The UK is a modern country. I feel living here qualifies me to say that. We have all the mod cons, men can marry men, women can marry women, we’ve embraced boutique coffee shops and the future king did the school run this week.
Not too shabby, all in all.
But now I experience this ‘green and pleasant land’ a little differently. Because now I am a parent, and I can’t tell you how frigging frustrating it can get sometimes.
Firstly, let’s look at parking. Most places provide spaces for parents and children. A lot of people moan about these spaces (‘We didn’t have them in my day’, well no, you didn’t but your toilet was also in the back garden so change is good Brenda.) Any way these spaces are supposed to be helpful and designed so you can get tiny people strapped in safely without bashing the car next to you. Or they would be if you could ever actually park in one. They are either taken by ignorant dicks (usually in the more expensive cars) or other ignorant dicks whose kids are teenagers. Often the number of parent and child spaces are woefully inadequate in number. There is a large multi-story in Coventry with only 6 parent and child spaces. 6.
Now if by some miracle I have managed to park in a space that gives me adequate room to extract my child from his seat, I have to consider trolleys. This isn’t an issue now. but when he was tiny and needed the shopping trolley (cart) with the baby seat in, our local Tesco supermarket (apparently the largest in the UK) has only four of these trolleys. When I couldn’t find one of these trolleys I was forced to put William’s car seat in an ordinary trolley which left no room for the groceries. If I did happen to get a trolley with the baby seat on I found their design such that I couldn’t actually see where you I was going. Nice one.
Today I took Wills to get new shoes. I’d had to park in a regular space (standard) and the design of this particular place is very attractive but not really helpful if you have a pushchair. Shoes purchased, I headed for a loo. The particular shop I went to is forward thinking in that it’s one of the only places with a Father and baby changing room. This is brilliant and ‘Mother and baby’ has always irked me somewhat as I don’t feel that because I’m his mother I should be the one to change him. In the same way I don’t see how having a uterus makes cleaning my responsibility. Anyway huzzarh for father and child changing rooms, because if dad takes the baby out, there is somewhere he can go for a nappy change. Anyway, as is common the mother and baby changing facilities are in the women’s toilet. But I didn’t need to change him I needed a wee. Except, I couldn’t because all the neat little cubicles wouldn’t fit a pushchair in. If I took the bags and Wills from the pushchair how was I supposed to pee holding on to them all? There was no way I was going to go with the door open or leave Wills outside unattended and I was on my own, there was no one to wait with him! Luckily, they had disabled toilets. Plenty of room for us both, but I did feel a tad guilty for using them.
It reminded me of when I took Wills to town, once again I needed a wee, the changing facilities were just a room with a changing table and the cubicles too small to get a pushchair in. (But they were immaculate.) I found a disabled toilet, but it was locked. I had to ask an attendant for the key. The attendant was male. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like asking strange men to unlock a loo for me, and have to apologise because I don’t need the disabled facility I just need somewhere big enough for me and my son. The guy was lovely but he did have to hover outside to lock it up again after I’d finished. It is kept locked to stop unsavoury things occurring in there. (I dread to think…)
Now if I’ve manage to survive parking, trolleys and peeing, lets look at the actual shops. So many shops with barely enough room to get your buggy through. If it happens to be a big shop, they tend to stick stuff in the way, ensuring it becomes an obstacle course. Lots of sticky out legs to catch the wheels on, tables with clothing draped over which your biscuit (cookie) covered toddler likes to grab at, and you can’t swerve to avoid because there is no sodding room!
So many things that used to be simple, no longer are, mostly down to a lack of thought. Do I expect it to change anytime soon? Sadly no, looks like I’ll be putting up with it. Fingers crossed by the time I’m a Grandma we’ll have it all sorted, and my complaints won’t be met with ‘Well you chose to have children..’
Written by Chesney Lynn for her blog, The Postpartum Years.