I don’t know exactly when I wrote this poem, but it would’ve been sometime when my son was still an infant. It’s quite weird to read it back and be taken back into the anger and frustration I felt about becoming a mother.
Almost five years later, I sold my double pram to a new mum and a part of me felt sad because it marked the end of that short period of my life where I was a mother to babies. My son is nearly five and my daughter is three, but I still struggle with positively embracing motherhood as an equally valuable part of my identity.
And it’s still annoying to have strangers think they can strike up a conversation with me just because I have children with me. It’s still insulting when people talk to my kids but ignore me. (see my blog post about that here)
This poem formed part of my play The Let-Down Reflex, which was Tripwire’s first production. Around this time two years ago, I was busy heavily promoting the show and spending time rehearsing, ready for our four performances.
Walking in public with a pram is fraught with danger
Strangers breech the regular codes of etiquette
Which ensure we don’t have to interact in any meaningful way with people we don’t know
How are you? Fine thanks.
Excuse me, can I get through? Sure, no worries.
Nice day. Sure is.
Oh sorry, I didn’t see you there. No problem.
Got much on for the day? Not really.
Thanks very much. Goodbye.
Every step is underscored by the mantra
Please please please please please don’t notice my pram
I just recently underwent a massive transformation of self
And now spend a large portion of my life putting someone else first
Just now I am out in public where I have had to bring said someone with me
But the key is, they are in this pram
And I am choosing where to go, what to think and what to buy
Perhaps you might notice how well I must being doing to achieve even this much?
Today, I am first
With a brazen flaunting of the agreed upon exchanges
Cawing to their friends, who converge on you like vultures
Do not engage.
Say something rude.
But your sense of politeness wins out
Because the pram pusher is not immune to convention
Only the pram voyeur has permission to miss the cues
As they ignore your barely veiled attempts to move on
While you give teeth-clenched, glazy-eyed responses
To the standard set of rather personal questions
And the clever, sarcastic, ill-mannered answers in your head stay put
As do your feet and your pram and your errand
Oooh can I have a peek?
No. Can I look in your handbag? What about if I put my face right up close to your face?
Is it a boy or girl?
How old is he?
How old are you? Actually I don’t care. Go away.
What’s his name
What’s your name? I’d like to note it down so that I can make sure I ever come across you again.
And when they turn pram-wards
You are of no concern
You are an extension of the pram
Because I’m not allowed to be first, am I?
The questions now are an end to themselves
All pram-pushers get is at best indifference and at worse contempt
At worst is the attention you give to him, the attention that I wish you gave to me.
It was me! I deserve praise from strangers! I deserve admiration!
You’re such a good baby, aren’t you?
No, he is a baby.
You’re so placid, aren’t you?
No, he is contented because I make sure I meet all his needs.
You’re so clever, aren’t you?
No, he’s developing at the average pace, and I continue to provide exciting stimulus for him to explore.
You’re so cute, aren’t you?
Yes, he is. I have dressed him in this most impractical outfit because, I too, adore him.
I don’t need you to put him first, that’s what I do with every waking breath
Maybe, next time, you will see me and my pram
And instead of pawing over him
You could turn to me and say
You’re doing an amazing job, mum
And then be on your way.