Hey, did you hear the one about that crazy mom who tried to leave the house with her kids and totally got in everyone’s way? Seriously, when will those stroller-pushing b*****s learn that bus rides and ophthalmologist appointments are for people with paying jobs?
Too far? Not if you live in Toronto, a city that recently considered limiting strollers on public transportation and is currently making headlines for its stroller-hating doctors’ offices. Sure, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) opted against a ban, and not all doctors have anti-stroller policies, but the message in these stories is clear: if you’re outrageous enough to consider procreating, you’d better be ready for some serious discrimination.
Back in January, when the whole TTC debacle hit the fan, my family purchased a new, compact umbrella stroller. Babydude was finally big enough (most aren’t designed for children under six months old) and I was tired of getting the stinkeye when we boarded the bus, tired of navigating through oblivious crowds, tired of suffering backaches from solo hauls up stairs. After one particularly gruelling trip, I came home, levelled Daddydude with my mom-daggers (the eyes, obviously: post-baby everything else has gone soft) and suggested that if he had ever taken the stroller on public transit, we’d already have a smaller model. By the next day we had a tidy, middle-class consumerist solution to my transit woes. But for low-income parents who can’t afford a slimmer model, or those with multiple kids, the answer is clear: you are so screwed.
And hey, I get it – some offices are really small, and there simply isn’t enough space to hold a stroller. That sucks, but there’s not much to be done. A polite reminder before the patient arrives, or the provision of stroller parking are the best options. But as long as there is some room, stroller occupation must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Because unilaterally banning strollers discriminates against babies and the parents who transport them – mainly moms. Unless the strollers are a demonstrable hazard, it’s more than an issue of space: it’s ageism, it’s sexism, and it stinks.
Invariably a few eye-rollers are thinking that strollers are a choice, and that parents could carry their kids/leave them at home/not have children at all/stay out of the way, because who cares?
But arguments like that miss the point. Having children may be a choice, but raising a new generation is a social necessity, one that benefits us all. You may find kids and their gear irksome now, but it’s today’s children who’ll be caring for your cantankerous old ass when you’re too old to do it yourself. We’d best remember that, or mothers will keep meeting aggression simply for daring to enter public space with their children, simply for being inconvenient.
So let’s recognize the stroller debate for what it really is, and see it as a challenge and a chance to reframe our perception of women and children in this society. If we get it right, then maybe by the time Babydude is old enough to have kids of his own, he’ll see the stroller wars for what they already are: shockingly antiquated notions from a patriarchal past.