Dear Ikea

Dear Ikea,

We need to talk. We've been going steady for over a decade now; our love affair started in my teens when I fell for your reasonable prices and your quirky business model... I still remember the day I knew we were meant to be together. It was September 2004, I think it was Birmingham (or maybe it was Bristol) and we spent a magical day together equipping me for university. Since then you've furnished many of my many abodes and I've always been faithful. Sure, I've looked around, had my head turned by other furniture stores (I know we don't talk about the time I full-on cheated at the Chelsea Sofa.com showroom) but I keep coming back to you, my Scandinavian love. 

But recently things have changed. It started with Hemnes. I began to question my love for you when you cheapened my favourite range (how could you do that to me? Matt says I talk about it way too much but I can't get over it), and I won't drag up that Sunday afternoon in November 2015, but this week I've really started to doubt the strength of my feelings for you. 

We need to talk about your parent and child spaces. You say you're a family friendly brand but I'm struggling to see it. You have, like, ten P&C spaces, waaaaay in the back of the car park and that's just not enough. I need more from you and you just can't give it to me. I wanted so badly to spend some time with you this week but you made it so difficult. I had to drive the tank (my Dad's BMW X5 - not some weird stealth boast, we don't even have a car - but to illustrate why extra room was required) around, stalking a P&C space for ten minutes before giving up and settling for the only other type of space that would allow me to get baby out and flat pack in without smashing another patron's vehicle - one miles from other cars and the entrance.
I tried to hide my feelings and put a smile on my face to greet you and headed inside. I'd even planned ahead and consulted the Internet about your current trolley situation (none with baby seats or shelves for a car seat - 'family-friendly', my arse) and had Annika in a sling. 

I know it's a cliche, but I've changed - it's me, not you. We all have flaws, and I got into this knowing about yours - your stock checking system that bears no resemblance to the actual number of items you have in store, your refusal to stock many of the things I want to buy, your overwhelmingly stinky candle section... But recently these things have really started to grate on me. Why do your candles smell so bad? Why don't your plants live longer than a week? Why won't you let me buy some of those nice, clippy fridge magnets you taunt me with online? Don't the people of South East London deserve fridge magnets?! I'm sorry; I'm getting over-emotional now. 

I think the thing that hurts me most is your refusal to acknowledge my baby. (Well, technically, the thing that hurt me most was when I walked into the stupid pallet-trolley and sustained a nice, purple bruise on my shin - WHY are your card machines at the opposite end of the till to the packing area?) I even gave her a Swedish name for you!* 

I know it's not your fault but last time I saw you I waited for almost fifteen minutes outside a baby changing toilet with an angry, screaming baby who desperately needed to be changed. I was about to alert a member of staff to the fact that, clearly, a customer had passed out in the toilet when a middle-aged woman, no child in sight, emerged without so much of an apology for me or my red-faced daughter. Sure, you go ahead, ignore the queue-free ladies' and the empty disabled toilet and enjoy your dump in the peace and privacy of the baby changing facility even though YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE A CHILD! 
I'm sorry, I know you didn't make that happen. But this is hard for me. 

I'll be straight with you - your business model just doesn't make sense for parents. I envy those young couples who prance around the showroom, picking their first Ektorp sofa, free from the 'I want it NOW!'s and refusals to get out from the display bed/under a desk/the brightly-coloured, toy-filled children's area. And I have all that to come! I envy the care-free ability of those twenty-somethings to breeze about with their trolley, effortlessly picking boxes from the warehouse before taking them home, assembling them the same day (!) and then probably having wild, carefree sex on their new bizarrely-sized, won't-fit-any-normal-bedding mattress. 
Have you tried being a nine stone woman wearing a baby, trying to lift a box full of Kallax onto a pallet trolley? It doesn't work. I bravely managed the Stave and Stockholm mirrors by myself (kudos on your enduring ability to marry Scandi style with rock-bottom prices), but your practical nursery storage solutions were the straw that threatened to literally break this camel/milk cow's back. I had to wait, looking pathetic, until a member of staff took pity on me and my weak, calcium-depleted body. 

Still, I soldiered on. I really wanted this relationship to work. I pasted on a smile, headed to the tills (price - good, aforementioned shin bruising - bad), narrowly avoided an impulse purchase of a random jar (you and your till-side temptations will always get me, you naughty little Swede) and got outside. 

I valiantly fought my way back to the car, the baby on my front meaning I couldn't deploy the usual combination of hip shoves and tummy thrusts to guide the trolley. I endured the mental and physical challenges of half an hour of Car Tetris, uninstalling and re-installing the car seat to accommodate the three boxes and inevitable bag of pointless crap I'd acquired. 

But the final straw for me was the unnecessarily sharp speed bumps. I know it's Croydon and you've got to do something to keep the local joy-riding youths from using your car park as a NASCAR track but think of the children! And the flat pack! Every bump elicited the dual auditory treat of a baby screech and the crunching of glass. I have yet to open my boxes but my hopes of an intact mirror are not high. 

I don't yet know when I'll find the time between nappy changes and renditions of Old MacDonald to assemble that furniture. But when I do, I'll do it with a heavy heart, knowing that it'll be for the last time. Yes, once again, I am swearing I shall no longer succumb to your charms. This time I mean it;  it's over. We've had a good run but we've grown apart. I need to find a furniture store that can satisfy my needs - ready-assembled furniture, non-extortionate delivery charges, preferably with free beverages and a comfortable nursing spot (yes, I'm reminiscing about my Sofa.com dalliance again). 

So I bid you adieu, my Scandi love. I set you free to be loved by another fresh-faced 18-year old. I'll always remember you and your meatballs fondly. 

Beth xxx 

*ok, ok, I'll be honest - naming Annika had nothing to do with Ikea. 

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