Disclaimer: In this post, I bash stroller use. However, I do not mean to offend or discriminate against parents or caregivers who use strollers either out of choice or necessity. I completely understand that there are circumstances in which a stroller is needed. So, again, I mean no offense.
We used a stroller with Baby1, I’ll admit it. I’ve spoken of my youthful naiveté a few times, but back then I didn’t think/know there was any other way. However, this time around I’ve been questioning if we’ll purchase a stroller at all – it all started back in early February when I posted a pros/cons list comparing strollers to wraps/carriers. Since then, the weather has warmed here in the Pacific NW and the fam and I have been out and about a lot more. In our adventures, I have been noticing strollers more than normal – first to scope out brands people are using in case we did decide to get one but then I couldn’t help but notice peoples’ behaviors while using a stroller.
Behaviors during stroller use are interesting to watch. First, it doesn’t seem like people pay very much attention to their baby when he or she is in a stroller. There’s not a lot of interaction when the baby is facing away from the pusher and is a good couple feet away from the pusher, if not more. Baby can’t see you, you can’t see baby. You can’t see baby drop something, grab something, start to get uncomfortable, etc.
Second, people use their strollers to make a path for themselves, sometimes quite aggressively. I have been hit on the heels a few times and have witnessed what happens to other people who get in the way, too. People without strollers don’t really look for them because they are lower than eye level, so they usually get pushed if they don’t move out of the way fast enough. Pushers of strollers sometimes do it on purpose (the parents at the zoo are really bad at this) but most of the time they are too distracted to notice what they’re doing – distracted by other kids, getting stuff out of one of the many stroller compartments, simply looking around, etc.
Third, people seem to use their strollers as a child-carrying mechanism only about fifty percent of the time. The other times the stroller is loaded up with shopping bags, coats, you name it. Would all that stuff really need to be pushed around if you didn’t have something to push it around with? We usually stuff our coats in a locker when we go to the science center (even malls have lockers). We use a backpack as a diaper bag so we can be hands-free.
Apparently there’s this whole anti-stroller movement out there. The movement, I think, can be broken into two parts: businesses that have banned strollers and parents that refuse to use them.
Some business, usually in urban areas, have banned the use of strollers in their stores. This makes some parents quite upset. They equate the ban of strollers to the ban of children in general. Most of the time, I don’t feel like that is the case. I feel like the businesses are protecting their other customers from the inconveniences of others’ stroller use, such as being hit by a stroller and not being able to move freely throughout the store or restaurant because paths are blocked by strollers (this can be a fire hazard sometimes). You can’t fit as many people in a store because a stroller can easily take up the space of one or two (or more!) standing people. While banning strollers is certainly not a great PR move in the eyes of parents, to the childless (or the below group of anti-stroller parents) it is a welcome restriction.
An aquarium in Cleveland is considering a stroller ban – they’re taking a vote and, as of the article posted in January 2012, sixty-nine percent of votes are in favor of a ban. What bothers me about some of the comments following the article is that people compare strollers to wheelchairs; the two are no where near the same, and it is insulting to those in a wheelchair for that comparison to be made. The difference is clear: people in wheelchairs have no choice. Tangent over.
There is a whole movement amongst parents that is pretty anti-stroller. There was an article in the NY Times about how a new generation of parents are shunning the stroller in favor of baby-wearing. Granted, some of the time these parents are picking up on a trend and buying fancy carriers to fit in with their social groups. However, a lot of the time, I think parents recognize the convenience of not using a stroller.
I’m repeating a bit from my last post about strollers, but the benefits of baby-wearing over stroller use are fantastic:
- You save space in your home, car and general environment when you’re out. For me, I felt very self-conscious when I pushed around a huge stroller that took up a lot of space, especially in a crowded area like a packed farmers’ market.
- It’s a lot easier to care for your baby when he or she is strapped to your chest or hip. You don’t have to lean over the stroller to check on your child or constantly pick up toys that have been dropped or take away items that have been grabbed (and try to figure out where they came from). You can easily shade baby’s eyes from the sun or protect them from the rain or cold.
- It’s a lot less expensive to get a couple good carriers or wraps rather than a big ol’ stroller. For example, the wraps I’m lusting after cost about $50 (except for the structured carrier that I want, which is just over $100 but it is useful for carrying up to 45 pounds). The stroller that I wanted up until I had this revelation was $500. The more budget-friendly option is one of those car seat carriers which start at about $60, but that’s like the gateway drug of strollers, right? Before you know if you’ve got a jogger (I don’t run), a travel system, an umbrella, etc, etc. I’d much rather be addicted to baby carriers – they take up a lot less space.
- It’s easier to travel with a carrier or wrap. The airport people won’t take it from you at the gate, you can stuff it into your carry-on and you can navigate the airport with ease. I enjoy hassle-free traveling.
Clearly, I’ve started to join this anti-stroller movement. I find myself sneering at strollers sometimes which I know is not good and I need to check myself. I understand completely that stroller use is sometimes needed or even the only option that parents have. There are physical limitations that warrant the use of strollers: if I had a c-section I would probably use one for awhile, if I had back problems or a foot or leg injury I wouldn’t wear my baby as a safety precaution and out of general comfort. I’m sure there are other reasons for strollers so I will work on not judging others. But I wish stroller use was less common – I wish people would realize that it isn’t the only way to transport your child when you are a pedestrian!
Even my youthful self realized the benefits of not using a stroller back when Kiddo1 was about one year old. We had visited Chicago a few months before and brought our huge travel system with us. We only take public transit when we’re in the city and we always stay downtown. We took that giant stroller/car seat combo on the train with disastrous results. We didn’t think to collapse the thing and the amount of space we took up was downright embarrassing. It was, by far, my worst personal experience with public transit. I could feel and see people glaring at us as they struggled to get by.
For our next trip to the city we bought a Baby Bjorn. It was amazing – such a difference in getting around the city, visiting tourist attractions, traveling through the airport, you name it. We didn’t take a stroller with us on that trip at all. We were gone for eight days and visited three cities and it was the best traveling we did with our baby. I’m glad I remember that trip now that I’ve thought more about our potential stroller use: I know that we can live that way in our day-to-day.
Luckily stroller use seems to be declining, to the good fortune of shoppers, travelers and zoo visitors everywhere. I hope that more able parents see the benefits of not using the stroller and come over to the “anti” movement as well!