Local New Yorkers will recall the recent horrifying news story of a young mother who fell down a flight of subway stairs to her death while carrying her child in a stroller. Even though it has turned out that the woman had a pre-existing health condition that was more likely the cause of her death than the fall down the stairs, the incident has served as both a wake-up call and a call to arms. On the one hand, it’s served as a reminder to travel with caution. On the other, it’s become a rallying cry for us to demand that the city of New York improve the accessibility of so many of its subway stations. Though I have found fellow New Yorkers to be exceptionally kind — I can’t tell you how often people stop to help me carry mini’s stroller up or down the stairs! — it is still unconscionable that so many of the stops are inaccessible to those with disabilities or those traveling on their own with small children. And don’t even get me started on my current bugaboo: the alarms that sound when you use the emergency doors at the turnstiles. If you are a parent traveling on your own with a child in a stroller, the only way to access the trains is to position your child in her stroller by an emergency door, rush over to the turnstile to let yourself through using your subway card (all the while, your heart in your throat and your gaze constantly flicking over your shoulder to make sure no harm has befallen your baby), and then sprint to the emergency door to prop it open so you can wheel your child through. I once tried to use the turnstiles by folding up the stroller and carrying it and mini through, but we literally did not fit! I got stuck and ended up having to toss my expensive travel stroller onto the ground to get through. Anyway — the MTA has recently installed alarms on these emergency doors, presumably to deter most able-bodied foot traffic from using them in non-emergency situations and to reduce the number of fare-skippers, but this means that the only way a mom can get her stroller onto the subway is by sounding an alarm and sheepishly feeling as though she is doing something illicit. It is a horrible experience.
At any rate, the incident with the mother falling down the subway stairs and the installation of these alarms has sparked countless conversations between myself and my fellow mom friends, and has been top of mind for me in the past week or two since the story first ran.
But the other day, my nanny called in sick just after I’d chugged the sugar formula for my standard-issue pregnancy glucose test, and I had no choice but to bring mini along with me to the doctor’s appointment, which is a subway trip away. I navigated the entire thing just fine despite having to take mini in and out of her stroller a few times to accommodate an elevator-less destination station and the visit to the doctor, but then, after we’d walked ten blocks to my favorite coffee shop (Irving Farm) for a quick oat milk latte and donut before visiting the Children’s Museum, I realized with dread that there were two steps down to the entrance of the cafe. I stalled for a second. I could either go through the whole ordeal of taking mini out of the stroller, collapsing it, carrying it down the steps while yelling at mini to stay put, carrying her down — all while running the daunting risk of a tantrum when trying to place her back into the stroller a few minutes later, or I could carry the entire stroller with her in it down the two steps to the entrance. And so I went with the latter. I figured two seconds of mild discomfort outweighed the potential for a two-year-old-tantrum. I knew I shouldn’t have done it: I can hardly lift her while in her stroller when I’m not six months pregnant and not wearing a backpack, but there I was, shakily teetering down the two steps.
As I ordered our treats, an elderly gentleman stopped me.
“Please don’t do that again,” he said, gesturing to the stairs. “I watched you, and was horrified. That woman on the news…!”
I felt a range of emotions that ran from righteous rage to lip-biting embarrassment. A part of me wanted to snap back at him: “Well, why didn’t you help then?” And another part of me recoiled at his patronizing tone. But the biggest part of me wanted to wail: “I know, I know. I know I shouldn’t have done it, and I did it. And I could have injured myself — or, worse — my baby, or the unborn baby I’m carrying. And for what?! A coffee? Saving a few minutes? Pre-empting a tantrum?” And so I just said:
“You’re right. Thank you.” He looked back at me and said:
“You remind me of my daughter-in-law. I would say the same thing to her. Please take care.”
I’m awash in gratitude and heartburn. The experience reminded me that there’s nothing to be gained from a lazy man’s load. I had just earlier in the week applauded myself for letting mini walk alongside the stroller more and more frequently at her own pace. It is slow-going, but who cares? (Helloooo, slow parenting.) When we have nowhere urgent to be, it’s heart-warming and relaxing to take in the world from her perspective, in her chelonian stride, as she dawdles in front of store-fronts and winces at pigeons and stomps on top of subway grates. I need to extend that mode of acceptance to all realms of my life — most notably any involving stairs and strollers. OK, so it will add an extra five minutes to our day. OK, so I might be facing a tantrum. So what? The only objectives we had in our post-appointment morning was to visit the museum, have lunch at Orwasher’s, and get home to walk Tilly by 1, none of which would have been derailed by taking the time to remove mini from the stroller and negotiate her back in. As it turned out, after my interaction with the gentleman, I ended up taking her out of her stroller before re-ascending the stairs anyway. And, of course, she then refused to get back into the stroller, and so we walked four excruciatingly slow blocks to the museum, dotted through with hug breaks, brief sprints of carrying, and the endlessly amusing running commentary of my two-year-old daughter. (“PU!” she cried, when she noticed a dog relieving himself on the corner. “He funny,” she said, pointing at a well-heeled gentleman next to us who had done nothing humorous.)
I have been beating myself up about the entire incident, agonizing over my split-second decision to carry mini down the two steps when I was so clearly out of balance and out of shape. I should know better, especially after God reminded me to slow way down and when I just rhapsodized about the spurning the promise of shortcuts. But I am thankful for the concern of this stranger, who set me straight even when I didn’t want to hear it, and even moreso that it came to me without injury first.
No more lazy man’s loads for this busy woman. I’m swearing them off.
However, I am not swearing off top-handle bags, no matter how impractical and hands-full they leave you. Just — not while I’m balancing mini. I love the micro top-handle Gucci shown at the very top of this post, along with this, this (#swoon), this (snakeskin is so on point R.N.), this, and this (under $100).
+Loving this cheery pink coat with light-wash denim for early spring!
+Always love a good blue-and-white color palette. This dress and this one (on major sale) are pulling me in. I am especially into the latter for a summer soiree…
+This striped tee is exactly what I want to be wearing RN. Contemplating ordering a size or two up to accommodate le bump, but would look SO cute with white denim or joveralls…
+People RAVE about these ballpoint pens. I’m a pen/stationery lover, so have added a pack to my next order, even though I’m a devotee of Le Pens (and usually order them in bulk every six months).
+Love these rubber toys from Oli & Carol, which are mold-resistant (!!) and made from all natural rubber. I love the vintage styling. Going to be pairing these with future baby gifts.
+Amazon can be a great place to score affordable everyday finds for minis. I often stock up on amazing pieces from Polarn O. Pyret at great prices (like these leggings) and hoodies like this from Burts Bees. If you’re not familiar with Scani brand Polarn O. Pyret, do yourself a favor — the quality is INCREDIBLE.
+Loving this shoulder bag.
+CUTEEEEE spring/Easter dress for a mini, and a well-priced tutu to boot.
+A reader wrote in to sing the praises of this side-vent sweatshirt. LOVE. Ordering in the sky blue.
+Has anyone tried the natural beauty brand Earth Tu Face? I really want to try this rose + geranium lotion, which is gentle enough to use on your face.
+On a lark, I picked up this volumizing paste from Christophe Robin. I don’t know why, in retrospect, as I didn’t much care for his shampoo/conditioner, but I have been in search of new volumizing solutions for my decidedly flat and fine hair. THIS STUFF WORKS. OMG. It’s super bizarre to rub this gritty paste into your hair, but it actually lathers up nicely and TRULY ADDS VOLUME TO THE CROWN OF YOUR HEAD. Like, I was astounded at the results. My hair literally bounced back up every time I depressed it. I can’t describe it well, but my mind is blown.
+These color-edged lucite frames from Canetti are super cool.
+Darling. (And discounted. Does it get better?!)
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20 thoughts on “The Lazy Man’s Load.”
I can’t comment on the struggle of navigating a city with mini(s), but I know how something we don’t necessarily even think about daily (climbing stairs, tying a shoe) can become cumbersome when you add a challenge: being on crutches or in a cast (something I have all too much experience with), pushing a stroller, walking a rambunctious pup. It’s so easy to become engrossed in our own daily lives (and phones!) that we look right past what’s happening in front of us and where we may be able to lend a helping hand!
RE: pens, I used to be a loyal Le Pen user… until I discovered Staedtler Triplus Fineliners (for colors!) and Stabilo Sensors (best black pen). OMG, I’m a pen freak, obsessed and guard mine at the office with my life.
I’ve had fellow pen-lovers (and small-font-writers) recommend the Staedtlers! I agree — the colors are better than Le Pens. I feel like I can only use about three of their colors; the rest are too bright or too pale. Maybe I’ll make the switch soon…
You are SO right that it’s easy to get stuck in your own limited understanding of what it’s like to navigate the world. This experience has been eye-opening!!
I love how you wrote about this episode. I, too, was horrified about that news story and have a similar reaction to some of the other commenters — why wouldn’t have the man HELPED you instead of just admonish you? So frustrating. You’re doing the best you can. I have always tried to accommodate people who are navigating city life with heavy loads, be it a stroller-wheeling mom or just someone with heavy bags — but this is an extra wake-up call to me to be on the lookout and help where needed.
Count me as one of the readers tickled by your use of ‘chelonian’. Marvelous! I love learning about new words through your writing.
Those Pilot pens are calling my name … and I was LITERALLY dreaming of a sky-blue sweatshirt last night as I was assembling my barre outfit, so I’m running to my local Target to see if they have this sweatshirt! I’ve seen it in grey and the swingy shape is appealing and it’s really soft inside, too.
Ooo love it! So fun when an athletic (or non-athletic) look comes together with the addition of an inexpensive score 🙂
Yes, you are right about this — something I didn’t touch on was being reminded to help others whenever I can, too! Even just propping open a door.
In these situations, I always find men are very quick to give me advice. I doubt they would be so quick to give my husband the same advice, most likely he would get a round of applause and a little parade for bringing our daughter to the park. Uugh – drives me mad.
At my last mothers group I had to suffer a lecture from a random man who advised me my daughter was eating dirt……..yes, yes I can see her……do you not want to stop her……well ideally I would love if she didn’t ear dirt but I also pick my battles. I thanked him for pointing it out to me and said she is fine, just playing. he then gave me a lecture about poisonous flowers etc……again, would he have said all this to my husband? I doubt it.
It infuriates me the judgement we endure as mothers and it comes from everywhere. You are a grown woman and if you choose to carry the pram, that is your choice to weigh up the risks. There is nothing worse than tying to get a kid back into a pram! If he was concerned he should have helped, if he had an opinion he should have kept it to himself.
Please don’t judge yourself for this…..we all do things every day that others don’t agree upon but please grant us the kindness to think we care for our children and are doing our best.
Also, if it makes you feel better……for some reason, on a whim, I decided to buy hand weights when I was 9 months pregnant. Heavy weights. I had to walk 20 mins back to the car park with them and was convinced I had killed the baby when I got to the car……was all in a panic and had to go to the hospital that night to hear a heartbeat…..and I am not a worrier! My husband was trying so hard not to be annoyed with me. I still can’t tell you why I wanted the weights!
You’re amazing xx
Thank you so much for the encouraging words. I especially took this to heart: “we are doing our best.” Yes. I wish we all came to one another with this perspective! A couple of months ago, I was sitting behind a family in Church and the two kids (probably aged 1 and 3) were playing and talking loudly, and the mother was hushing them to no avail. I found myself thinking, “She should have brought some toys/snacks to distract them!” Just twenty minutes later, I was out on the street trying desperately to get my own daughter into her stroller, and she was having a major meltdown. I saw parents with a quiet toddler in his stroller pass me by and exchange a look. I thought — “Well, this is my own medicine. I was judging that mom and who knows what was going on — maybe she forgot her bag at home for all I know! — and here I am, feeling scorned by other parents, who have no idea what’s going on in this situation!” Anyway, it was an eye opener and I think often about that sequence when I am out and finding myself judging/jumping to conclusions as to the decision-making of another parent.
Anyway — thanks again for the note. A good reminder to keep an open mind. xoxo
I have done allll the shortcuts (even as a mother, effiency nearly always trumps the slow road—with its contingencies, it’s not always the safer one anyhow), and my hackles are sky high right now thinking about that man! Your restraint is admirable; I just know I’d have said something sarcastic and rolled my eyes.
On a brighter note, your story has reminded me to be more proactively helpful to the stroller-jugglers or otherwise encumbered. And chelonion — fantastic!
You are so right — it’s rare that the efficient road isn’t the best one in parenting, and thanks for admitting that and reminding me that it wasn’t exactly laziness that was pushing me to pick up the stroller; it was efficiency and a split-second weighing of pros and cons.
YES, going to be keeping my eyes peeled for moms in similar situations!
I SO remember struggling with two sets of heavy double doors at the vet: heavy car seat with a one-month-old infant in one arm and 25 pound dog in the other arm, probably in the throes of postpartum hormone craziness, and the vet tech watching me from inside behind the desk, chirping “don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!” when I entered. This still makes me want to scream! I wish it had been me in at Irving Farm this morning- I would have abandoned my latte at the counter and helped you in a split-second!
OH man. And I wish I could have been there to open the door for you at that vet’s — and possibly slammed it in the face of that technician’s! HA. Thanks for the sweet note 🙂
Ohh, the sweet anguish of being a mother. So many things bring on a wash of emotions (pride, loss, and maybe even a little panic) that constrict your heart and tighten your throat so you can’t speak in the moment.
I have three kids and I’ve cried a million of those tears. The first time they tie a shoe on their own with stubborn determination on their face – to first days of school – to every school play or project – to getting their drivers license – there’s a million moments that give our heart paper cuts. But I loved every second of it. And even looking back and loving all of it still makes me weepy and gives me the same reaction.
If I could go back I’d do it in a minute. It was the best time of my life.
Hugs to you and your little peas.
I’m sorry – this was supposed to be a response to your response to my comment – (if that makes any sense!)
I got it!!! xo 🙂
So sweet, Lynn. Ugh! The tying of the shoe! How sweet. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and enjoy this time…
One of my favorite treats in visiting your blog every morning (over my own latte as I mentally prepare for a soul-sucking Bay Area commute) is the gift of new words. Today’s, “chelonian,” filled me with joy – an almost tactile pleasure in how the word feels and fits so perfectly. Thank you for your appreciation for and attention to the most beautiful word choice – I know you’ve mulled over the more spartan, Hemingway-esque approach of “the fewest words to say the most,” in the past. That said, I so adore the always-unexpected gift of an expanding lexicon along with the more frivolous satisfaction of beautiful things and your thoughtful prose. Thank you!
YES! I was wondering whether anyone would ferret away with that word. I was legitimately excited to trot it out. (Ferret / trot / chelonian — I guess we have an animal theme going.) Thanks for the sweet note. Glad I have another language-lover reading along 🙂 xoxo
Couldn’t agree more with Lynn’s assessment! That man should have helped, period! End of story!
One time I had my child sit down at the bottom of the escalator in a very busy mall at Christmas time! I had my other son with me and couldn’t hold one and move the other. People were jumping off the escalator to avoid my son. It was a NIGHTMARE!!!! A very kind gentleman offered to help me and I was so overcome with relief and gratitude that I burst into tears! Right in the middle of the mall, at a holiday no less!
There are people who will help and then there are those who SHOULD help! I have always tried to be one who helps.
Go boldly forward and help others!
End of story.
Oh, and I bought the split sweatshirt in marshmallow. Pick it up today! 😉
Thanks, Cynthia — I love this mantra! Go boldly and help others! That situation on the escalator — oof. I feel like I was right there with you. And the almost immediate bursting into tears: how often this happens to me, and how often I realize that my heart is in my throat most of the day. Thank you for the sweet note and words of encouragement, too. xoxo
I now live in New England, but I grew up in New York and my family is still there. When my kids were growing up we would go back for extended stays in the city. My two youngest were born 14 months apart and I know the struggle well – taking two little ones out of a double stroller, to then fold it up and somehow get myself and two little ones down uneven, dark, flights of stairs to the subway. And it seems that 15 years later not much has changed.
I will also agree though that other New Yorkers were often very kind and helpful. Which leads me to my initial response to the gentleman in the coffee shop – and that is “shame on him…” My gut tells me that he watched you falter – weighing your decisions, but he didn’t want to give up the time he already invested in getting his order in order to help you.
Please don’t beat yourself up. I have been in countless – and I mean COUNTLESS situations as a mother where I had to instantaneously weight multiple negatives to try to find a course of action that would best work at the moment. And as such, my first reaction to the gentleman in the coffee shop is one of defensiveness on you behalf. After all, how many times do you think that that man had to navigate a city alone with a toddler and a stroller while six months pregnant? My guess is zero times! So before he judges, he should step out of the coffee line and lend a hand.
I know it’s hard – but try not to stress. You’re doing great!
Lynn! Thank you so much for this gracious note. It caught me by surprise and I am sitting here outside mini’s movement class dabbing my eyes. I guess I needed to hear this! Thank you so much for assuaging some of the guilt and remorse I have been feeling. You are right that there are so many occasions where you find yourself weighing multiple imperfect solutions. Thank you for reminding me to go easy on myself! Truly — thank you.
Separately, is it the pregnancy hormones or am I a nut job: I am also weepy over the fact that this is mini’s first class sans caregiver. I had no idea when I signed up and am sitting here shocked as I watch her on the CCTV actually listening to the teacher and doing all the movements. What!! I can’t believe it. And also, I can’t believe she is at this increasingly independent age. I hadn’t given thought to how I’d feel emotionally when she goes to school in September but given how today has gone, I need to steel myself. Sitting here sniffling to myself!!!
Ahhh. Thanks again. Xo