Those who like to complain about children in public also love to loathe strollers. Liz encountered one of these people on the train a few weeks back, a lady who was not embarrassed to tell her just why her stroller was such a terrible imposition on her and everyone else on the CTA.
But it’s not just the child-haters. I think most everyone who doesn’t have a child in the city looks at giant, expensive strollers with confusion. Why so big?
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t push a giant stroller just to piss you off. Or as a status symbol, although a good urban stroller costs enough that it should be one. My giant UppaBaby is necessary. If you live in the suburbs, you buy a minivan when you have a baby. When you live in the city, you buy a stroller.
Not convinced? Here’s why.
Big-ass wheels. Ever trudged through snow on a winter day in the city? Your stroller needs wheels big enough and durable enough to get through whatever weather Chicago throws at you. Those little piddly wheels you see on most strollers don’t cut it.
Bumpy terrain. Ever tripped on an uneven Chicago sidewalk? Sure you have. And when you’re going to roll over every little bump, a shock system becomes necessary. Not only to make it nicer for the baby, but also so your stroller doesn’t stop. My sister brought her kids to the city last summer with a little stroller, the kind people use to roll their kids around the mall, and at every single sidewalk inconsistency, it just stopped. If I didn’t have a stroller with some shocks, I’d never actually get anywhere.
Big-ass basket. Babies need a lot of crap. Even for those of us who try to minimize the amount of stuff we carry around, there is still a lot of stuff to take out, especially if you’re going to be out for awhile. Diapers, wipes, a change of clothes. Bottles, bibs, burp cloths. Sunscreen, hats, pacifiers … The list goes on. Add to that anything you might need (you know, like a wallet), and anything you might want to get (groceries, for example), and you need a giant basket to put it in. I can simultaneously walk and put a pacifier in my son’s mouth, a skill I’ve perfected in his four months of life. I cannot do that and carry 17 bags.
Utility. I walked my kid places when he was a week old in February. I take him places in the rain, in the snow, in the sun, in the heat. I take him through doors and through crowds, on and off trains, in and out of elevators. We go places. That stroller gets a lot of use. So it needs to function well and not fall apart. Same reason you bought a nice backpack or the expensive pair of running shoes. You need it to work for you, consistently — something that won’t make you swear when the zipper keeps getting stuck. Me too. That’s why it’s worth it to spend some green on a stroller. So my son’s first word isn’t, “Goddamit!”
Options. You know those people you see at the zoo with their 1-year-old in that tiny Mickey Mouse umbrella stroller? Perhaps you look at them and smile, thinking this is the kind of parent you’ll be someday, someone who doesn’t bother other people with their giant contraption. News flash: Those people live in the suburbs, and they take their kid out in a stroller once a year. Or they live in the city, and they have a real stroller at home.
My stroller has a bassinet attachment so that I could take Teddy out when he was too little to sit up. The bigger seat can face me or face out into the world when he’s a bit older. If we have another kid someday, I can attach another seat to the back or a standing board that my older one can ride on. I have a rain shield, a sun shield, a bug shield and a little window so that I can see if he’s sleeping or mashing banana into his hair. It does a lot of stuff because I do a lot of stuff.
I rely on Liz for a lot parenting advice, and here’s one nugget she gave to me: No one would turn up their nose at someone on the train in a wheelchair. In fact, if you don’t get out of the way, people will scorn you with evil looks and scoff at your insensitivity. If you had the gall to even insinuate that the person in the wheelchair was taking up too much room, you would be pushed out the doors before you could say, “Belmont is next.”
A stroller is a rolling chair for someone who can’t walk. Now who’s the jerk?