Why Middle Aged Women Should Rule the World

For the last two days I have managed to get Piglet to bed at *around* the 9pm mark.  This is an immeasurable improvement on midnight, which was his previous bedtime.  It may in fact now be the case that Piglet will grow into a creature of reasonable nocturnal habits, and will not be staying up all night to play on his Playstation (are they still a thing?) all night by the age of two.

To celebrate this irrefutable evidence that I am now an uber-mother, and should definitely be crowned Mother of the Year by Mumsnet, the Pride of Britain Awards and OK! magazine (whichever of those venerable institutions has such an award), I decided to do two things.

1.) Take Piglet to Time for Rhymes at the local children’s centre, and
2.) Stand up for mothers everywhere-and the disabled and mobility challenged-by taking both Chiltern Rail and London Underground to task for failing to provide a place to swipe one’s oyster card at the step-free entrance at my local station, which for reasons of protecting the guilty, shall remain nameless (Wembley Stadium).

Neither of these were entirely successful.

Time for Rhymes was actually brilliant.  I loved the songs and toys (tambourines! Drums!  Every bit of the percussion section at the back of the hall that we weren’t allowed to touch when I was at infants’ school!) more than Piglet, who mostly just sat on my lap staring into space while other, bigger babies toddled up and tried to poke him and their parents cooed “ooh, look at that tiny baby!  I’d forgotten how small they were!” I also liked the fact that the staff were so nice and informative.  And then, upon lifting Piglet from my lap as I told a member of staff that I thought he needed changing and asked where the baby change facilities were, I discovered that not only did he need changing, but I did too, as the poo had seeped right through his nappy, covering the stylish dungarees (very Prince George) that I had lovingly dressed him in that morning, thinking that such an occasion merited proper big-boy clothes, rather than the usual daily babygro, and the stylish dress that I had lovingly clothed myself in, thinking that I was going to be a trendy yummy mummy and the envy of all the other mothers at Time for Rhymes, rather than my usual daytime uniform of milk-stained pyjamas.

“This doesn’t usually happen!” I squealed at the member of staff, terrified that she was going to think I was an unfit mother and ignoramus who couldn’t put a nappy on properly.  I then spent ten minutes running back and forth to the pram, which had been left in the buggy park outside (thankfully hadn’t been stolen.  The amount of time I spend worrying that the pram will be stolen is ridiculous. I love that Bugaboo almost as much as the baby) fetching the spare babygro and nappy bags, and dealing with a screaming, poo-covered Piglet.  Sadly, although I had the facilities to clean the baby, my organisation did not stretch to cleaning myself, and I spent the remainder of Time for Rhymes, and the not-inconsiderable journey home, with three huge poo stains on the front of my dress.

Could have been worse I suppose.  At least it wasn’t the back.

My second fail of the day came when I ventured into Central London (always a test of endurance) to meet a friend and fellow mother (look at me, drinking coffees in Regent’s Park with my fellow mothers and talking about motherhood!).  I had decided to take the train rather than the tube, as the nearest tube station to where I was going (Baker Street) was not step-free, and being a caring, sharing sort, I didn’t want to lumber the great British public-who already largely despise me for procreating if the number of people who moved seats to get away from a squawking Piglet and I on the Jubilee Line yesterday is anything to go by-with the headache of feeling obliged to assist me on the stairs with a lumbering pushchair.

This would be fine if it were not for the fact that the train station in question (Wembley Stadium) has no oyster card reader at the step-free entrance which, I might add, is some distance away from the main entrance with the card readers.  This led to a particularly fraught journey with a screaming Piglet last week when I had to walk all the way around from the step-free exit to the main exit just to swipe my oyster card to avoid being charged a million pounds.  Thanks Transport for London.  Thanks a bunch.

I’d just like to take a moment to point out to my fellow Londoners here that if Transport for London do cut the vast numbers of jobs they’ve been threatening, other stations will go the way of the wretched Wembley Stadium, as being an unmanned station there is a) never anybody there who can help you with anything and b) nobody at any other stations ever understands why you were unable to swipe your oyster card/purchase a ticket as they just assume it’s a normal station, with a kiosk and turnstiles and everything, instead of just a random unmanned and un-gated platform which happens to have a few trains stop there occasionally, and have a go at you and imply you are a moron for being unable to see where to swipe oyster card/purchase ticket despite the fact the ticket machine is not working and there is nowhere to swipe oyster card.  Angry point made.  I shall continue.

Anyway, last time I used this station I had to leave Piglet with a random middle aged woman (risk assessed as being of the demographic least likely to kidnap Piglet or allow him to have some terrible accident in my absence) so that I could run up a huge flight of stairs to swipe my oyster card.  Today, however, the only other people at the station were middle aged men, which I considered a less favourable demographic and so decided to press the little button on the platform for information.  This led to a long conversation where it took ten minutes to explain what the exact issue was and then the man on the other end of the line had to go and speak to his supervisor to see if he could find out if anyone knew if there was somewhere to swipe the oyster card that did not involve walking up a flight of stairs.  At that point, the train came.

I then had to explain to someone at Marylebone why I had not swiped said oyster card, which met with the inspired response “you need to swipe your oyster card.  Now you’re going to be charged loads when you swipe your card here”, although he did at least let me through the barrier, saying I should speak to someone in the tube station about it as oyster card readers were Transport for London’s business and not theirs.  I then went to the tube station to explain the situation and to politely request that they install a card reader at the step-free entrance at Wembley Stadium, only to be told again that I should have swiped my oyster card, despite the fact that I’d already explained multiple times why I was unable to do this, and that this was Chiltern Rail’s problem and not theirs (why was the rail service ever privatised?  WHY?  Not only this, but the logo was much better in the old days) When I explained that I had already spoken to Chiltern Rail and been told to speak to London Underground as they are the ones with the oyster card readers, I was accused of being, and I quote, “ignorant.”

On the way home, I was still so angry that I couldn’t face Marylebone or Wembley Stadium or the whole situation, and got on the tube at Baker Street instead-the station I had been trying to avoid due to its many steps.  I was immediately asked by a middle aged woman who reminisced about when she used to have a double buggy and couldn’t go anywhere if I needed assistance with the pram.  Moral of the story: middle aged women rule.  Men who work at stations do not.


16 Comments Add yours

  1. Grrrrr I feel your frustration!!!! The London Transport people are the pig-ignorant ones, not you! You are right, some people (often middle aged women) know exactly what to do to help and it’s an absolute godsend. Although I was at an NT property earlier in the week and got totally ignored by many, when my heavy double buggy and changing bags complete with baby and toddler attached at the reins got jammed in a doorway. It really made me feel a bit shit. And quite the opposite when someone helps, it’s a lovely feeling. Hopefully karma will come your way next time! Xx

    1. Min says:

      I think the worst thing is being made to feel like you are some massive hindrance who’s getting in everyone’s way, and if you have a buggy you should be sat at home all day and never venture past your local park at the furthest, for fear of inconveniencing everyone else’s busy lives. Luckily since this post was written I’ve had many more positive experiences, and fewer negative ones.

  2. Suchitra says:

    I love your posts. So honest, descriptive, and I always feel like I was right there. Thankfully, having visited London once a few years ago, I was able to visualize and imagine your plight just a little bit better – not to mention all the poo situations and having to maneuver the baby and twenty other things while still trying to get things done with a modicum of sanity left at the end. Middle aged women…hahaha what a cool POV. I will be more observant now. #familyfun

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! I’m hoping that this post will be a portent of things to come, when middle aged women actually DO rule the world.

  3. Tammymum says:

    Haha this was a super post, although I fear for you the ordeal that brought it about was considerably less so. Navigating the tube and trains solo can be a ball ache but with a Pram and baby in tow and nothing but stairs, goodness it must be a nightmare. Poo gate sounds pretty horrifying too, but I have been there and without a change of clothes for the baby either – cue angry super mums tutting in disgust. Oh.the.shame. Thanks for sharing not this at #familyfun xx

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for commenting! It was a bit of a nightmare, but thankfully as the little one gets older, things are getting easier, transport-wise.

  4. Sharon Parry says:

    As a middle aged woman (nearly 50) I adore your post! Yes we should rule the world – sadly the opposite seems to happen and as women get older they seem to get invisible! I’ll be sharing this! XX

  5. I can’t quite imagine having to use the London transport regularly, it must be a pain with a buggy! I’m totally one of those parents that go “aren’t they tiny” now at groups that my son is bigger! It must be annoying!! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

    1. Min says:

      It certainly was, and the worst thing was the guilt. I would always feel inexplicably guilty for having a child on public transport, like it was putting everybody else out or something!

  6. Yes – middle aged women should rule the world – we GET it, when others just don’t seem to. On another note I loved the references to north London places I used to hang out in lots when i lived that side of the river. Fab post as ever. xx

    1. Min says:

      Haha, thanks! I’ve moved away now, and I do miss North West London.

  7. I have only taken my daughter in to London twice because quite frankly it stressed me out. Good on you for making the effort so often. The logic of where Oyster card readers are put defeats me. And I have a Maths degree which is basically all logic. I think TfL design it to cause the most amount of pain and grief imaginable because they don’t already make us suffer enough with the bank-breaking tube fares. I can’t believe the guy at the station called you ignorant. All praise to you for not throwing something at him (keep the nightmare nappies to hand for future such confrontations?).

    Thank goodness for the woman who helped with the pram. There is hope for us all yet! #FamilyFun

    1. Min says:

      Haha, thanks! I’ve moved out of London now (not because of this!) and travelling around by tube with a pushchair is one thing I definitely don’t miss.

  8. Alina says:

    Omg. I had to venture from Perivale to Archway with the baby. Why a journey. Try and get up the stairs an 8kg baby and pull the pushchair in the same time. Perivale has no lift or escalators plus little one fell asleep so I had to get her up and down Tottenham Court Road as again there are no lifts or escalators. Killed my back and decided on a two hour journey back by bus.

    1. Min says:

      Argh, hideous. I feel you pain, and I can’t believe no one helped!

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