Sunday, 12 June 2011
I knew childbirth would hurt and that sleep would become the new sex. I'd heard the horror stories and braced myself for the early years of motherhood hell, but nothing prepared me for my new mantle of social leper. When I bought a pram they didn't tell me I may as well ring a bell to warn people I was coming. I have come to discover that mothers in public places are not revered but reviled. We buy extra large prams to bump you with on purpose and have the audacity to wheel our offspring into shops, taking up space that real customers may need to browse the goods. "That' s it go on. Take up half the shop and don't bloody buy anything" one Lewes shopkeeper ranted as I left. I gripped the pram handles swallowing an overwhelming urge to shout abuse back through the door. I veer between fishwife and weeping sap, I'm still the same person but positioned behind a pram, I'm a nuisance on three wheels.
And then there are the trains. They have these designated spaces for prams and wheelchairs just by the toilets, a pole position for anyone travelling with wheels. I can tuck myself out of the way instead of standing in the corridors trying to keep the pram stable despite its knackered brakes. It's dog eat dog near the toilets. I've been pushed aside and am regularly beaten to the spot by a man who likes to stretch out his legs as he eats his McDonald's breakfast. Sometimes when he sees me coming he pretends to be asleep. And then there are the bus drivers who tut as you take too long to fold up the pram, an infant wedged under your arm screaming blue murder. I don't expect people to help because i'm physically struggling, but it would be nice not to be harried, talked to like an imbecile or pushed out of the way. Like the day I struggled past the barrier with a few heavy bags and the nice guard carried them on for me-ah wait! That was the day I left the kids at home and didn't really need a burly man to help me with my things.
I don't expect people to fawn over my kids, just to respect the fact that my baby can't walk yet and that the pram is not an irritating gadget but a neccesity for the time being. One day my kids may be wiping YOUR arse, spending their money in your shops and if I've done a good job helping you onto the bus. My particular issue is a feminist issue , part of a broader problem of mutual respect and tolerance. I've decided to stop apologising for myself. Fishwives have a point. I'm not a sap but a mother with bruised calves, a short fuse and a right to go about my business.
I notice that the aforementioned Lewes shop is going out of business. I did smile as I pushed the pram up the cobbled hill.