It seems there is more importance attached to what pushchair and car seat you eventually choose to buy for your baby than whether or not that baby is properly cared for. You don't know how to change a nappy? No problem, you'll figure it out. Or just hold the kid over the sink if need be and hope for the best. You can't manage to pick up the poor babe without its head lolling all over the place? No worries, those neck muscles will have to strengthen one way or another. But if you haven't equipped yourself with the latest pushchair on the market, coupled with its matching car seat, and your child is just a few weeks away from joining the outside world, then consider yourself high up on the Incompetent Parents List and under surveillance by the Parents Who Know Better Brigade.
I can't believe how long it's taking Mr T and me to agree on that wheeled contraption. We've been doing the research for months and in two separate countries to boot. Currently, I'm in Canada and Mr T is in the UAE, and our online chat sessions are dominated by pictures of pushchairs that we send back and forth incessantly. There is no solution in sight.
The problem is this: there are too many to choose from, and they range in price from Dh557 to Dh5,586. If it was a choice between A and B, then we'd get somewhere, I'm sure, but when you're asked to pick just one letter out of the entire alphabet, how in the world are you supposed to choose the right one for you?
Considering what we've spent so far on baby paraphernalia, there's no question that the pushchair and car seat will end up being one of our bigger purchases, even if we don't go for the pricey Quinny or Bugaboo or Peg Perego brands (for those who don't know, those are the brands that are de rigueur for competitive mums with giant SUVs). The cost of one of these things could probably feed a family of six for at least a month, but hey, celebrities favour these brands, so they must be worth it.
At first, I was the kind of person who was blind to the existence of pushchairs and, frankly, couldn't see the difference between them. Those days are long gone. Pushchairs are now everywhere: right in front of me, in my peripheral vision and in my thoughts, night and day.
They are most certainly not all made alike: there are the pretty ones and the ugly ones, the big ones and the small ones, the ones with three wheels and the ones with four, the ones that look like alien pods and the ones that look like a basket on wheels. Pushchairs are not created equal: some come with speed control, some come with a parasol and some come with extra hooks for the mother partial to shopping. And don't even think of getting one without a cup holder; you'll never make it into the Cool Mum and Cool Dad club. Mr T agrees.
So our quest continues. At this rate, Mr T and I are hoping for a baby that's not too heavy, because it seems we'll be carrying her with us on our pushchair hunting expeditions. Perhaps the choice will be easier if I can see what my baby looks like in the depths of a pushchair.
• Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts&Life editor at The National.
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