Carpark Battles: Parent and Child Spaces

Before I start cracking on about parent and child spaces, I want you to have a little think about car parks in general. In every car park (at least I hope so), you’ll find at least one disabled parking space. I want you to think about those spaces. Where are they located? Generally, near the entrance to the building or the entrance/exit to the car park. Why? So that the occupant of a car with a disabled parking permit does not have to travel very far between vehicle and entrance/exit. Who gets a disabled parking permit? In Ireland, it’s a person who has certain disabilities and those who are registered blind, whether they are drivers or passengers. Can you understand why somebody with a disability, be it physical or mental, or someone who cannot see, may need to be able to park close by to a building, and not on the other side of the car park? I hope so.

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Now, I recognise that parent and child parking spaces are not a legal requirement, and you don’t need to have a permit to park in one. But the same rule applies when you are driving around, able-bodied and childless, searching for a parking space. Common decency should apply here; in the exact same way as you wouldn’t take a disabled parking space from a legally disabled person, you wouldn’t take a space away from a mum or dad who is trying to lug a heavy car seat with a tiny newborn baby inside and dash through the car park in the pouring rain. Let’s chat a little more about these spaces.

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They’re generally (although not always) located near the entrance of the building – think supermarkets and shopping centres, places most likely to be frequented by families. They generally have close access to a walkway or footpath. They are also generally larger than normal spaces. Why these features, you ask? Well, think about these factors:

  • If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ll know the terrifying feeling of going to the shops for the first time with your newborn. You have only just gotten your head around clicking the car seat in and out of the back seat. You have this tiny ticking time bomb that at any time could start screaming, want to be fed or do an incredibly disgusting job in their teeny nappy. Plus, you probably look and or/feel like crap – sleep deprivation plus the feeling of having ran three marathons really doesn’t lend to a desire for walking around a supermarket. Knowing that you can park beside the door and pop in and out quickly if you need to is a huge relief.
  • Did you know that it rains here a lot? Like, an awful lot? Adults can get over this – we put on our coats and throw up the umbrella and dash across the car park. But babies need to be carried, toddlers and children need to hold your hand or be dragged(as happened to me in Supervalu just last week). Car parks can be dangerous places, especially in the rain when visibility is low. Being able to park near the entrance means our kids are kept dry and safe.
  • We’ve all had to squeeze in and out of our car when space is tight – but have you ever tried lifting a baby in and out of their car seat when the person next to you has parked too close? It’s not fun. It happened to me when my son was a few weeks old inside in Galway city. I returned to my car to find a huge jeep had wedged its way in between my car and the next – I was able to get in my door, as there was nothing on the other side, but I couldn’t put my son’s car seat back into the back seat- I couldn’t even open the door. Luckily, I wasn’t alone that day and my mum stayed with the buggy while I moved the car out to a safer spot, but needless to say the driver of the jeep got a note left on their windscreen thanking them for their consideration.
  • Going anywhere with a baby or small child can be incredibly stressful. Just because you need to go to the shop to get your groceries, does not mean your kid wants to be there. They are likely to throw a shit fit, so the closer you are to an escape route the better.

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Like I said, there’s no legal requirement to keep these spaces free, but it is a matter of human decency. It has been an act of kindness and consideration by the business owners to put these parent and child spaces in place, so to be beaten to the punch by a lone driver who is “just in such a hurry” is incredibly aggravating. I’m not afraid of telling these people what they’ve done wrong, child in hand, but I’ve never once received an apology. I was once told by a woman that she had raised four children many years ago, so she was entitled to park there. I was so angry that I couldn’t get the words out, but I wanted to say, you should know better than anyone how important these spaces are. Other times, people have just laughed in my face. I appreciate the businesses that allocate these spaces, but I also hate that they don’t actually do anything to enforce it. In a lot of cases, they don’t do anything about people parking illegally in disabled spaces either – it makes you question if there really is any consideration behind the idea at all.

If you’re reading this, and you don’t have kids, or even if you do, please, please, please – leave those spaces for the people who really need them. If you’re out and about without your kids, don’t park there either – just because the shade is in the window and the baby on board sign is up, doesn’t entitle you to take that away from another new mom or dad trying their best to survive parenthood.

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