We’re less than popular. I felt obliged to launch a spirited defence of pram-drivers everywhere. Yes, it’s true. Most prams are far too big and seem to have a mind of their own. But is that the mum’s fault? I blame the pram makers who seem to work on the premise ‘bigger is better’. Manoervring these prams can be like trying to steer an unco-operative supermarket trolley. They are less controllable than a 2 year old child. Accidents are (inadvertently) bound to happen. And, if we don’t display sufficient contrition, maybe it’s because we’ve had two hours sleep, or our toddler’s just had a tantrum over not getting their tiny teddies. I know there’s no excuse for rudeness – but a little understanding would be appreciated. I’m actually considering putting ‘L’ plates on my pram. Not that I am a learner driver. But I want to tell the world – ‘Yes I’m driving this thing – but I’m not 100% in control so please – be a little forgiving’. If I take the pram to the supermarket, I reckon I say ‘sorry’ about 50 times as I gently try to navigate past other customers. It’s gotten to the point where my toddler automatically says ‘sorry’ whenever we pass anyone. And she’s not even in the pram anymore. It’s just habit. I always give a polite thank you wave if a driver stops to let me pass the road. And, my goodness, if someone actually helps me up stairs with a pram, I nearly kiss them. Now, I don’t want to start a war here. I find most people are very kind and accomodating to young mums – and in return – most mums are very appreciative. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and I have certainly been on the receiving end of some rude and downright dangerous behaviour from other pedestrians and motorists. It’s certainly not unusual for me to drop my pram wheels into the dirt and go off-road from the footpath to accommodate pedestrians. Do I get a thank you? No. In fact, I would say that again, I’m the one saying ‘sorry’ even though I’m giving way! The number of times I’ve nearly been mown down at pedestrian crossings is truly frightening. I can understand a driver maybe not seeing a pedestrian – but failing to spot a pedestrian attached to a very bulky pram is something I don’t get.

However, I do have a theory about how we can all get along a little better. And it comes down to pram-makers producing a better product. If they were a little smaller and more controllable, I think we could reduce anti-pram sentiment from one of ‘rage’ to perhaps ‘mild annoyance’. I used to scoff at families who had multiple prams/strollers. I thought it was total overkill – just another example of parents indulging in material excess. But – I’ve joined the party. I’ve recently purchased a third pram. And I only have two children. And not one of the prams can adequately carry the two children at once. I’m come to realise that prams are like shoes. You need a different one depending on the occasion. My big three-wheeler is for exercising and expeditions where the car is not required – like a quick walk to the shops. My smaller umbrella stroller is for the car. You can’t really use it on terrain any rougher than a footpath, or the poor child will get whiplash due to the lack of suspension. I recently purchased another umbrella stroller for our newborn because our other umbrella stroller doesn’t fully recline. The first pram I purchased had such a complicated clasp that on my first outing to mother’s group, I couldn’t get it undone. My poor baby had to perform an act of contortion as I wrestled her out of her prison, with the clasp still done up. When it came time to go home I was too embarassed to ask my fellow mums for help, so I simply popped my baby on top of the harness and endured a rather frightening journey home down  a steep hill, constantly watching my little girl to make sure she didn’t slip out the front.

Why can’t pram makers come up with a design that ticks all boxes? Surely it’s not asking too much. I simply want a pram that
– fully reclines
– takes two children
– is reversible so you can goo and gaa over your newborn
– has a bassinet that transfers straight into your car
– can be used on rough/smooth terrain
– has a coffee/bottle holder
– comes with rain/sun protectors
– you can steer with one hand
– has easy brakes
– folds in one click of a button
– comes lined with a sheepskin
– has a big enough basket to carry milk and bread and other essentials
– never needs the tyres pumped up
– survives at least 5 years without breaking down
– is no wider that 50cm (about a foot and a half)
– weighs no more than 6kgs
– toilet trains your child

OK. That last point was a joke. But the rest? I’m deadly serious. Once pram makers come up with a better product, I guarantee you the ‘pram rage’ will subside. But let’s be honest – that’s never gonna happen. If there was one perfect pram, there’d be no need to purchase three imperfect ones. And there goes the pram makers profits. So – if you want to be angry, get angry at the pram makers. They’re the ones turning mums everywhere into incompetent drivers. Fix the prams, and toes and tempers everywhere will be the better for it.

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