“Dan! Be Quiet!” hissed my wife.
I would have received an accompanying elbow to the rib cage had I not preemptively folded my arms moments earlier.
We have just arrived at our first parenting event of any description and we’re about half an hour late. There’s already a lady giving a presentation. We’re trying to find seats at the back of the room (presumably without drawing too much attention to ourselves) when I hear what can only be described as an inaccurate statistic about the cost of disposable nappies to the taxpayer and decide to blurt out – admittedly slightly louder than I had intended – “that can’t possibly be true!”
Now it wasn’t true, of course, but I have learnt that in these situations that is beside the point. I give my wife a conciliatory look to suggest that my little outburst was simply an involuntary response. I’m feeling a little insecure, after all. She gives me a look to suggest that I’d be wise to keep my involuntary responses to myself for the time being.
We are in Mothercare, and it’s not started well.
The Mothercare Expectant Parent Event: A Man’s Perspective
Notwithstanding the inherent exclusivity of such an organisation – the clue’s in the name – my wife had succeeded in persuading me to attend a Mothercare Expectant Parent Event.
Actually, I was quite enthusiastic about the idea. Maybe this would be a bit like the biannual Ikea run where we get in, get everything we need and get out. I think that one of the more challenging things about being an expectant father is the huge knowledge gap that opens up between you and your partner and this would be a chance to catch up somewhat. Besides, having already bought a new car and a new bike this year my wife had piqued my interest in pushchairs by suggesting that this would be a similar purchase.
After a rocky start, the evening started to pick up. The reusable nappy lady (I don’t think that’s actually her name) was very good. Her next statistic was from ISIS (which I liked) and the next was about how reusable nappies can save you thousands of pounds (which I really liked).
There were a few more brief presentations, all of which were very good, at which point we were encouraged to go to different parts of the store where more information would be available about specific products.
“You should go and look at the pushchairs,” said my wife, suggesting that this was the moment I had been waiting for. She headed off in the opposite direction but soon doubled back when she realised I was following her to explain that her seminar of choice was “all about bras”. I reassured her that I had actually spotted the snack table and that whilst it was unfortunately located I would nevertheless be continuing in the direction of “the bra talk”.
Fortunately, Joe was there too, so we did in fact go and look at the buggies.
It was abundantly clear that neither of us knew anything about buggies, so we did the only thing that a man knows how to do in this kind of situation. We wandered around with folded arms. We got down on our haunches to look underneath them. We made thoughtful but non-committal noises. It would have been abundantly clear that I had no idea what I was looking for, but then again neither does Joe (he drives a Picasso) so I was in good company. Needless to say we quickly caught the attention of the store manager who very kindly put us out of our misery.
Buggies are definitely my favourite thing about Mothercare. Unsurprisingly, I liked the ones with large tyres, powerful brakes and suspension, although I was very grateful to the store manager who taught us very helpful things like where the child needs to go. I was particularly impressed by one brand who have managed to get the word “bugger” into their name whilst making a market-leading children’s product.
Inaccurate statistics aside, I had been quietly impressed by the reusable nappy lady so I followed my wife’s lead and headed over to her stand to find out more. I was undoubtedly wooed by her promises of the vast savings that one could make. My wife was interested in saving the environment, or something. Before we got too carried away I pointed out that disposable nappies still had their merits, specifically at the weekend when the father is looking after the child.
What Did I Make of Mothercare?
Despite my cynicism I actually quite enjoyed the evening and didn’t feel as uncomfortable as I had anticipated. I didn’t feel pressurised to buy things that we don’t need, and whilst most of the demonstrations focussed on the most expensive product ranges, there was a clear concession from all of the staff that you don’t need a second mortgage to raise a child properly.
Having said that, I don’t know how Mothercare expect men to feel when visiting their stores. If they are exclusively targeting mothers – which they might well be – then I’m sure they do this very well. The reality is though that many of the mothers and expecting mothers I know want and expect fathers to be equally involved in raising their children. Most of the shops which sell parenting supplies seem to make people like me feel pretty uncomfortable.
That probably says more about people like me than it does about stores like Mothercare.
Frankly I need all the help I can get.