What is it about parenting that makes everyone go all Judgey McJudge?
Most. Unproductive. Day. Ever.
Piglet woke up this morning at 7.30am, which I understand from my fellow parentals is usually described as “late.” For me, this is obscenely early, and I spent over an hour whimpering “Go back to sleep” whilst being enthusiastically hit in the face by an increasingly perky baby. Once I finally did get up, I remembered that I had been planning to go to a childminder’s drop in session in the vicinity of where I work, so I reluctantly put Piglet in the pram and headed off. One delayed train, five minutes of peering mournfully at the huge staircase I had to navigate with the pram at the other end before some knight in shining armour took pity on me and came to my aid, and one brisk walk later, I was at the children’s centre, only to be informed that the childminder’s session had ended ten minutes previously, and yes there is a nursery here if you’re interested, but you should probably know that there’s a two year waiting list.
TWO YEARS. WHAT IS THIS PLANET OF MADNESS UPON WHICH WE LIVE????
“I just got a place recently!” a young mother who happened to be sitting nearby piped up, with the pride of someone who’s just been told that their toddler has just got a place at Oxbridge.
Newly enthused, I asked how old her daughter was.
“She’s two. I put her name down at birth! Some parents put their babies’ names down before they’re even born!”
OH HELL. I am DOOMED. I am never going to be able to go back to work. I am going to have to put Piglet in the nursery up the road, which is called “The Honeypot.” The HONEYPOT, I tell you. It sounds like a porn movie. This is HIDEOUS.
After a brief visit to work to show off how much baby has grown since last visit four months ago, I trudge wearily back to the station, only to spend ten minutes at the bottom of a set of stairs wondering how I am going to navigate them with a pram, wondering if it would be acceptable to ask someone who works there to help (I’m guessing no, based on previous experience with Transport for London. I’m surprised they haven’t yet gone on strike about it), contemplating whether it would be highly dangerous to attempt to lift entire pram, complete with sleeping Piglet (answer: yes) and most of all, wondering how I am supposed to do this every day after a whole day toiling away at the coalface at work, in the not-too-distant future.
I finally resorted to folding the pram, which was not Piglet’s most contented moment with as I had to lie him down on the manky station floor while I did so, then holding the now-wide-awake-and unimpressed-about-it Piglet with one arm whilst dragging the pram up the steps behind me with the other. I am not sure that the pram has fully recovered from the experience, and that thing was EXPENSIVE. And don’t even get me started on the state of my shredded nerves. I am so going to have to bite the bullet and get one of those cheap things my mother had back in the ’80s, which she used to expertly fold with her little finger whilst simultaneously hauling an armful of toddlers onto the bus. Some things really were better in the Olden Days.
Just come back from a visit to the health visitor where, in typical fashion, Piglet did an enormous wee on the baby weighing scales and I was told off for not taking vitamin supplements, despite the fact that (as I protested to the health visitor) they have been repeatedly shown to be useless. Better just get used to the fact that whatever I do, there is always going to be someone judging my parenting decisions.
And speaking of judging, what is one to make of this?
Yes apparently, according to that bastion of the British high street, Poundland, these are the two vocations open to babies. Pink-clad jockey, if you are a girl, and superhero, if you are a boy. There are, of course, many problems with this. Firstly, I have seen many pink-clad jockeys during my less productive Saturday afternoons spent channel hopping through Channel 4 racing, and few, if any, were women. Secondly, superheroes clearly don’t exist. However, these points are unimportant (although more female jockeys please. Given that women are generally smaller than men, is it not odd that horse-racing is mostly the domain of really tiny men?) Bearing in mind the fact that encouraging a girl to ride a horse is significantly less bad than encouraging her to be a princess, I now give you that other bastion of the British high street, Wilkinson’s (I know, I know, but when I say “British high street” I more specifically mean Wembley High Road, where the most upmarket establishment is a shop called Bland’s that sells a curious mixture of cheap-looking prams and cots that actually aren’t that cheap, ladies’ underwear and hideous meringue ballgowns. Because what everyone in Wembley needs is a hideous meringue ballgown to wear down the pub of a Friday night).
So this is a snapshot of the girls’ toys section in Wilkinson’s. Now it goes without saying that the idea that there needs to be separate sections for boys’ and girls’ toys is itself abhorrent, but let’s ignore this for a moment so we can look in more detail at what Wilko deem to be acceptable toys for young impressionable girls. So let’s see: we have a Barbie in a pink dress, a pink tutu outfit, a pink KITCHEN and a-yes, it really is-a PINK BABY CARRIER. The boys’ section is not shown here as I was too boiling with rage to linger in the aisles, but suffice to say it included police officer and fire brigade hats.
Yes ladies, the message here is clear. Boys do the real jobs, like fighting fires and catching criminals, while the girls stay in the kitchen looking after the children.
The most ridiculous thing is that not only have things not moved on since I was a wee lass flicking through the toy pages of the Peter Craig catalogue lusting after a pink Barbie house and an A La Carte Kitchen, but they have got worse. At least the A La Carte Kitchen wasn’t pink! And there were gender neutral toys available, such as the legendary Teddy Ruxpin. Now admittedly I wasn’t allowed any of the three toys mentioned above as they were all too expensive, but I do have photographic proof that for my second birthday, some progressive soul gifted me with a toy carpet sweeper. Because, like, being a girl and all, all I could aspire to was a piece of already-obsolete equipment for cleaning a house, but AT LEAST IT WASN’T PINK! End this madness now please!
For my part, I purchased both the bibs in the first picture, as at least then Piglet will know it’s OK to be a boy who likes pink, right?
Travelling anywhere with a baby has begun to resemble a particularly farcical episode of Miranda.
Today, for example, Piglet and I (plus my mother) travelled from Bristol to London on the train (Piglet’s first trip on the “big train.” He was fairly non-plussed, despite my mother’s running commentary on the journey with all vehicles played by characters from Thomas the Tank Engine). All started well, although there was a brief moment of panic when we got the pram out of the boot of my mother’s friend’s car at the station only to discover that whoever had packed the pram in the car had disassembled it completely. The last time the pram was taken apart Mother and I spent twenty minutes shrieking in the kitchen and cursing the makers of Bugaboo, watching Youtube videos on “how to assemble your pram” and yelling “it wasn’t like this in my day! I used to be able to fold a double buggy in seconds whilst running for the bus!” whilst unsuccessfully trying to fit all the bits back together, before giving up and taking Piglet out in the sling. This time however, due in no small part to the somewhat calmer influence of my mother’s friend, we managed to put the pram back together, and the journey to London passed uneventfully.
Until we got to Paddington.
“Look!” said my mother smugly as we wandered across the station concourse having successfully folded the pram, stowed it upon the train, removed it from said train and reassembled without incident, “I told you there was a lift!”
One lift. That doesn’t go all the way to the actual tube. POINTLESS.
Needless to say, before long we found ourselves faced with the prospect of a perilous journey on an escalator; Mother with a large suitcase, and me with an empty pram and Piglet in the sling.
Mother panics. “You’re not allowed to take buggies on the escalator! It’s not allowed! It’s too dangerous!” It’ll be fine, I thought. I’ve been on an escalator with the pram before, admittedly not without help, but IT’LL BE FINE. Anyway, there is no other way of getting to the tube, unless buggies are suddenly banned from that too, which is entirely possible.
Seconds later, Piglet and I are on the escalator. The pram has toppled over and is veering off to one side (THANK GOD FOR SLINGS), and the escalator has come to some sort of emergency stop. Piglet is thankfully unharmed, and is gazing at me beatifically from the sling, blissfully oblivious to the fact that his hapless mother has just brought the entire Bakerloo Line to a standstill. Mother and I tiptoe off the escalator, hanging our heads in shame, and wait for it to be repaired while a long line of fellow travellers gather at the top, looking annoyed. It is even worse than that time I tried to get the pram-this time complete with Piglet in it-off a crowded London Overground train at Willesden Junction and the front wheels of the pram FELL DOWN THE GAP and had to be rescued by a crowd of quick-thinking commuters.
And there was me thinking the mass exodus of parents out of London had something to do with the house prices.