Motherhood - it's a tough gig, right? Right now, I'm watching Mrs Cratchit scraping together the money for a tiny goose on the family table, while tending her sickly youngest. She had her fair share of family dramas, and she probably knew which ones to make a fuss about. We can all learn from Mrs Cratchit.
Because this week, I've seen articles where mothers are complaining and sadfacing about things which probably don't need to make it into the paper. Someone assumed that her "Baby on Board" badge guaranteed her a seat on the tube when pregnant. It didn't, and she posed for photos staring into the abyss, wondering at the horror of it all. Another mother complained that a TfL staff member didn't help her with her buggy at a station.
Ladies, let's get these things into perspective. TfL staff aren't trained or insured to carry buggies up steps so, while you might find a few who'll help you, most won't or can't and are kinda within their rights to refuse. So, what to do when you're faced with that unexpected flight of stairs? Flag down a passing commuter and ask them to help? Do it yourself? Either way, you'd probably put it down to experience and plan a better route next time. What you probably wouldn't do is go to the press about the "incident" and expect sympathy.
And what of the "Baby on Board" issue? Well, let's get this straight - there is no guarantee of anyone getting a seat on the tube, whatever badge or disability they have. I had a badge during both my pregnancies and it was helpful to clear up any ambiguity about whether I was pregnant or not....but I didn't expect it to give me priority over anyone else. I still stood for the elderly and disabled and never asked for a seat, but was grateful whenever I was offered one (because yes, the tube in the rush hour in the third trimester is not a pleasant place to be).
But, if you do feel strongly that you need a seat more than whoever is sitting there, here's a radical suggestion. Ask for the seat. Don't expect the badge to do all the work. I know it goes against every Londoner bone in your pregnant body but it's hard to ignore someone who is actually talking to you. If asked, most people would give up their seat out of sheer embarrassment and the hope that, if they do, they can go back to reading their book and not having to talk to people. I might be a naive optimist but I don't believe most commuters maliciously ignore pregnant women. I think they're just zoned out, in their own world and not checking the lapels of every fertile-aged woman. I know my husband, like most introverts, tries to block out the world when he's on the train and I would be slightly perturbed if he stopped doing that and instead stared intently at the chest areas of young women "to see if they were wearing a badge".
Don't get me wrong - I love a good motherhood rant. There is so much about this journey that is unimaginably tough and some things need to be shared. Whether it's a fretful pregnancy, a difficult birth, months of sleeplessness, a defiant toddler that makes you scream....share away. Be dramatic. But let's not try and grow drama where there is none. We need people on our side - if you don't believe me, wait until you have a toddler in full-on meltdown mode on the 8:03 to Liverpool Street.. Complaining about TfL staff or your fellow commuters for such trivialities just makes us all look a bit... entitled, really.
Oh, and ask for that seat. Ask a fellow commuter for help with that buggy. You'll be amazed by how helpful people can be...