Of buses and children in Singapore.

When I first arrived in Singapore, one of my friends had casually advised me to invest in a car. It would come in handy, she said, with a baby. I raised an eyebrow and took the advice with a pinch of salt. After all, we are talking about Singapore – well-known for its large number of taxis, buses and a good MRT network. Now, a year on into our stay in sunny Singapore, I must say that there are one thing a family intend on living here should be aware when it comes to taking the bus.

If you have babies and pre-walkers, you may want to shelf the idea of taking the bus alone with your child unless you’re prepared to lug a baby on one arm, a diaper bag on the other shoulder and somehow negotiate your way into folding your shoulder and carrying it on board. You could attempt to board the bus with your stroller open, but there is a catch. Most of the old buses have steps in the front and exit and the newer ones are not any better – they have placed a bar in the middle of the front door (possibly because old people cannot hold the bar on the side of the door) and their ticketing system doesn’t allow for you to enter via the back.

Before you can say that new buses are disabled-friendly, yes they are but disabled-friendly in this country doesn’t mean stroller-friendly. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to remove Eva (in her car seat) from her stroller, fold up the stroller and all despite the bus being empty, it not being peak travel period and there is plenty of room for the stroller. A number don’t speak English at all so often it’s the case of chicken and duck trying to talk to each other.

And since that’s the case, you can also forget about getting people to help. The same driver who told you to close up your stroller obviously isn’t going to help. Other commuters will remain glued to their seats for fear of losing it if they do something decent for a change. So very sadly, you’re all on your own when you head out. I end up babywearing Eva – when she was younger – or just take a cab and thin out my purse when we were staying at the old place which are quite far away from the MRT.

What doesn’t help in this case are other people who go around championing the belief that stroller on busses are a nuisance and inconvenience. It would be if I was taking the bus during rush hour but most of the time, stay-at-home mums and caregivers don’t take the bus during this period and we’re smart enough to avoid the bus and instead opt for the MRT (there are MRT horror stories as well). Telling these women to take the cab or the car is just ignoring the real matter at heart or at best, is a short-term solution. Not everyone can afford a car (it’s awfully expensive to maintain a car, parking, repairs – probably in the league of motorhome repairs and all here in Singapore) and well, a cab? If only we all have little money plants at home – cab drivers would be rich.

Looking at the background of the people who make these comments and their expectations, one needs to be prepared to be a hermit when you have children or filthy rich here in Singapore. Alternatively, be thick-skinned and willing to sweat it out like myself and Nil. We don’t really care about those bus drivers when the bus is empty and have room for strollers and if we can, we leg it to the MRT instead of taking the bus. Two to three stops isn’t very far – we have done more (20 minutes to city center when we were in Switzerland).

For this, I miss Switzerland. There, old or new buses always have a section dedicated for people with heavy luggage and strollers. There is always someone (not just the driver) who is ever willing to help you lug your stroller up those pesky stairs and down. You can enter from the front or back, it doesn’t matter. No one bats an eyelash and frowns as a mummy on the go in a bus…and no bus driver will ever tell you that it’s better for your baby if they are in your arms (and not in a travel system) when taking a bus.

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