According to my husband (and Tolstoy), happy families are all alike; they have a double buggy (if they have two young children).
We, of course, do not have a double buggy. Therefore, in public, we are mostly unhappy.
Let me explain. We tried to get a double buggy when I was pregnant with Liv, one of those double-decker Phil & Ted's buggies that seem able to fit two children, a scooter, some grocery and shopping bags and still look relatively uncluttered. They also have the added bonus of being easy to use on public transportation.
I really liked this buggy, in its pretty apple green shade, and spent quite a bit of time imagining myself strolling down London's streets, smiling, two children beaming and not a public tantrum in sight. This buggy would symbolise the new era of motherhood I was embarking on - two kids! - and somehow, would help turn me into a more functional parent despite the added workload coming my way.
Oh, the power of self-delusion when trying to justify an extortionate, not-entirely necessary purchase! (After two-and-a-half years of parenting and multiple brake failures, we already own two proper buggies, and another one we got for £20 from Mothercare to 'travel' with).
When we found out the straps of the Phil & Ted's didn't stretch far enough to accommodate Diana in her winter coat, we scrapped the idea of the double-decker double buggy (it was actually an error on the sales girl's part, who hadn't fitted D in properly, but the dream was tarnished and there was no going back).
That's when a new fantasy came into my head: super-saver mum with a hint of Earth mother. I would carry the newborn on my chest (breastfeeding would be a breeze!) and push Diana in the buggy. And we'd buy a Buggy Board (a step that attaches to a buggy for a toddler to stand on), for Diana to ride on. I liked this version of me even better than double-decker pushing Jen.
(And this idea wasn't entirely insane, I should add. Since D is used to walking with Bolshy the bulldog twice a day, she hardly uses the buggy any more, and is becoming quite a proficient scooter as well).
My husband was also pleased the Phil & Ted's hadn't worked out because he'd been having his own Daddy-buggy fantasies, which involved a side-by-side double buggy called the Mountain. It does look like a great buggy but there is one big hitch: our front door is half the size of it and wrestling the beast to fold it up after every walk looks stressful, to say the least.
Also, I suspect my husband mainly wants to get it because he likes the name.
"Look at how happy all of the mums pushing the Mountain are," my husband would point out. "They're always smiling and seem so relaxed."
Yes, self-delusion is a powerful thing.
Well, in the end, we didn't get a double buggy. Things are 'working out' with our two girls and two single buggies, but there are a few hitches.
The first is that Liv is enormous. The fantasy of carrying a tiny infant around is not quite the same as the reality of lugging my delicious-but-back-breaking 13-pounder (at two months). But, since I insisted I didn't need a double buggy so many times, I can't let my husband know I may be failing. Also, as D approaches age three, it seems ridiculous to invest in the double buggy now.
So, I have a smile plastered on my face at all times, despite the spasms that I feel in my lower back area on occasion (at one point, I was in so much pain I thought I had internal damage - turns out, it's just a weak core).
Also, D's sleep schedule has been off lately and she's overtired, so she hasn't been into riding on her Buggy Board quite so much (although, I should point out that she is fine with me during the week and only difficult when Daddy is around at the weekends).
But our Saturday walks do often involve a screaming toddler begging Daddy to carry her on his shoulders, a shrieking infant on her 10th solid hour of sleep refusal and my husband angrily cursing at me and saying: 'WE NEED A DOUBLE BUGGY! I TOLD YOU WE NEEDED A DOUBLE BUGGY!'
I usually interject that on the plus side, Bolshy's behaving really well today... until he smells a female dog and starts dragging me away.
The truth is, with young children, public tantrums are sometimes unavoidable, and no buggy is going make them go away.
Especially when my husband is the one throwing the fit.