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20 August 2013

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Jenny

We have one of those giant strollers. We got it before our oldest was born and it hopefully won't break before we stop needing it. Only the baby gets the stroller so the toddler gets kicked out when his position is usurped. For us that means our children walk independently pretty early. The thing about the stroller is not so much its ability to baby-tote as its ability to carry all the junk.

That being said, we generally only use it when my husband is around. It is sooo heavy! I have a hard time getting it in and out of the car. It is much more pleasant for me to strap the baby on and walk freely. But for whatever reason, most people don't see baby wearing as a viable option.

I think it may be because the most widely known option for baby wearing is that front backpack thing with legs hanging through holes. That set up may work for some people (tall men), but it absolutely doesn't work for me (really short woman). It puts tremendous strain on my back. If your only awareness of baby wearing is that thing, I understand why people opt for the stroller.

mandamum

I think perhaps one last place for strollers is when your family routinely walks much further than a toddler's legs will go, no matter how well practiced :) I had my first baby when we were without a car (or stroller) -- I conquered that sling right away because I had to! and carried her for a very long time. Even when I had a second baby, I would sometimes still bring the soft back carrier instead of a stroller for the zoo, because the stroller was more likely to be pushed by the toddler than carry her :) But many days, we were going in and around town and eventually even the best little walker will fall asleep on her feet, and the most well-intentioned carrying mama will not want to hoist 40+ lbs of toddler on her back while carrying that 20lb baby as well.... Even if it happens on a regular basis, because you're a carless family or dedicated walking family, instead of being an occasional thing.

mandamum

That said, we still never had a stroller larger than a fancier umbrella one (with long enough handles to push while standing upright, hurrah!) that would easily fold down for transit, restaurants and storage.

Oh! And the no-stroller = kid-unfriendly thing makes me laugh because our local LLL conference always had that policy out of necessity: If you're pregnant or have two babies, or some other special need for a stroller, let us know and we'll get you an "OK stroller" tag, but otherwise, please don't bring them. It was just impossible in the space available.

Bearing

I love the idea of an OK Stroller Tag that you can get with special permission.

Honestly, I think a good way to make *reasonable* use of a stroller is to restrict yourself to the umbrella kind. Not only is it harder to become dependent on (since it can't carry more than one child, it can't carry a BIG child, it can't carry a tiny infant, and you can't rely on it to carry your stuff), it is far less intrusive to other people. But it is there when you need it, and people do need them sometimes, just not ALL the time.

Bearing

Jenny, agreed that more babywearing awareness would help. But part of the reason fewer people wear babies is because they are used to strollers as the Way To Transport Babies. I am sure there are people who don't use a sling, or reserve the sling for "emergencies," because they expect to have a stroller whenever they go out with the baby. And by the time the baby is big, they cannot wear the baby because their baby wearing muscles are weak and flabby from relying on the stroller.

Margaret in MN

Huh. You've given me plenty to think about.

(Not that my back-to-school brain wasn't full enough already, but this is a pleasant diversion.)

And I'll tell you what: I am longing for an Ergo for my 8-month-old (as per my request at the homeschool picnic) but am too lazy/distracted/poor to track one down. Any suggestions? A different model, perhaps?

Also, I was given a linen kangaroo wrap a couple weeks ago and need to figure it out.

Kate

I'm with Mandamum. When I lived in a city, and was carless, I needed a stroller that would carry the then-baby, and occasionally the then-toddler, AND all of my groceries/picnic lunch and diaper bag/toddler amusements for waiting rooms/library books, etc. I took that stroller grocery shopping and on near daily jaunts that regularly required half an hour to an hour of walking. (The bus system sucked, walking was usually faster and easier than waiting).

Now I live in a rural area, and drive almost everywhere. I use the big stroller for one trip, a weekly walk to the library in the nearest little town, because my almost 2 year old isn't up to the walk, and we regularly check out 10-20 books at a time, which is a lot to carry. Sometimes we walk to the nearest beach, which again requires more 'stuff' than I could manage otherwise. Most other trips involve the car, which allows me to leave all of the 'stuff' parked until I need it. In crowds, the backpack carrier is handy...though it doesn't carry any 'stuff', and somehow there is always 'stuff'!

Kate

(That said, I started out extremely enthusiastic about babywearing...but my first pregnancy and birth left my pelvis/back somewhat vulnerable to strain, so that I wasn't able to baby wear my first (since I couldn't walk unassisted for several months) then threw my back out multiple times baby-wearing my second child. I'm in much better shape now, but I can only use the monster-sized framed backpack carrier for my toddler, and I can't carry anything else at the same time (bag, purse, other child, whatever). So I guess I might fit under #2, though I don't think of myself that way.

Jeanie

This discussion makes me think of some of the families I see going to the local neighborhood park: the kids are driving the battery-powered car and the parents are jog-walking to try and keep up with them. Makes me laugh when I see it. Often the parent has to wrestle the car away from the curb so the kids can take off again.

bearing

"I guess I might fit under #2, though I don't think of myself that way."

A disability is an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

Carrying one's own small children is a major life activity. Normal humans can do it. See: any part of the world where strollers are uncommon.

If you are substantially limited from carrying your children an ordinary distance because of injury, then yes, you fall under #2.

Rebekka

Part of this is because of accessibility - here in Denmark a lot of shops and restaurants are in older buildings and you have to go up/down a step or two to get in. No strollers! In which case you just leave the baby sleeping in the street, and keep an eye on the stroller for any thrashing around. (Danes have been arrested in the US for doing this while on vacation.)

We have 1 almost-2-yo, one due in December, no car, three strollers, and a Yepp child seat for our bikes. Of the strollers, one is equivalent to what's described in the post, one is a full-sized pram over a meter long (and which doesn't fit in the trunk of a station wagon unless you disassemble it completely including removing the wheels), and the last is a Maclaren Triumph umbrella stroller (expensive but reclines, sunshade, etc while still fully collapsible).

The pram is the vehicle of choice for the first year, and our daughter still takes all her at-home naps in it (in the front yard). She will only nap in a stroller, not in her bed. Babies sleep outside here as long as it is over -10C, so you need the insulation of a pram. If it's too cold and/or she's sick, we have to drag the pram up the stairs to our apartment. We never use the regular stroller. It's big and clumsy. If we aren't biking somewhere, we take the Maclaren. It's really uncommon for people here to use an umbrella stroller as their everyday stroller, but we love it. She can still lie flat, it's maneuverable, and I can carry both it and Dagmar up a flight of stairs while pregnant. If there are already two strollers in the bus (the max), we can just fold it.

We're working on walking on the sidewalks, but she's a runner and still tends to veer off course without warning. Also, I can carry a few bags of groceries for over a km, but not while chasing a frisky toddler. Strangely, if we go to a museum or the zoo, part of the point is to let her run around, where we don't have to worry about her getting mowed down in the bike lane, but it seems like that's where Americans bust out their strollers?

Rebekka

Wow, that was long, sorry!

bearing

I won't presume to know how it all works out in other countries; expectations are certainly going to be different -- but yeah -- leaving the child outside in the stroller isn't done here, for better or worse.

If you don't have a car and have to deal with your grocery shopping, of course, something has to give; one solution is the big stroller, another is a rolling cart for the groceries.

In my city, adult bicycles aren't allowed to be ridden on the sidewalks at all -- they have to stay on the road and share it with cars -- so there isn't much of a bicycle-child collision risk.

I notice you say "the pram is the vehicle of choice for the first year." You don't say "the first five years." It is exceedingly common to see five-year-old children in strollers here, often sharing a large double strollers with smaller siblings.

And yes, the museum and the zoo are exactly where Americans bust out their strollers.

Jenny

It's fascinating to hear the cultural norms in other countries. People in the US are obsessed with supervision. If you left a baby outside sleeping in cold weather here, you'd be in jail, no question. Many times I make decisions on where to take my children based not on safety but whether someone might call the cops, i.e. momentarily stepping into/out of a store.

Arwen

As always, I'm fascinated by your thoughts.

Before I had my own children I paid almost no attention to strollers; they were normal and I didn't notice them one way or the other. So it surprised me, after I had my firstborn, that I developed a visceral reaction to seeing people pushing newborns in strollers: my brain shrieks "HOLD YOUR BABY!" (This is similar to my visceral reaction to seeing babies nursing under covers, which is "WHY ARE YOU SUFFOCATING YOUR BABY?")

Hilariously (to me) I have no real moral or other objection to either of those parenting choices, but I do think that the fact that they are considered normal, even normative, is unfortunate. WHY does the average parent need a monstrous plastic/cloth/metal apparatus to transport a baby who weighs only as much as a gallon of milk? What are the advantages to this?

I have been forced to change my stroller-disdaining ways somewhat by the arrival of my third and fourth children, who are twins. (Now 27 months old.) We use the stroller - and it's extra huge because I wanted one in which they could face each other, or face me, or both face out and actually *see* - fairly often, and are thankful for it. (Although during their babyhood I often wore one on my front and one on my back, which garnered me plenty of "you're crazy" looks from passers-by, but which was honestly easier for me than lugging the stroller along on short outings.)

Although generally I agree with you that strollers are over-used, I will say that being forced to use one has helped me to see some advantages of them. I wouldn't go on a day-long walking outing without one now, and it's not because I expect my two-year-olds to spend most or even any significant time in it (we use it mainly to keep them safe during busy street-crossings and the like, and to give them a place to crash when they inevitably get worn out). Rather, it's useful as a place to stick our stuff. It's easier to save money by packing a picnic lunch if you can use the stroller to lug it. We can make sure we have enough water to stay hydrated and extra clothes for accidents. And not having to carry all our stuff means it's easier to carry our kids - which we do! (After two years with two babies, I'm pretty proud of my arm muscles.)

Thanks for the discussion! Fascinating.

bearing

Arwen, I hope I made it clear that mamas of twins are understood to have increased need for a stroller!

Kyra

We're a no-car family with twins, and we have a big stroller. Our current strategy is: five-year-old walks beside me, three-year-old is on an attached running board or walking (he's just learning not to bolt off, and we regularly walk at least half an hour a day, for groceries, to the library etc.) one eighteen-month-old in the stroller and one in the Ergo on my back. It's a pretty intense workout. And yes, if you don't have a car then the stroller becomes your diaper bag holder/water bottle holder/grocery cart/random nature walk finds holder. It adds up to a lot of stuff. I could theoretically wear both toddlers but then my ballistic three-year-old chasing skills would be seriously undermined. I think strollers are necessary for a lot of life if you don't have a car. Okay, maybe not necessary, but I wouldn't want to have to carry one of my twenty-five pound toddlers plus forty pounds of groceries...

Amy F

Margaret --

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/bab/3977301834.html

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/bab/3937725913.html

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/bab/3995285935.html

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/ram/bab/3987117314.html

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/hnp/bab/3984931872.html

Rebekka

It's illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk here, too, but the bike lane is right next to the sidewalk, not out in the street, so you do have to look before you blunder out into it. Bicyclists are fiends here. It's not leisure - they're commuting!

I totally agree that strollers are fantastic at helping manage all the things when you don't have a car. A standard pram can hold a 24 count case of beer in the undercarriage!

bearing

I'm curious, when people don't have small children in Denmark, how do they get around with all their stuff? Pull the groceries in a wagon?

Rebekka

Well, some people do have cars, of course. But: bicycles! You put your groceries in your bike basket or hang the bags over the handles. Even people with cars tend to use bikes for some or most transportation.

And then, of course, there are cargo bikes, which is what you get if you have more than one kid or a lot of gear. The super traditional Christiania bike can seat up to four kids with stuff.

bearing

Cargo bikes are not nearly as common around here as they should be! I do see them in our fairly bike-friendly city now and again.

RealMom4Life

Most of my babies were
sling babies, but we've gone thru numerous strollers in the last 18 years. While I wouldn't consider one a need, I do consider one a strong want that offers us numerous benefits. We don't use cribs, bouncy seats, or changing tables. I don't see enough benefit for us, personally, to have any one of them. There are many people that use some or all because they want the benefits. I get what you are saying, many people would consider those needs...but they aren't (in most cases) and there isn't anything wrong with owing one and using it wisely.

I do agree that "restricting the number of strollers in an enclosed place is not the same thing as banning children." When politeness and common sense are lacking, that's when we need to start imposing rules like the no stroller policy. While it's probably true that there are more strollers around than before, I think the worst part isn't the quantity...it's the lack of prudence on the part of the parent.

Monica

We use our stroller for our 2 year old when we're going somewhere and the other 3 kids are biking. She considers it a big treat, because we use the stroller so little. I give a lot of credit to my firstborn for this, because she flatly refused to use the stroller for almost any occasion once she could walk well, and I discovered the joy of a toddler who has walked all over the zoo, worn herself out, taken a great nap, and turned out to be a great hiker once she gets older because she's used to walking so much. We've followed suit with the others, and use the stroller rarely.

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