The other day I had a slam down/drag out battle with Bob. Not my husband, my stroller.
My husband bought me Bob for my 40th birthday (a couple of years ago if you must know). Sure, I could have asked for a mink, a Mercedes or a pool boy. But A) I'm a vegetarian, B) I'm not the Mercedes type, C) we don't have a pool.
When motherhood makes you feel demented, dowdy and depressed, the quality and cuteness of your stroller begins to matter. As your babies' weight increases the quality of your shock absorbers matters even more.
Traveling a mere five feet with twin babies is like running a triathlon. Each time you leave the house you fear the worst: tantrums can break loose, the nap might be disrupted, you might not fit through the door of your favorite coffee shop. You'll end up wandering around like a gypsy for years in search of coffee and a bathroom with doors big enough to accommodate all three of you.
I assumed Bob would liberate me from such travails. His multi-position shade with UVF protection would keep my children cancer free! The wrist-strap and rear-wheel brakes would keep the stroller from hurtling down hills. (I live in San Francisco, a place as accommodating for strollers as the Swiss Alps.) Bob's fully-padded 70%-reclining-seat back would ensure that my boys got their REM sleep. With front wheel swivels for unmatched maneuverability and a state-of-the-art suspension system, he'd take me places I never dared go!
Prior to Bob's arrival, I'd been through a series of disappointments, who now lay like rejected exes in my cluttered garage. My first was the Snap 'n Go. Since it took me about twenty minutes to successfully execute the "snap" (snapping in two infant car-seats without propelling premature babies to the ground), I'd rename it the Snap 'N Grow Old.
If you multiply twenty minutes times two, times six months, that equals approximately 7,200 hours wasted in the first six months of your babies' lives--time that could have been spent feeding, burping, washing dishes and laundry, pumping milk, sterilizing bottles, watching TV, nagging your spouse or napping in order to recuperate from all of the above.
My second stroller was the Maclaren Twin Triumph. Although its slim profile allowed me to fit through average-sized doorways, its tendency to wobble led to shooting pains in my wrist and back. This I'd rename The Chiropractor's Dream.
I fell for Phil and Ted recklessly when I first saw two kids piled up on top of each other, as if they were riding a double-decker bus. To my husband's embarrassment, I hollered out my car window: "What's that you're pushing?!" The outback sales pitch was perfectly aimed at concrete-trapped-parents-like-me who once had wanderlust. The ads suggested that I was the kind of parent who still had energy for world travel and stolen intimacies with something other than my pillow: "While some buggies out there offer more positions than the Kama Sutra...our buggies are the bees knees."
I wanted to be this person, the kind of mother who doesn't care that the sun shield only covered one tenth of one child's head. Yet, despite its promises, this stroller caused me to waddle when I walked.
Moreover, even though the instructions explicitly stated that when unloading you should NEVER remove the child from the top seat first, I forgot this one day when in a hurry (what parent is not in a hurry?) causing one of my babies to crash backwards onto his head, his tiny toes up in the air (all unbeknownst to me). A judgmental person happened to be walk by while I was strapping my other twin into his car seat. She inquired, "Did you intend for this baby to be lying upside down on the sidewalk?" A more appropriate name for the Phil & Ted would be: the Waddle, Burn & Crash.
While at first Bob was smooth, fast, and easy to manipulate--the more time we spent together, the more obvious his flaws became. To fold Bob you have to pinch, press, and yank on hidden straps and levers. For all his magnificence, he weighs a hefty thirty-three pounds. Add two babies--who will reach a weight of thirty-plus pounds by their third year--and you're pushing a total of 93 pounds. (And people ask how I got so thin.)
Hauling Bob in and out of the trunk of my car two to four times a day requires me to contort myself into a pretzel, and I don't have enough time to do all the yoga necessary to un-contort myself. Inevitably a wheel gets stuck or I don't angle him right, so I end up shoving, grunting and cursing again while my boys wait, whine, weep over my ineptitude--learning new words that they will throw back at me when they turn thirteen.
Forget the deep breathing, ladies: why didn't anyone teach me how to fold, unfold and lift my stroller without the assistance of a crane or a manual that's written in Chinese?
Then there are doorways. Bob can clear most standard-sized doors with only an inch to spare. If I am hurried, harried or hysterical (I am usually all three) Bob will catch on one side of the doorway while a line of parent-less people wait impatiently behind me for their fat-free lattes with foam on the side. Because I live in the US, in a post-feminist age, American men do not believe in chivalry, meaning that hundreds of doors have slammed in my face, onto the wheels of my stroller and on the toes of my twins.
There I was a few months ago, when my boys were still enjoying their terrific twos. I stood in front of my garage, cursing out Bob while the twins wailed, hit and bit one another from inside their pack-n-play--the temporary holding pen I had set up next to the garage door to keep them from running into oncoming traffic.
I was shoving Bob's front wheel into the trunk of my low-emissions-easy-park Honda Fit, because I had yet to cave to the pressure of buying a gas guzzling mini-van. The stroller is about three times the size of my car. On a good day, my willpower is able to overcome statistical odds and I can squeeze it into my thus-named-FIT. This day was not a good day.
Happily, I saw the mailman innocently wheeling his cart toward me. I wiped the applesauce off my shoulder, patted down my unwashed hair, and made sure the flap in the crotch of my men's XXL pajamas was closed. (I hadn't had time to shop since losing that postpartum weight.) I even batted my eyelashes, forgetting that they were still caked with sleep. Maybe he'd save me a trip to the chiropractor so I could take my boys to the cute Jewish pediatrician on time, like those other mothers.
Perhaps the sight of a half-crazed Medusa in unwashed bedroom attire was enough to make him duck and cover. He wheeled away, like the airplane that just misses the survivor leaping up and down on the desert island. In that moment, I regretted not living in a sexist society where men still open doors, carry women's bags and serenade lovers from beneath their windows.
Bathed in sweat I finally got Bob and the boys into the car. I attempted to disguise my disarray with a smear of red lipstick and something resembling street-wear. In the process of shoving everyone into their car seats and harnessing all the belts, straps and whistles, I smashed my head onto the roof of my miniature car.
"F---!" I shouted. Months of mindful parenting ruined, I felt sure we'd be kicked out of preschool before we'd even been accepted. For that I had to thank Bob, Mr. Maclaren, Phil & Ted the whole lot of them.
Clearly their manufacturers were macho men. The kind of men who might have known how to open a door, but obviously had no idea what women really needed. Did they assume that women were stupid enough to fall for equipment that sounded butch, Irish or outdoorsy?
If I were to build my own stroller, she'd be sturdy, slender, sexy, and self-propelling. It would not require a brain surgeon to fold her or a husband to lift her. And I'd call her Aphrodite, Wonder Woman or Joan of Arc.