When Mummy doesn’t say ‘yes’ enough.

I find myself saying ‘no’ to a lot of the kids’ requests which makes me a bit sad at times, and the more times I have to say no to them, my mum-guilt tank gets topped up.

So I’m trying to say ‘yes’ more.

The problem is that it’s usually when we are just about to leave the house to go to school and Amélie (age 7) will ask to bring a toy to school, to play with at lunch time with her friends. I normally say no because a) the teachers would rather they don’t bring toys in from home and b) we are about to leave the house and I know that bringing a toy doesn’t just mean grabbing a toy, it means rifling through the drawer of small figurines for what feels like about 12 minutes while I sit by the door getting more and more irritated by her not choosing anything quickly and swearing at her in my head. Awful mummy. What I’d like to do is remember to say to her much earlier on in the morning, that if she wants to bring a toy (one small toy and nothing of great value) then she needs to choose it well before we go to leave the house. This paragraph seemed a lot more interesting in my head. Sorry about that.

Our eldest has also recently got into reading. Like reading to herself without our help. While she was reading a particular book at the weekend, I tweeted this picture of her to the author, Gwyneth Rees:

She had barely read half of the book when she asked me to buy the next one (advertised on the back of the book) and I went to say what came most naturally which was, ‘Amélie. You have about 100 books on your shelf that you’ve never read, maybe you should read those first’. But instead I said I’d look on Amazon or eBay for a second hand copy and said when she finished Mermaid Magic she could start the next one. Of course I also reminded her of the gazillion other books on her shelf but I thought, well she’s finally discovered the satisfaction of reading to herself for pleasure and I don’t want that to stop. It was £1.99 I was willing to spend to encourage a healthy habit which didn’t involve Anna or Elsa or pooing Barbies. (If you have girls you’ll know what I mean).

When it comes to weekends, we tend to want to get stuff done in the house, like cleaning the bbq ready for summer, and trying the living room furniture in a different configuration (one of Tom’s favourite past times) or needing to go to B&Q. Of course ideally this is something that Tom would go and do by himself but as I need a lot of help to do things with the children, we tend to do things all together at the weekend. And I love it. I spent quite a lot of my childhood in B&Q or Trago Mills (if you are not familiar with Cornwall or Devon life then you’ll be wondering what on Earth Trago Mills is) but it didn’t do me any harm and I think it has given me an appreciation for household diy products and hand-tools. Me and my brother had great fun watching dad choose new drill bits and sandpaper!

But diy stores aside, when the kids say ‘can we go to the park?’ Or ‘can we go to the beach?’, we are making an effort to say ‘yes’ more. Of course we did do these kind of things anyway but at the expense of letting other things not happen. Even though we might need to go to somewhere which might not spring to mind as a wholesome family attraction, we know that those things can probably wait a little and while the sun is here (remember the sun?) we make weekends about them. Even if that means me sitting in my chair watching the kids play in the sand while I look after the puppy. I absolutely love watching Tom dig massive holes and bury the kids until they can’t move (parenting hack) and them giggling as freezing sea water goes over their ankles at the shore. They will be doing things that they’ll remember when they’re grown up and think about how mummy and daddy sometimes took them to really exciting diy shops but we also had great fun at the park and at the beach. Both of which cost little to no money. Bonus!

So although sometimes we have to do stuff that isn’t on their wish-list, I think saying yes more is helping. Helping me appreciate their little quirks and discover what shenanigans they can get up to when they are given the opportunity to do something they really want. Is this even making any sense?

Perhaps most other parents already dedicate all of their spare time and weekend days to filling up their children’s excitement reserve. Maybe we have neglected to notice what they really want to do. I don’t know. I think they’re doing okay. I think just thinking about how often I tend to bark ‘nope’ at them before they’ve even finished the sentence and rethinking my response, helps.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still say ‘absolutely bloody not’ when Geneviève asks if she can watch Peppa sodding Pig at 6.30pm when they desperately need to get in the shower on a school night. I mean, I still need my sanity.

For enquiries about collaborations or for other messages regarding my content, please email hellolizzybunton@outlook.com

Follow me for more updates:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzybuntonvlogs/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shopgirlygm

YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/user/shopgirlygm

Blog: https://haveyoutriedwalkinglately.wordpress.com

Advertisements

My current favourite kids products

I previously wrote about my favourite baby products in this blog post, and included things like my favourite baby beaker (very important) and also essentials like nappies and wipes.

So following on from that, here are a few more things that make me squeal with excitement as a mum of 3 kids age 7, 4 and 20 months.

1. Supermarket clothing.

If you follow my YouTube channel or Instagram account you’ll probably know that I’m a little bit obsessed with buying the kids’ new clothes and shoes from the UKs best supermarkets. These are usually Sainsbury’s Tu Clothing range, Tesco’s F&F range, Asda’s George range and the slightly random but always fun selection at Aldi and Lidl.

Supermarket clothing is usually always amazing value, and if you quickly need to pop in after work or while you’re grocery shopping, to buy your toddler some new pants or shoes for PE at school you can guarantee they’ll probably have what you need for less than £5. I also like to check out the supermarkets’ websites for clothing and thoroughly enjoy trawling through the clearance items. I have been able to kit my daughters out for gymnastics training with crop tops and sports leggings from supermarket ranges, for much cheaper than you’d get buying them from big sports brands. And they are just as nice, if not nicer.

I love that supermarket kids’ shoes don’t cost the Earth, (these ones from George at Asda cost just £13 and are really good quality) you won’t need to save up much to buy new school shoes when they trash theirs and after my daughter’s shoes which cost £36 from the leading children’s shoe shop were thrown away as the strap broke before she’d grown out of them, I solemnly swore to not spend so much on them. I also love M&S both for casual shoes and clothes, and for school too.

2. Second hand books.

I love charity shop shopping, and if I’m ever in there with the kids I usually let them choose a book which might cost a grand total of 50p. I’d rather they choose a nice book even if they don’t read it straight away than another piece of tat or a Barbie with matted hair which I have to cram into one of the numerous toy baskets.

And if you Tweet the author of your kid’s new book, they might even reply to you!

3. These plates.

What kid doesn’t love a segmented plate? And as a mum it is strangely satisfying organising fish fingers, new potatoes and peas into neat little compartments. 3 plates for just under £5 – yes please Munchkin.

4. Google Home mini

Not very very cheap but surprisingly less than I would’ve guessed especially when they periodically reduce them to £35. Tom bought me the first one for Christmas and then I bought him one too. It’s like a new walkie talkie that also plays music and can give you voice control over the TV amongst other things. “Okay Google, turn off living room TV” has become my new favourite parenting sentence when they are downstairs failing to clear up their toys and I am upstairs (mummy powera ha ha haa). Full review with parenting hacks coming soon.

5. Vosene kids hair products.

Seriously if my kids get headlice again this month I am sueing the school. We have had to treat them so many times over the last few months. And by treat I mean like full-on poison the little buggers (headlice not the kids) by combing with all 4 nit combs lying around the house, treat with headlice solutions, comb again, rinse, comb again, hoover everywhere including beds and wash pyjamas, towels and pillows etc. They. Keep. Coming. Back. But I have since started using Vosene headlice repellent shampoo for kids, and after their hair is done for school I douse them with the repellent spray, which smells like anti-mosquito candles. So far, we haven’t had any more bug guests.

So those are my next 5 favourite things to get your juices flowing if like me you get excited by over-hearing the words ‘isn’t the baby event on this week?’

I mean, we’re sleep deprived and can’t wee alone. There’s got to be something to enjoy. Even if it’s knowing you’ve just bought a 3 pack of kids tops for less than a glass of wine.

For enquiries about collaborations or for other messages regarding my content, please email hellolizzybunton@outlook.com

Follow me for more updates:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzybuntonvlogs/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shopgirlygm

YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/user/shopgirlygm

Blog: https://haveyoutriedwalkinglately.wordpress.com

How to shop wisely as a family

I’m a 31 year old mum of 3, who also happens to be a wheelchair user. So as a household of 5 (although my partner pretty much eats for about 3 people, whilst remaining lean and a healthy weight. Grr) we need to think carefully about how we spend our money.

I would like to think I’m quite savvy when it comes to the weekly food shop. For the 5 of us, we probably spend about £50 a week on food. Maybe a little more at the weekends if we have lunch out somewhere.

Here are my ‘mum’/’parent’ tips on how to shop well for a family.

1. Shop in smaller supermarkets..I don’t mean the ‘local’ smaller versions of big supermarkets like Sainsburys Local or Tesco Express, because they tend to increase the prices in those conveniently located stores and don’t stock as many cheaper ranges as the bigger versions of their shops. I mean ‘discount’ supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. Anyone who knows me will know that I find it hard to go a day or two without mentioning something I’ve bought at Aldi. I’m a self-confessed superfan.

I like the lack of choice. You want mature cheddar? There are probably 3 options at most. Including one brand name. It’s not going to take you long to work out which one is best value for money.

For your general weekly food shop you don’t need to spend over an hour in a mahoosive superstore where you’ll end up walking about 3 miles, and if you forget something from the back of the shop it’s going to take you several wasted minutes to get back there. To the wine. You forgot wine didn’t you? See, if you shopped at Aldi you’d know it is right by the till. Genius.

2. Try cheaper alternatives. I’m a big fan of buying mostly ‘basics’ items, ie, the cheapest option. They’re not always the most luxury item, and if that’s a problem for you, try the next one up, usually still a store’s own line. Seriously, I find it hard to understand why anyone would need to spend extra buying the leading brand of baked beans. I have tried them, and I’ve also tried all the cheaper ones and I honestly wouldn’t buy branded baked beans if I won the lottery tomorrow. I am a big fan of the budget bean, and if you live with someone who will only eat their trusted brand of canned baked beans, get them to do a blind taste test, or just trick them into eating cheaper ones and see if they notice. Even if they do notice or still swear that branded is better, consider if it’s worth the extra money? Or if you should live together.

I’m not saying you must by the cheaper options of every item on your list, but you should definitely try other alternatives.

3. Plan your meals. I sometimes get stuck in a bit of a meal rut and end up cooking the same things week after week. But it’s a good idea to get some other ideas, the BBC Good Food page is handy, as is the Change 4 Life website, for lunches, snacks and evening meals. Write a list of what you want to cook, say on a Monday morning and then you know what you need to buy to make those meals.

My favourite weekday meals for our family are pretty simple and don’t take too long to make. By planning in advance you can then do…

4. Bulk/batch cooking or cooking several meals in one session. It’s really easy once you’ve chopped up a load of vegetables to make several different meals in one go. If you’re chopping an onion for a bolognese, chop up a couple more or use a food chopper to make it quicker. Do the same with peppers and garlic for example, and then portion the piles of veg out into their intended meal-deployment roles and you’ve got the tedious part of cooking each meal out of the way in one go.

Meal suggestions I use regularly are bolognese (serve with spaghetti/pasta/potatoes/salad), chilli (pork mince is a bit of a different option and I kind of prefer it as a mince), lasagne, stuffed chicken breasts with cream cheese and pesto, carbonara, stir-fry, egg fried rice, curry, chicken and bacon salad.

5. Stock up on cupboard essentials like chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, stock and herbs/spices. Try not to buy packet mixes of spices or sauces. They are usually very high in sugar and salt and are extremely expensive for the amount you get, which is normally only one meal’s worth.

6. Raid the freezer sections! Frozen veg is amazing and can be really good value for money. It can also make cooking healthy meals a lot quicker and simpler as you can get a really good range of frozen ready-chopped veg in many supermarkets. Even things like chopped garlic, chilli and coriander are available which is a great time saver! If you have any sort of disability that means you find chopping food difficult this can be a really good life hack! I have just ordered my first Iceland frozen food shop and I shall be receiving it on Friday, at which point I’ll review how good it is!

7. Use leftovers. If you’ve cooked a few meals in one go at the beginning of the week there will probably be some left when it gets toward the end of the week. You might have a ‘kitchen tapas’ array of different meals on your plate such as a bit of lasagne and a bit of curry but who really cares? It’s food and it’s all going down the same way! Everyone knows chilli tastes so much better the next day, right?! If the leftovers don’t amount to enough for one or two adult portions, use them for the kids’ dinner. You can make small amounts go a long way for kids by adding a bit of pasta, beans, peas or a baked potato.

8. Write lists and stick to them. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy any sneaky little treats for the evenings after the kids have had monumental meltdowns and you need some chocolate, but plan it. Go to the sweet stuff aisle and choose something for when you have those cravings. Other than that, if you’ve planned your meals and written down what you need to get for each meal, shopping should be quite straightforward. A good idea is to go through the cupboards and fridge/freezer before shopping to see what you already have lurking in the depths of the kitchen, which means you might need to buy as much as you thought.

9. Don’t shop hungry! I honestly do this way too often. I tend to shop about late morning before my 4 year old goes to gymnastics and by that point I’m usually very hungry. I end up putting tasty treats in the trolley when I’ve actually already got stuff at home that I could’ve had before. It’s probably more sensible to eat some toast or something before shopping or you’ll end up being led by your ravenous thoughts when shopping rather than your more sensible ones.

10. Whose kids are really helpful in the supermarket? Anyone? No? No, because kids are annoying and they’re even more annoying when they can see My Little Pony magazines and luminous jelly sweets and novelty socks in the middle aisles (of joy) in Aldi. It’s very repetitive and frustrating to have to keep saying ‘no’ to their requests and you’ll either get cross or feel bad and buy them the things they pick up. Neither of which you really want to do. So unless you’re a very organised parent and have hand-drawn an illustrated shopping list, with clipboard and pencil so they can tick things off, it’s probably best for all parties if you try and get the shopping done when they’re at school or nursery. I don’t always have the option and believe me, it’s not always fun to shop with toddlers and young children!

I think those are most of my favourite tips and tricks for savvy supermarket shopping. Don’t forget to leave me a comment if you have anything else that you’ve found helpful as a parent trying to their best with the weekly food shop.

Follow me for more updates:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzybuntonvlogs/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shopgirlygm

YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/user/shopgirlygm

Blog: https://haveyoutriedwalkinglately.wordpress.com

10 Things You Can’t Stand About Parenting 

Disclaimer: read ’10 signs you love parenting’ for if you need to be reminded that you do love it really.
1. When someone misidentifies the gender of your baby. You may like to think you’re quite a liberal parent and want to buy your girl a red truck for her birthday, saying ‘fuck you’ to gender stereotypes, but it’s still a little infuriating when your dainty little girl dressed in a blue dress and flowery sunhat gets told she is a handsome young man.

2. Mornings when you feel your stomach acid start to bubble up due to the rage caused by the amount of times you have to tell your daughter to not just stand there in yesterday’s pants for a further 23 minutes, but actually make movements – any freaking movements at all – to get some additional kind of clothing on. And also, when you ask what on Earth they’ve been doing for the last half an hour they seem to have no recollection of their activities. Astonishing. Like it’s been erased from their memory. Which reminds me…

3. Sometimes, they remember everything. Apart from important stuff. But they do somehow remember that last week you promised them they could have packed lunch at the end of this week, and now it is Friday, 8:27am and you now have an obligation to rustle up a nutritious picnic for the clever little thing.

4. You want to be a fly-on-the-wall at school lunch time and have the power to poke other kids when they say something mean to yours. You hate the idea that your daughter is sad and you’re not there.

5. Dressing babies. Due to my disability I can’t do this myself but I’m usually the one trying to pin said baby down while others try to insert him into trousers. They should use this activity to torture prisoners – see how long they last with a baby (okay maybe just a doll) who, just when you’re getting leg #2 into place, they retract leg #1. Leg #2 then becomes leg #1 and the ordeal is repeated about ten times. It’s the same with sleeves and shoes. You all end up screaming and you put your son in a dress and be done with it.

6. They do not want you to sleep. Babies are arseholes during the night and that’s all I have to say on the situation.

7. When you’re supposed to cook something nutritious to fuel their growing bodies but you’ve just got home and it’s 6pm – fridge tapas will have to do. You boil up some pasta, add cheese and a bit of sandwich pickle, some sliced up cold sausage from the weekend BBQ, and throw in some frozen mixed veg to pretend it’s healthy. They don’t eat it, and instead have some questionable yoghurt from the back of the fridge for dinner. If they get the runs it’s their own fault.

8. Meltdowns which occur outside the home. Nothing screams “look how shit I am at parenting!” than when your child decides to lie down on the floor in the frozen section in Morrisons. You’re a mum in a wheelchair and the verbal attempts to get your child to stand up are not working. Then the Parent Samaritans rock up and offer help and you just want to scream “You can fuck off too. Leave me alone.” in their face. You’d quite like to just ignore your child and leave them to their tantrum as you might at home, but unfortunately it is frowned upon in the public arena.

9. Morning wake-up calls before 7am when you’re not getting up early to go on holiday. I love that my kids want to snuggle in bed next to me in the mornings but when they are 3 and 6 years old, it is 5.48am and within 3 minutes they are arguing about not having enough space or any covers, you regularly scream “it is MY bed, it’s not even 6 o’clock, bugger off”. You load YouTube on your phone and some sickly sweet video of some girls unwrapping Frozen-themed Kinder Eggs, and send them on their way. You’ll deal with the post-YouTube comedown later on.

10. After all the other trivial, albeit shitty stuff that happens day-to-day as a parent, you have the overwhelming sense of disappointment that you can’t give them everything you want to. You can’t promise the world will be nice to them always and you can’t promise nothing bad will happen, and that sucks.*

*Although you can help them to be strong, loving and open-minded people, and that might help with those things.

@shopgirlygm

The new addition to Trolley-hood

From one tweet after this shopping trip:
14520620_215898315494690_5178111186384266557_n.jpg
To this:
IMG_6344
The wheelchair-parenting trolley is now established at Sainsbury’s Paignton! Make sure you share and tag any parents in wheelchairs (temporary or permanent users) who might need to make use of this. Hopefully other supermarkets will follow suit and these will be avaiable nationwide, and not just when people ask for one to be made. Keep the progress going by spreading the word far and wide!
Thanks to Wanzl and Sainsbury’s (Yalberton Road, Paignton) for making this happen.
#disability #parenting #accessforall #facilitiesforall #inclusion #shopping #disabledmum
IMG_6343IMG_6347IMG_6357

Pimp my ride (my shopping trolley).

Last week was one of the busiest I’ve had in a long while in terms of things regarding disability, and complaining which I enjoy doing.

On Tuesday I met with Marc Radforth from the German international trolley manufacturers Wanzl. He came down from the Midlands to meet with me in a local branch of British supermarket Sainsburys, who of course use their shopping trolleys. We talked about the current options when it comes to choosing and using a trolley to carry out your shopping fun, which is normally something one undertakes in a mindless fashion – person approaches trolley park, person selects trolley at the front of the queue of trolleys waiting in line hoping to be picked and taken for a spin, person turns trolley around and walks around supermarket putting items in said trolley. This is fascinating right? Please keep reading.

Sounds very simple and straightforward, and normally  the only problems arising from trolley selection and use, are things like getting a trolley with a wonky wheel, and trying to insert a 3 year old into a tiny folding flap of plastic seating when they insist on not walking, and you’re not allowed to leave them tied up outside anymore. Then they moan about the seat being cold or wet or too hard. You try saying to them “What do you want, a bloody goose-down recliner and a pina colada?” You tell them children in third-world countries don’t even have such luxuries, but even that doesn’t make them feel guilty enough to stop whining. The problems don’t stop there though. Well for most people they do, but I’m not most people. My difficulties and needs don’t follow any textbook guidelines, even ones about wonky people. Usually wonky people are taken to a supermarket, pushed around and helped in their shopping needs, but if they happen to be a parent (really!) and wish to be a parent whilst going shopping, their child would have to be transported in a trolley/pushchair pushed by someone else. There are no options for baby/child-friendly trolleys for parents who also cannot walk themselves. Currently, my option is this: put baby+carseat in the raised-up ‘BabySafe’ trolley (I mean, someone else will do this for me as I cannot reach) and then other person pushes trolley around with my baby in it whilst I travel behind/in front/next to the trolley rather than being in control of it myself. Onlookers don’t know I am this baby’s mum and inside I’m screaming,’I know he’s cute, I made him!’

Wanzl’s ‘BabySafe’ trolley with generic European baby.

Wanzl read my Tweet about the trolley issues I have and got in touch with me. They said it would be useful if someone could meet with me to discuss my needs and possible future options. The good thing about a company like Wanzl is that from the meeting I had with them, it was very clear that they will go above and beyond the effort made by most companies to try and provide for all needs. But they can’t provide for this without someone telling them exactly what is needed and what is currently not available. We talked about the new lower-level Babysafe trolley that I found at Asda  and Marc said that this style of trolley was re-designed with the help of people on Mumsnet where it was mentioned that the tray for the carseat was too high both to reach and plonk a heavy baby and carseat on, and also to see over. I have been witness to my PA who is 5’8″ crashing into a wet floor sign that she couldn’t see whilst pushing the trolley. Luckily it wasn’t a toddler. The base of the new trolley was also brought up so it isn’t so deep to reach into. These trolleys are currently in Asda stores, with Sainsburys and other stores to follow suit shortly.

The problem I’m having is that even with improvements to the existing carseat trolley, and also the provision of other trolleys for parents to slot children into (just any child wondering aimlessly will do but parents tend to provide their own) like these:

Trolley with Trend baby seat.

Or these with a typical toddler seat:

Shopping trolley with folding toddler seat.

…I still could not have my child in the trolley that I’m pushing and be able to fit shopping in too. I often use baby slings but they’re not always practical when shopping. I get very hot whilst babywearing indoors and if you need to bribe your child to stop crying by paying them in biscuit currency once they come of age at around 7 months, then they need a place to sit. You might be thinking ‘isn’t there a trolley that attaches to wheelchairs?’, and you’d be right as these do exist at most large stores, and Wanzl have also improved these recently by making the attachment arms easier to operate for people who have problems with dexterity, like I do. Here I am trying out how these work and how I can indeed put a baby carseat in one of these trolleys. But it is unsafe as there are no straps, and although I have since tried this and know that the possibility of my baby falling out of both his carseat and the trolley is very low, that’s not what the trolley was made for and if we have an Earthquake in the foreseeable and he falls out of it, I’d very much regret using an unsuitable trolley. There isn’t a folding toddler seat either. And also, with a carseat/child in the trolley, there’s no room for my coffee grinder, my sledgehammer and my horse-riding jodhpurs to go when I’m shopping at Aldi.

img_0545

img_0546

img_0548

Here I am having the common knee-to-trolley-handle measurement taken.

During our meeting, Marc from Wanzl told me about a young man in Northamptonshire whose disabilities and requirements were so specific to him that they designed and manufactured a trolley just for him to use at his local supermarket (not sure what happens when a different supermarket has an offer on beer or something but that’s besides the point). So some companies are willing to help even if it doesn’t bring them mass orders and profit in return.

We came up with quite a few notes on what I would need from a trolley. A good sense of humour, likes long walks on the beach, that sort of thing. But mainly just a trolley that I can affix to my wheelchair and have my child sat facing me. Wanzl use ‘eye-contact with parent’ as one of the advantages to their parent and child trolleys, so it’s appreciated that the child needs to be facing whoever is pushing them rather than being strapped to the front of the trolley facing forward, like an unwanted teddy bear on the front of a dustbin lorry.

After the meeting, I went over to the local Morrisons store (and survived) to look at their kids’ clothes, and on the way into the shop I came across these beauties monstrosities.  They looked like some kind of torture chamber from the days when disabled people were brought up in orphanages because they didn’t meet the perfect-baby expectations when they were born. I couldn’t see any Wanzl branding on them, so they’re off the hook for now:

img_0549

Really helpfully placed over the metal bumper rail too.

img_0547

‘Pick me, pick me!’ it screamed. ‘No, you’re hideously awful’, I replied.

I’m looking forward to hearing from Wanzl following our meeting, and seeing what ideas they come up with. It probably won’t be the easiest trolley to design, but in my head it looks something like a trolley+baby sidecar hybrid. I know they are willing to help though, and that is very encouraging. Hopefully it will be something that can be mass produced and used in supermarkets all over. There aren’t many wheelchair-using parents shopping at a supermarket at any one time (if we all go together people freak out a bit), so each supermarket might only need one or two of these trolleys available, which isn’t too much to ask of Tesco et al, is it?

Moving on from trolleys (I won’t be saying the word trolley too much more I promise), the day after meeting with Wanzl, I met with Andrew Sherwood from Marks and Spencer (M&S) after my ranting blog, this one, where I discovered that the breastfeeding room at the Torquay store where one can comfortably sit and feed their baby, was not accessible to me. Or anyone wider than this gap >______< it seems. So I whipped one out in the kids’ clothing aisle and fed Rafe there. When I met with Andrew, we went and looked at this room and even he couldn’t understand why it was so narrow, but he guessed it might be because the architects were trying to fit multiple facilities in this room for all sorts of parenting needs. Just no wheeled people. But I have since discovered, in Sainsburys near where I live, a similar ‘change and feed’ room with a breastfeeding area that again, I was too much of a wide load for:

14955776_230305247387330_5110247567432467044_n

It wasn’t the most pleasant of nursing rooms anyway

So it’s not just an issue specific to M&S buildings. To the person who was holding the tape-measure on these ‘refurbishments’ – YOU HAD ONE JOB.

Some good news from Andrew Sherwood, whose role is Property Development and Facilities Management (improving access and facilities in M&S stores) he has said that they are always trying to improve things for disabled people whilst shopping. They have, where possible, tried to keep baby changing and accessible toilets separate, rather than people who need to use an accessible toilet having to endure the smell of 30 festering toddler poos, and numerous door-knockings when a parent desperately needs to change their kid’s nappy and you just want to have a wee in peace. They have also made it so that, if they have the space for it, they will have two separate accessible toilets with one being a left-hand transfer and one being a right-hand transfer. This may sound trivial to the average toilet-goer, but when most of your limbs don’t work properly, and you find transferring from chair to toilet on the right easier than on the left, it is such a luxury to be able to choose which toilet is easier, rather than struggling in the one toilet provided by  most places.

Andrew told me of the legislation and guidelines used when designing and providing facilities in buildings which should be adhered to by ALL architects so that people can expect the same level of ease wherever they go. As you can imagine, this is definitely not the case. I explained in our meeting that a common problem I have is that to be able to make use of grabrails and bars in accessible toilets, they need to be at a certain height for me to lift myself up on. And there are many places where I know I find it difficult to use the toilet either because the room is too small to turn my chair around in, especially if I’m with the kids, or the toilet is lower than it should be, or the grabrails are too high or they’re too far away. Just yesterday I was at a local hospital and went to use the toilet before my appointment and I couldn’t reach to lift myself up as the grabrail on the right of me was so far away:

IMG_0598.JPG

It might look like nothing, but this makes it really bloody difficult.

I fully understand that this issue probably wouldn’t be an issue for the majority of wheelchair users, as many people have normal use of their hands and upper body. But I don’t. If everywhere was the same so it was equally as easy or difficult wherever you go, there wouldn’t be that unknown when you go to open the toilet door and get that feeling of “oh great, I really need a wee but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to use this toilet, I might have to wait ’til I’m home”.

I think the problem is that most companies think that as long as they have a toilet with a bit of space around it, shove a changing table in there and twenty thousand nappy bins and a grabrail randomly attached somewhere on the wall, and an emergency alarm cord tied up so it can’t be pulled by an inquisitive child, but is actually out of reach to those who might need it and is now rendered useless, then they have done their job by catering for all needs and nobody should feel the need to complain.

Well it’s rubbish, facilities are mostly crap and badly maintained and hardly ever cleaned so you can see last month’s pee dried on the toilet seat because fuck it, it’s not used that often to worry about. At least there’s a toilet with a wheelchair symbol on the door eh?

Knowing you’ll be able to go to the toilet or choosing a trolley that you can fit your kid in and go about your shopping trip should be the least of my worries, I shouldn’t even need to think about it beforehand like most parents. But I do, and it means I often can’t relax or be fully comfortable in most places. Hopefully someday soon that’ll all change.

For now, Andrew Sherwood has asked for the doorway of the breastfeeding room in Torquay to be widened so that I can use it. He is going to make their architects aware of this flaw in their planning.

You didn’t expect someone to be able to write over 2000 words about trolleys and toilets now, did you? Next time I might provide a photograph of one of my favourite accessible toilets with no wee on the seat. Something to look forward to!

Follow me on Twitter

And please ‘like’ my Facebook page.

Photos of trolleys are taken from Wanzl’s website. Other photos are all my own.

 

You can’t feed your baby here

I visited Marks and Spencers in Torquay recently with my young baby and my friend. We went into the baby changing/feeding room to change his nappy and I was surprised to see a place where mums can breastfeed in private, in a nice comfy chair, if they so desire. Even if you’re confident to feed wherever, it’s nice to have the choice to feed somewhere calm and comfortable. 

There was also a separate toilet cubicle for non-babies/adults/grown-ups to wee in private. However, neither of these rooms were accessible to me. By that I don’t just mean that there were no grab rails (there weren’t) but I literally couldn’t get through the ridiculously narrow doorways. My wheelchair is a pretty standard width and I can normally fit through ordinary doorways. But these were in no way ordinary. In fact I’m sure normal mums (I’m not quite normal) would struggle through them with a baby carseat or pushchair. I’m sure there is a perfectly understandable reason why M&S couldn’t spend out on wheelchair accessible change & feed rooms, it’s probably because they spent too much on vocal coaching for the tantalisingly sexy voice-over of their TV adverts. 

Aside from the toilet and the breastfeeding room not being available for me to use, the changing tables are also too high for me to reach. This is something that occurs in pretty much every baby changing cubicle however. They’re normally situated in disabled toilets which is just lovely. I get to smell my own kids’ poop on a daily basis, I don’t need to sample the aroma of 30 other babies’ sh*t when I go to the toilet but that’s a minor issue compared to how much room the changing tables and giant nappy bins take up when you’re trying to turn an electric wheelchair around in a tiny space. 

So I was left with a conundrum. I could wee in the separate disabled toilet across the corridor and just about fit the baby carseat in there too, but where could I breastfeed my baby? I didn’t like the idea of feeding him in the only toilet that I could fit my wheelchair into, and why should I have to? Would you eat in the toilets? Did it not occur to anyone that some mums might use a wheelchair? No, probably not. 

Instead, I whipped a boob out in the middle of the school uniform area and self-consciously fed my son. Hopefully I didn’t scare any young children, vulnerable pensioners or anyone in between.

To briefly conclude – These aren’t JUST breastfeeding rooms… These are 100% British M&S inaccessible breastfeeding rooms. 

The feeding room…


The parents’ toilet…


The hungry baby…


@shopgirlygm