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"And by the way, your kid's stroller sucks."
June 14, 2012 10:55 PM   Subscribe

The Mommy-Fight Site. What does it mean to raise a child in "America’s highest-income, best-educated Census area? D.C. Urban Moms and Dads might be as close as it gets to a field guide to parentis Washingtonianis"

The "Mommy-Fight Site" article appeared in January 2011. The DCUM site owner then posted a thread for discussion amongst their members.

ABC News: Upper-Middle Class Parents Clash Over Parenting Advice
posted by zarq (80 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh my good God does this topic burn my biscuits. Where does this assumption come from that the only possible reason you wouldn't purchase the absolutely most expensive everything is because you can't afford it? We could have afforded a Quinny or some such if we wanted to, but we didn't buy one because it's stupid to spend $1000 on an aluminum stroller made in a Chinese factory with sloppy welds that would've made my welding instructor cry hot iron slag tears. I bought a $15 used stroller on Craigslist, and I beat the hell out of it without fear or worry. How much better did that BOB stroller work than mine?

That this sick mentality extends to the kids is a given. When you believe there is an absolute best-everything, and that the only possible reason someone wouldn't have the best-everything is because they're not good/rich/smart enough, your kids start to believe that to. The possibility of individual choice gets erased. There is never, ever a reason to choose the Cooper Union over Yale, because (in the believer's mind) there is nothing that MIT could offer that's better than anything Harvard could offer, ever, irrespective of the students' needs. Revolting.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:16 PM on June 14, 2012 [21 favorites]


Oh my god my wife and I both have PhDs and we bought a Maclaren we are such cliches.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:25 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Quick addition to 1adam12's bit on strollers: I don't think I've met a non-parent Vancouverite who doesn't LOATHE the introduction of the Cadillac-style strollers. Exactly how many seats is that thing going to take up on the bus again? Guh.

If only they all used those cheap barebones frame things like we used to all have to deal with as kids.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:25 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are lots of great things about DC. White people problems are not one of them.
posted by bardic at 11:27 PM on June 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


One of my friends works at a toy shop in one of the richer parts of DC. More often than not the parents that come into the shop have no idea who their children are. Meaning, that they have no idea what their children's interests are or what they like to do. These parents spend so much time worrying about money and status that they pay no attention to their kids - instead leaving them with nannies or by the latchkey. God forbid they get their kid something not every other kid might have. It has to be NEW and it has to be POPULAR.

These peoples children are turning into lazy, entitled and irresponsible people. 9 out of 10 of the teens hired where I work don't bother to show up, call out frequently and decided they suddenly can't work a particular day they are scheduled. And when they do bother to show for work they complain when they have to stay later and wonder constantly when then can go home. My mother once went to her job and a girl was SLEEPING on the couch instead of running the desk. I am shocked and frustrated about the total lack of responsibility. And don't get me started about all the entitled customers I have to deal with on a daily basis.

I've lived in Fairfax pretty much all my life (my grandparents were here in the 60's) and I can't wait to move - partially because of the utter snobbery people exude here (and because the traffic is a nightmare).
posted by littlesq at 11:28 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


*entitled adult customers
posted by littlesq at 11:29 PM on June 14, 2012


Does the website verify if the members are actual parents, or can bored teenagers troll them at will with stereotypical flame wars?
posted by vidur at 11:42 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Expensive strollers make sense when you walk everywhere. From experience with my friends' kids, those crazy strollers have some sweet handling. And they are less than a car and gas. So I don't have an opinion on much else, but those strollers can really be worth it.
posted by dame at 11:50 PM on June 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is where I grew up from 7 to 18 years old. For the vast majority of this time I was either suicidal or just plain old depressed. Since leaving that hellhole I've not only found that there are people in the world worth sticking around to spend time with, but that this is in fact the norm! My own family had nothing to do with it, they are pretty much all awesome people. It was just, somehow, everyone else. Absolutely goddamn toxic. Now my mother is being invited to the baby showers of people my age - children of her acquaintances and the like - and they regularly stipulate "no hand-made gifts" and have things like registries where nothing is a reasonable price. Mom's got a whole backlog of masterfully crafted adorable crocheted baby clothes and toys and nobody to give them to because everybody is apparently just that fucking fancy.
posted by Mizu at 12:21 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Mizu: it turns out that "unfriending" people isn't just for Facebook. Spread the word.

Registries are meant to be of assistance to the gift-giver, not as a "gimme gimme list" for the receivers. If you don't know the couple well enough to choose a present without assistance, a registry can be a big help. People who make the registry mandatory, or who lay down rules about what kinds of gifts they will and will not accept, are classless oafs. We would never encourage that kind of behavior in our kids; you say thanks for the gift whether it's the Lego set you've been eyeing or a pair of tube socks.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:29 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


1adam12, I absolutely agree with you, and so does my mother. The problem is that when she tried that, oh the DRAMA! Tim Gunn would have classified it as sturm und drang. It's just not worth it anymore. These are not people whom she cares deeply about; they're moving away as soon as Dad can retire and that's almost only a year away, and the thing she keeps remarking on is how they really have no lasting friends in the area. I'm always "so, you gonna miss your wacky NoVa buddies?" and she's like "you know what? I'm really not!" End result is, if someone's demanding a few hundred bucks on some scientifically proven baby swaddler or whatever, it's easier to pony up and say nothing than deal with the seething response when entitlement goes unfulfilled.

Furthermore, tube socks are awesome.
posted by Mizu at 12:38 AM on June 15, 2012


dame: "Expensive strollers make sense when you walk everywhere. From experience with my friends' kids, those crazy strollers have some sweet handling. And they are less than a car and gas. So I don't have an opinion on much else, but those strollers can really be worth it."

Depends on the stroller, I think. My wife and I walked a lot with our kids in their stroller. We had both combi sport and maclaren twin techno doubles. We picked up the maclaren on freecycle, and then the combi was purchased for us from our registry.

The maclaren retails for at least a hundred dollars more than the combi. But we hardly ever used it, because it was heavier, harder to fold and unfold, and less easy to tote around. Plus it didn't handle as well while walking. On the other hand, it did fold up into a smaller space. But for the sake of convenience, the cheaper stroller was much better for us. If we had spent over $500, we might have seen a bigger difference.
posted by zarq at 12:55 AM on June 15, 2012


“I think that people who are having trouble conceiving should get over themselves and not expect the world to cater to them.”

“I think a lot of kids (not all) diagnosed with autism or ADHD are just poorly behaved kids with lazy/passive parents.”

“Anyone who doesn’t vaccinate their children is a selfish, simple minded, easily manipulated conspiracy theorist.”

“I think [stay-at-home moms] set bad examples for their daughters and I am embarrassed to be around people who don’t work.”

“If you think it’s fine to have an undereducated nanny raising your kiddos, go for it while you have your high powered career!”

“You’re a skank who can’t be bothered with divorce.”

“I think there is a good chance that if you live in Bethesda or Potomac, you are an a$$hole!”

“I think most of the women who complain about their husbands on these boards should thank their lucky stars anybody married their sad asses.”

Wow. There is something for everyone on this site.

*bookmarks page for future reference*
posted by three blind mice at 1:02 AM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Your favourite status item sucks.

-posted from my iPhone.
posted by srboisvert at 1:05 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Your favorite iPhone sucks.

-posted from item.
posted by item at 2:29 AM on June 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


Big ass strollers of any kind annoy the heck out of me, especially the twin sets; whether they're serial or parallel orientated they're too big, especially on the bus. There seems to be a bit of a trend to let children stay in them for longer, schlepping four-five year old kids around in them. And a lot of them seem to be deliberately bigger than need to be.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:35 AM on June 15, 2012


As most people discover when they have children, and especially when the children start school - hell is other parents.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:04 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am as irritated with the Mommy Wars as any mother "accidentally" mistaken for her child's nanny when picking her up from school can be. That said, if anything, this article doesn't go far enough. This stuff gets way, way more vicious and awful than that. I don't think they spent enough time in Mommy Forums. They can make your eyes bleed if done right.

and they regularly stipulate "no hand-made gifts" and have things like registries where nothing is a reasonable price. Mom's got a whole backlog of masterfully crafted adorable crocheted baby clothes and toys and nobody to give them to because everybody is apparently just that fucking fancy.

This isn't always about fancy. I would never stipulate what people should get me, but I would /totally/ have a baby registry next time, in the hopes of encouraging people not to get me godawful shit. And let me tell you, they do. They get tacky, tasteless shit that you would be ashamed to let your cat sleep on for fear the colors might rise up and swallow them during the night. There is something about baby showers that brings out the hellbeast in the human shopping soul.

Your mom may make gloriously crafted crocheted toys, but I promise you, for every your mom, there's one of my ex-mother-in-law, who crocheted stuff so awful and irritating to baby skin that after one terrible day, it all got deposited in the nearest dumpster. Not to mention, it is difficult to clean. Because right after you have a baby is totally not the time to be hand-washing stuff in the sink.
posted by corb at 3:45 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow this is the sort of thing that gives me pause when I contemplate having kids in the US. I'm not American but studying in graduate school in the US (as is my boyfriend). The US just seems to have such a sick culture when it comes to parenting and especially motherhood. Pitiful maternity leave, nonexistent paternity leave and we'll judge all your choices. It seems that having so few real choices about how to live has set people up to concentrate so intensely on these tiny little choices. I'm not sure I could stand it. We've been seriously considering going to Canada just for its more merciful maternity leave policies.
posted by peacheater at 3:49 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is where I grew up from 7 to 18 years old. For the vast majority of this time I was either suicidal or just plain old depressed.

I'm pretty sure every teen thinks this about the place they grew up.
posted by DU at 4:02 AM on June 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


“Anyone who doesn’t vaccinate their children is a selfish, simple minded, easily manipulated conspiracy theorist.”

I would actually have to agree with that one.
posted by smoothvirus at 4:29 AM on June 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


One small point - those 'small prams we had as kids' aren't suitable for babies. Babies can't sit up. The smallest prams aren't the best for smallest babies - crazy, I know.

And if I had a gold coin for every dipshit who was certain my daughter was four or older (she turned three on the weekend) we could have bought her that pony. People SUCK at judging age, and I say this as someone who works with kids. So every time I see a kid in a pram and I think they're too old I run through the following checklist:
is the kid injured?
is the kid disabled?
is the parent disabled?
is the kid a runner?
is this nap time?
is this just not the time for toddler level dawdling and/or running and/or breaking and/or flailing?
is the parent exhausted?

If I know the answer to all of those, then I might judge. Maybe. So far I haven't because as an onlooker, you don't know shit. Hell, as a well-meaning friend/family member, you often still don't know shit. So keep the judgement to yourself and try a little humility and generosity.

(We have three prams, spent a total of $40AU on them, one is on it's fifth kid, the last time we used it was when my kid busted her ankle)

(and given that super annoying "don't buy trinkets, just buy the expensive and make an investment" I find it highly suspicious when people turn around and whine about how they can't then buy people trinkety, inexpensive bullshit - either you make your purchase an 'investment' or you end up with crap, unless it's a kid or a gift or whatever. I wish I had made an investment in a good pram to be honest, since mine were all front facing and we had such dramas when she was a baby and it was just crap. Now they're fine, but it would have been much nicer to have a good pram.) (admittedly the gap between good and great is a couple of grand apparently.)
posted by geek anachronism at 4:35 AM on June 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Why do people give a shit what other parents think? Serious question, dismissive answers not sought.
posted by desjardins at 4:40 AM on June 15, 2012


Why do people give a shit what other parents think? Serious question, dismissive answers not sought.

desjardins, because, and it breaks my heart to say this...the other parents straight up won't let their kids play with yours if they think you're not a good parent. And that "not a good parent" could mean "didn't buy the kids the latest gadget" or "gave them ice cream on the playground." Or had the wrong stroller. Because if you're not ambitious enough or restrictive enough for your child, then maybe little Billy won't be as driven himself if he plays with your Sally, or maybe, god forbid, you'll give him an unorganic hamburger.

Maybe you should ask someone who's not bitter, too, though.
posted by corb at 4:47 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Big ass strollers of any kind annoy the heck out of me, especially the twin sets; whether they're serial or parallel orientated they're too big, especially on the bus.

Not to worry! The parents profiled in this article would never use the bus.
posted by psoas at 4:55 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wow. What this article does for me, really, is drive home just how vast the income inequality in DC is.

I spent two years living in Congress Heights, on the east side of the Anacostia River in DC. (Brief DC geography lesson for non-area natives: "East of the River" is lazy shorthand, for "majority people-of-color and presumed dangerous." Some east-of-the-river neighborhoods have unemployment as high as 25-30 percent.) I got to know several kids and their parents in my neighborhood during that time, as well as doing various kinds of volunteer work with kids.

It's hard for the parents I talked to to judge each other over their hundred+ dollar stroller purchases, because affording food is hard enough. Forget parents judging each over other their zip codes; what about parents who have to give the address of the homeless shelter where I volunteered? I know the article's author briefly acknowledges these disparities, but I can't emphasize enough just how sharp they are.

Now I did work in a family-oriented business on the Hill for a time, so I got a little taste of the parenting wars described in the article there. But for the most part, my years in DC feel like years spent in some weird parallel universe. So many of the stereotypes about how "DC people" live, whether those people are straight-out-of-college 20somethings or older parents, assume that you're starting with a lot of money. There are plenty of people in DC who don't. They're often the ones who've lived in DC forever. (The common stereotype that DC is entirely full of young transients drives me batshit.) They're the ones who just don't have the means to escape to DCUM-approved zip codes.

Parenting culture in greater DC is not this judgmental and status-oriented across the board. Parents who struggle with the basics are the far more common story.
posted by ActionPopulated at 4:59 AM on June 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


Okay, I loved growing up in DC and wish I could be back there now. We did have a nanny, for a few years; she was lovely and allowed my mother to return to her job, which she loved, and which we needed. We were very lucky. Many of these are complaints common to every group of fancypants parents, from DC to Montgomery County MD to Montgomery County PA to Princeton and outwards and onwards. I would never have traded the free museums and volunteer work on Capitol Hill for growing up anywhere else. The classmates who were never allowed to take the red line into the city (or, ahaha, the bus) have parallels in every 5% income bracket suburb.

Probably the funniest comments along those lines were about Ivy League schools; my mother was once asked, significantly pregnant with twins, if we'd been put on the list for Beauvoir yet, as you know that was the only way to make sure we could go to Harvard. My mother just walked away, and I can only hope her eyes weren't permanently damaged from all the rolling. My parents did not remain friends with anyone who talked serious shop about Ivy League futures for fetuses, which would be a good policy most places, I think?
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:14 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is where I grew up from 7 to 18 years old. For the vast majority of this time I was either suicidal or just plain old depressed. Since leaving that hellhole I've not only found that there are people in the world worth sticking around to spend time with, but that this is in fact the norm! My own family had nothing to do with it, they are pretty much all awesome people. It was just, somehow, everyone else. Absolutely goddamn toxic.

Oh, for fuck's sake. I grew up in DC, and I thought people were in general just fine. Lovely, even. I moved back after some time away, live here now, and have no people-oriented regrets about doing so. Your comment, in which you pillory a city because you were a miserable kid, is ridiculous.

One of my friends works at a toy shop in one of the richer parts of DC. More often than not the parents that come into the shop have no idea who their children are. Meaning, that they have no idea what their children's interests are or what they like to do. These parents spend so much time worrying about money and status that they pay no attention to their kids - instead leaving them with nannies or by the latchkey.

I'd bet all the money in my wallet that I know this toy store. I worked for quite a while in the video store next door. I spent years working in and managing the bookstore down the street. Your description is completely without foundation. Almost without exception the parents I interacted with were loving, focused on their kids, and appropriately interested in their kids and their interests.

The DC Urban Mom's list is ridiculous, as are many neighborhood listservs, but the jerks on those lists are self-selecting and not an appropriate representation of parents in DC, or residents of the city.

zarq, I'm surprised you posted this. It seems like a "point at the assholes" post, and not just the specific assholes, but at all DC parents. You're usually very concerned that people not be pilloried without good reason.

The common stereotype that DC is entirely full of young transients drives me batshit.

Yes, the "no one is from DC" trope really means: "I've never talked to a significant number of the Black people who make up the majority of DC residents."
posted by OmieWise at 5:23 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Expensive strollers make sense when you walk everywhere. From experience with my friends' kids, those crazy strollers have some sweet handling. And they are less than a car and gas. So I don't have an opinion on much else, but those strollers can really be worth it.

While I didn't buy a thousand dollar stroller, I did spend more than I ever thought I would on a stroller, because it just worked better.
It folded cleaner, spun better, didn't shake the kid to death when rolling over some of the less than perfect sidewalks in my town and handled grass as well as pavement.

Now, this was a few years ago, and I've noticed that some of the features have trickled their way down to the Target/ToyRUs market (non-hard rubber wheels, suspended seat, etc) but at the time, if you wanted a substantial stroller for actually going places rather than an umbrella stroller for going from your minivan to the front door of the grocery store, it was going to cost you.
posted by madajb at 5:28 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think you can gauge much about parenting, either in DC or the US, by these people. These people aren't parents, they're hobbyists. Hobbyists often are judgemental and irritating. I wouldn't want to talk to these people about whatever hobby they take up when their kid turns 10 and they get bored with them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:30 AM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


The US just seems to have such a sick culture when it comes to parenting and especially motherhood.

Nah, it's just like politics, the crazies get all the press.
posted by madajb at 5:36 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


All I can say about DC-area moms is that when they unload that huge stroller and three squalling toddlers from their Honda Odyssey in the parking lot of Wegmans, you GET OUT OF THE WAY BECAUSE THEY WILL STAB YOU IF YOU GET BETWEEN THEM AND THE ORGANIC VEGAN GRANOLA. Seriously half the times I went to Wegmans they had police cars out front with visible officers wearing bulletproof vests, that's how dangerous the produce aisle is.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:38 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


the other parents straight up won't let their kids play with yours if they think you're not a good parent. And that "not a good parent" could mean "didn't buy the kids the latest gadget"

If some other parents won't let their kids play with my kids because my kids don't have iPhones, then I don't want my kids playing with their kids either.
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


C'mon, guys, this is like thinking plane crashes and bystander shootings are common because you see so much of it on the news. People who contribute to parenting websites on the "here's a controversial issue" boards are, by and large, crazy.
posted by palliser at 5:43 AM on June 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


The DC area has the most ridiculously loud "We hate DC!" contingent.

I like it here, and I know lots of other people who do too. However, for whatever reason, we have some of the most self-deprecating bloggers on the planet.

(That said, Northern Virginia's a pretty weird place. The people are nice enough, but man, talk about a bubble...)
posted by schmod at 5:45 AM on June 15, 2012


That said, Northern Virginia's a pretty weird place. The people are nice enough, but man, talk about a bubble...

Well, and they have a major road named Jefferson Davis Highway.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on June 15, 2012


I don't read the forum, but seems like DCUM is hardly "a field guide to parentis Washingtonianis", but instead focuses on simply one of the species of parents that you find in what is really an incredibly diverse social landscape. Low-income black neighborhoods. Middle-class black neighborhoods. Rich black neighborhoods. Immigrant-dominated neighborhoods of many sorts. Crunch-granola neighborhoods. Military-dominated neighborhoods. There's a lot of microcosms here, and the trick is finding the one where you (and your kids) fit in.

The other thing is that, once you peel back the stereotypes about income, you will find all different kinds of people at different income levels. Just as we would rightly reject the stereotype of all low-income black families as stereotypical "welfare queens", not all upper-income families (regardless of what stroller they use, what car they drive, or where they send their kids to school) are insufferable status-seeking judgmental b*tches.

One of the good friends I've made through my riding stable might be easy to assume is "one of those parents"--a two lawyer household in Chevy Chase, they own two horses (one for mom and one for daughter), live-in nanny, both kids in a prestigious private school, they throw fancy parties for fancy people, etc. etc. And yet, she is one of the most genuinely nice, non-judgmental people I know. Listens to Kenny Chesney and brings the best cheese and wine to the holiday party at the barn :-)
posted by drlith at 5:53 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meh, we bought one of those expensive BOB strollers. We tried making do with an el-cheapo Graco, but as we walk everywhere we needed something with big wheels that could handle Ottawa winters. And those big fancy strollers are a hell of a lot nicer to push around. 5 years later it is rusty, stained, and faded, and still in regular use. The Graco got a lot of use too, but mainly at malls and whatnot as it had a massive luggage bin and fit in the trunk of our Golf.

We lived in a hoity-toity neighbourhood in Ottawa for a couple years and stroller and baby-gear snobbery is everywhere. It is much more relaxed in the more working-class neighbourhood we live in now.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:11 AM on June 15, 2012


I loved living in DC when I was in my 20s and single but when I anticipated getting married and starting a family I made plans to move elsewhere. Maybe all urban areas are like this but I found the DC metro area in particular to be unappealing as a family location. The competitive mood spills over into too many areas where people should cooperate and support one another -- it takes a village, but the DC village is dysfunctional.

Today I live a few hours away and we make day trips to Washington to enjoy the museums and culture.

I must offer some defense on the stroller angle though. We walk with our kids a lot and the nice strollers (we have a bugaboo) are indeed more pleasant to use. I regret that it sometimes looks like a status symbol.
posted by dgran at 6:15 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Father of 4 year old here. I was semi-terrified of my son entering pre-school precisely because of stories like this.

If you're looking to be disappointed, there's ample opportunity for that. That said, I was expecting to be, and am honestly genuinely surprised at how decent most people are, regardless of the car they're driving or the stroller they're pushing.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 6:31 AM on June 15, 2012


The competitive mood spills over into too many areas where people should cooperate and support one another -- it takes a village, but the DC village is dysfunctional.


Can you give examples of this? I'm not challenging you, I'm honestly curious. I've lived in a bunch of neighborhoods in DC and I've just never experienced anything but help from my neighbors. (I grew up in a fancy zipcode and went to a fancy school.) I work in local government with local organizations, and there's the regular old level of suckiness, but in general people are dedicated and committed. My neighborhood listserv is filled with crazy people, but all of them are perfectly nice in person. I credit youth culture in DC, Dischord, positive force, etc, with helping me to form my progressive ideas about community, social justice, activism, and the importance of engagement. I'm just not sure what this competitive mood looks like in practice.
posted by OmieWise at 6:34 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck I just went to the Quinny site. "Your child's lifestyle" YOUR CHILD'S LIFESTYLE? Listen here, bougie shits... Your child's lifestyle is to fucking eat mashed up food, suck a breast now and then and fucking bang blocks together. That's what a goddamned child's lifestyle is. The little fucking baby in that stroller of yours only gives one fucking shit about it, and it's not the color or the design aesthetics, your child is not Steve Jobs (or even Steve Jobs Jr). What your child needs in a stroller is one that won't fall apart, and perhaps one that's moderately comfortable so it's not in pain. 1000 bucks for a goddamn iStroller.
posted by symbioid at 6:35 AM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


They also care about how it tastes when they gnaw on it slobberingly.
posted by elizardbits at 6:43 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Admittedly there is enjoyment to be had in watching some very privileged people look very stupid, but honestly I suspect most of them find this attention validating.
posted by NathanBoy at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow this is the sort of thing that gives me pause when I contemplate having kids in the US.

I felt that way for a hot second, but then I realized a lot of this stuff is tempest-in-a-teapot shit. You don't have to go on internet message boards and frantically defend your choices to all the world. You can choose to just live your life and raise your kids how you see fit. If you've chosen to already surround yourself with kind, loving, caring people, none of them are going to give you grief about that. it's just like politics, the crazies get all the press. = exactly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:57 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


OmieWise: " zarq, I'm surprised you posted this. It seems like a "point at the assholes" post, and not just the specific assholes, but at all DC parents. You're usually very concerned that people not be pilloried without good reason."

Not my intention, although I can see where it might have seemed so from the quote I lifted referring to "parentis Washingtonianis". In retrospect, you're right I should have chosen another bit to quote. Sorry. Didn't even occur to me that people would think that these people are representative of the whole.

I figured people would glean from both the text of the main article and the supporting links that the parents from the DCUM forums represent a specific segment of the DC urban parenting population, and aren't necessarily representative of the whole. The Washington Post article on census data points out that there are huge disparities in income and education levels within Washington DC, as well as that the city is one of the most highly segregated in the United States. The main City Paper article makes clear that the people being quoted are upper middle class, and many are from of the wealthiest zip codes in the city. The ABC link indicates in the headline that the parents contributing to these boards are upper middle class. Note the second and third paragraphs:
The site, DC Urban Moms and Dads, serves a city where 29 percent of children live below the poverty rate.

The posters mostly hail from the District's tony 20016 zip code, where median family income is $133,000.
Sometimes when I create a post, after reading all the links myself, I tend to make assumptions about its content based on what I already know, not what a reader is being presented when they first read the post. Mea culpa.

As for why I posted this....

I've always been fascinated by the internet's culture of anonymity and how it affects the way people act online. I thought the City Paper article was a good example of this -- sort of an anthropologic look at people daring to say things online under a cloak of anonymity that they would likely never dare to say to anyone face to face. It's like watching people's innermost, private and least acceptable thoughts gain ascendance, because they know they can't be held responsible for them.
posted by zarq at 6:59 AM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


symbioid: "What your child needs in a stroller is one that won't fall apart, and perhaps one that's moderately comfortable so it's not in pain."

I agree with you, but parents actually need a bit more than that.

I'm tall, so I wanted a stroller with high handles, so I wouldn't break my back after pushing my kids around all day. My wife and I needed a stroller that would fold and unfold easily, for storage in our car trunk and in our apartment. We needed it to be lightweight and have a carrying strap, so we could tote it easily. We wanted (although we didn't get it) a stroller on whose handles we could have hung at least one, possibly two diaper bags. We were concerned that the seats be supportive to their heads and necks, too. And that there were five-point harnesses.

Plus, we wanted a stroller that would stand up to abuse for a couple of years. The sidewalks and roads in NYC are old, cracked and broken up. Could our stroller take them for a couple of years and not fall apart? (As it turns out, it couldn't. We had to call combi and get a couple of replacement wheels after about a year and a half.)

Our stroller retailed for a couple of hundred bucks. It didn't cost $1K. And it had to hold twins, which changes things a bit. (Double the kids' weight, double some accessories -- a stroller that holds two kids is going to be bulkier than a single.) But if your kids are going to be in it for long periods of time, every day, it's worth considering your own needs as well as theirs.
posted by zarq at 7:10 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have plenty of incoherent and somewhat contradictory thoughts on this topic. Seeing the area first-hand will do that to you.

You wonder about the kids of parents like this. The public school environment in the DC suburbs is already so strange that the DCUM board is like another planet.

The DCUM board is the playground of a very specific subset of white top 1%. Their children go to Georgetown Prep and St. Anselms and The Landon School. They're invariably white. Public schoolers never saw them except at Saturday debate tournaments, where whacking the private schoolers had extra special meaning. Frankly, it's completely uninteresting. Most big cities have a subset of people so rich that they could be on Gossip Girl. This is hardly unique. I know little of them.

What is unique to DC, I think, is the attitude of the suburban parents. Out in the less-rich (this nis a relative term) suburbs there's a different kind of snobbery, which is far less damaging and less likely to spawn future investment bankers and shady lobbyists. Not McLean, where the money is. Not Georgetown, where the money and power is. Go to the suburbs nobody really knows anything about, like Annandale or Springfield or Woodbridge or maybe Rockville (I don't know much about Maryland, the Potomac River is wider psychologically than physically.)

There's a book about it...The Overachievers. It was written about a public school. Fairfax and Montgomery are two weird counties where upper-middle class parents came to put their kids in public school and held them in high esteem. Only the super-rich sent their kids to private school.

Drive just outside the beltway and you'll see a hypercompetitive brew of a different sort, where families in the second quintile just want their kids to get into UVA or scrape together the cash to get to a top-flight SLAC, but don't have the connections for Harvard. They fight it out with children of immigrant strivers who clawed their way into the fourth quintile who are competitive out of necessity, who remember the Wars and Poverty and see their children as their hope. This is not really the healthiest sort of place for kids to sharpen their teeth.

They don't worry about asinine things like strollers. They're beating each other up about public school boundaries in their poorly constructed and mostly underwater tract houses. Their kids have to score high on their SATs because it means someone might throw money at them.

Outside the beltway are kids whose parents dream of being as rich as the DCUM set. Hopefully they never pick up the strange top-1% private school attitudes that come with it.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:11 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]



Oh my good God does this topic burn my biscuits. Where does this assumption come from that the only possible reason you wouldn't purchase the absolutely most expensive everything is because you can't afford it? We could have afforded a Quinny or some such if we wanted to, but we didn't buy one because it's stupid to spend $1000 on an aluminum stroller made in a Chinese factory with sloppy welds that would've made my welding instructor cry hot iron slag tears. I bought a $15 used stroller on Craigslist, and I beat the hell out of it without fear or worry. How much better did that BOB stroller work than mine?


Kind of moot in our case. My wife and I pretty much mortgaged our future for the Fetal Mozart equipment.. We won't be buying any strollers.
posted by ocschwar at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2012


I live in DC, have a toddler, and have friends with small children - all without any of the stupid, status-obsessed acrimony that goes on over at DCUM.

The best things about the site? It helps these people self-segregate and invest their time in fighting with one another. In a small way, it makes the city more pleasant for the rest of us.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somebody should set up a battle between this DC parent's board and the Park Slope Parents forum.
posted by Falconetti at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Actually, something similar happened on a suburban Mommy group list that friends of mine run. They actually used the google maps API to show where the town's boundaries were, and if you were outside them, you couldn't be in the group. This happened in like 2008, though.

Oh, and it is a DC suburb.

The City Paper loves the little dramas that pop up. I'm not surprised to see them all over this. It really is like the encyclopedia drammatica for DC drama.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2012


zarq: "As for why I posted this.... "

I thought this was a good post about a crappy subject, and as usual, the City Paper did a marvelous job with their writeup. They're virtually the only media outlet that does a competent job of discussing DC local issues.

The DC blog scene can be rabid (as can any local blog scene), even outside of the NoVA bubble. Prince of Petworth is almost a textbook case of why blogs (no matter how popular) should usually not be lumped in with journalism, and should never, ever be allowed to have unmoderated comment boards. He drives viewership through misinformation and fearmongering (so, actually, he's not that dissimilar to the local TV news, but I digress....)

So, yeah. There's a bit of 'grar' in there, but I think that this was a decent discussion to have.
posted by schmod at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is unique to DC, I think, is the attitude of the suburban parents.

But even the DC suburbs have vast income disparities. In all the talk about how competitive DC area public schools are, nobody talks about Prince George's County. The fact the PG County is "the wealthiest majority black county in the US" gets thrown around a lot, but that statistic glosses over a lot of poverty and a glaring lack of social safety net, especially in the parts that border east-of-the-river DC. As even far east DC gets too pricey for the poorest families, these border areas in PG County are where a lot of the poorest families wind up.

My old roommate is a high school teacher in a PG County high school just south of DC. He used to say that his work really drove home the point that "inner city," especially when used to describe schools, is just a euphemism for "poor students of color." There is nothing at all urban about southern PG county, but demographically and performance-wise it was the stereotypical inner-city school.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:38 AM on June 15, 2012


Wow, way to play to the cheap stereotypes folks. DCUM forum has a lot more than fights about, "which status stroller is right for our overpriviledged progeny?" There are much more serious discussions about the ins and outs of navigating the DC public/charter school system and that, I'm afraid to tell you, is more than just a "white people's problem." In fact DCUM has a lot more in common with MetaFilter than most of you would care to admit.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:39 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I figured people would glean from both the text of the main article and the supporting links that the parents from the DCUM forums represent a specific segment of the DC urban parenting population, and aren't necessarily representative of the whole.

I think there's a fascinating comparison in the juxtaposition, but I didn't feel like this post hit it, which, as you say, may just be because you already had that in mind when you set up the post but it didn't really come through.
posted by OmieWise at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter what the subject is. Unmoderated anything on the internet will inevitably devolve into a Cavalcade of Insults.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:46 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should say, demographically and performance wise, his school was/is a stereotypical "inner city" school. Hate it when I accidentally leave out words.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2012


Quote: “How can one not judge you?” A better educated class of troll. :D
posted by maiamaia at 7:49 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "There are much more serious discussions about the ins and outs of navigating the DC public/charter school system and that, I'm afraid to tell you, is more than just a "white people's problem." In fact DCUM has a lot more in common with MetaFilter than most of you would care to admit."

Worth noting that some of this was mentioned in the comments to Jeff Steele's thread, linked in this post. Several folks talking about how supportive the site has been to them, and that there are excellent, low-drama discussions that take place on specific topics, such as for children with special needs.

I found it interesting that Steele's first response in the thread was actually to say that DCUM wasn't eliminating anonymous commenting. His belief is that the site's arguments were not tied to user anonymity but rather to their sheer volume of users.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


*Waves from PG County, Maryland, where we don't have Mommy Wars. That's Montgomery County stuff.*
posted by wintermind at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


drlith: "Low-income black neighborhoods. Middle-class black neighborhoods. Rich black neighborhoods. Immigrant-dominated neighborhoods of many sorts."

Nobody talks about these things in these discussions, and yet they very much exist (and in rising numbers at that). I guess it doesn't jibe with the narrative that most people want to tell, but it's definitely there. Despite its reputation for being exceedingly WASPy, the DC Metro area is one of the most weirdly diverse places in the country.

Although you certainly wouldn't want to belittle the very real issue of poverty in DC's low-income black neighborhoods, one also needs to acknowledge that there are some very large and distinct wealthy nonwhite communities in the suburbs, and that a fair percentage of gentrifiers in DC are actually black. Race is a more complicated issue than ever.

I recently worked on a freelancing gig that took me out to Langley HS in McLean, which was almost outlandishly wealthy (I felt poor driving my Audi into that parking lot.) I'd estimate that about 60% of the school was white, and that the minorities actually seemed wealthier as a whole. It's by no means a scientific analysis, but this certainly went against the grain of my expectations.

I'd also have to guess that a lot of the unreasonably-competitive spirit of the area derives itself from the high proportion of stay-at-home moms who have nothing better to do with their time. For the love of God, let's get these women back into the workforce once their kids are old enough to take care of themselves!

Nobody also seems to want to acknowledge that a ton of the wealth in the DC area isn't derived from the civil service; it's from the military and their accompanying contractors. Even within the civil service, there are a disproportionate number of veterans. However, that doesn't make a great talking point, so it doesn't get discussed much either.

In DC itself, upper northwest is home to a lot of foreign diplomats, old money, and other people who are not directly paying the costs of living there. This skews these discussions considerably, and makes any sort of real analysis difficult.


Oh, and let's cut the bullshit about the DC suburbs being somewhat unique. It's a photocopy of Northern New Jersey, minus the working-class "Springsteen" contingent. There are some small differences, but it always amused me when the NoVA kids would mock me for being from Jersey. It's the same thing, but a bit newer, and without good bakeries and pizza.
posted by schmod at 8:00 AM on June 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can you give examples of this? I'm not challenging you, I'm honestly curious.

The primary dysfunction of DC is the feeling that you are at the center of everything. It mostly affects people who have lived there a short time, but the amount of people who think of themselves as important because they have a passing acquaintance with a friend of a Senate staffer is astounding. People who lived there more than 10 years tend to be more mellow and avoid the name dropping, but a significant part of the population is transient and the one-up-manship and name dropping is fatiguing. That this behavior spills over from professional to family life is no surprise to me.

To be fair, I knew plenty of well grounded and modest people too. I may have been a bit dramatic to call the whole place dysfunctional. There are just too many people caught up in the competitive ethos of DC (and make no mistake about it, it is a very edgy and competitive area) and don't when to turn it off. I tried not to drink from those waters myself and years later I still feel like I'm shedding its influence from me.

Maybe this says more about me than it does about DC though.
posted by dgran at 8:01 AM on June 15, 2012


I will say, you can clean up on DC Craigslist because of people who believe you can be judged by your stroller. $350 stroller with rain cover and cup holder and foot muff for $30 because you want to keep up? Don't mind if I do!
posted by hmo at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


ActionPopulated: "is a stereotypical "inner city" school"

Can we please retire 'inner city' as an idiom?

If you want to say "black," then please say "black."

Right now, the socioeconomic demographics of cities are too damn complicated to draw any meaningful conclusions based upon the location of a place.
posted by schmod at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


dgran: "The primary dysfunction of DC is the feeling that you are at the center of everything. It mostly affects people who have lived there a short time, but the amount of people who think of themselves as important because they have a passing acquaintance with a friend of a Senate staffer is astounding. "

In my experience, this is only true of interns. This sort of attitude was much more common in NYC when I worked there.

I work for the Senate, and it's nothing special.
posted by schmod at 8:03 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I certainly have a bias when coming to this discussion, DCUM is my wife's MeFi, or perhaps more appropriately, her AxeMe. We don't rank up to the status of an upper Northwest family, sadly our zip is off by a mere 2 points, putting us in a tragically lower-income, "affordable" neighborhood. But don't let that convince you that the parents in our 'hood are less active or vocal, oh no, DCUM is the city-wide forum, there is also one for Northeast, one for our section of NE, and some of the most acrimony and conspicuous displays come from our micro-area fora, yes, plural.

Incidentally, we have a fancy stroller. We got it on freecycle.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Judging people for judging people because they're judging people. This was sad, old news.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:08 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Waves from PG County, Maryland, where we don't have Mommy Wars. That's Montgomery County stuff.

I'd like to remind you that Mt. Ranier, College Park, and Hyattsville are all in PG County.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:10 AM on June 15, 2012


Schmod: Can we please retire 'inner city' as an idiom?

That was precisely my point, it's just that my comments got disconnected. My roommate used to describe the school he taught at as such, even though "inner city" means nothing as a geographic description of PG County. He used it to call attention to the fact that his school was majority-black and underperforming by NCLB standards.

Left to me I'd just say be blunt and say black. But as long as people are going to keep throwing around "inner city" as if it means something, better to call attention to what they actually mean when they say it.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:15 AM on June 15, 2012


but the amount of people who think of themselves as important because they have a passing acquaintance with a friend of a Senate staffer is astounding.

I agree that that would be draining and unpleasant. It's something I can honestly say I've never experienced in my time in DC, now going on 35 years all told. I may well be running in the wrong circles for it, although I know some people in politics.
posted by OmieWise at 8:18 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The City Paper loves the little dramas that pop up. I'm not surprised to see them all over this. It really is like the encyclopedia drammatica for DC drama.

A friend of mine used to be an avid reader of a Cleveland Park listserv, where someone once made a reference to wanting to avoid a "repeat of the Cosi situation" as near as anyone could tell the "Cosi situation" being a reference to an acrimonious dispute over the opening of a Cosi in the neighborhood. Naturally, I've started using "the Cosi situation" to refer to the kind of dumb fights high income white people in DC have.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:32 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "Naturally, I've started using "the Cosi situation" to refer to the kind of dumb fights high income white people in DC have."

Oh, I'm so using this from now on.

I like that my neighborhood stays out of that stuff, mainly because we're all still astounded and thankful that people don't get shot at as much as they used to.
posted by schmod at 8:40 AM on June 15, 2012


I may well be running in the wrong circles for it, although I know some people in politics.

I took to avoiding certain parts of town. Too many horrible, frightening people. Thankfully, those same people are afraid of the "Inner City" people that are my neighbors and thus avoid my area of town in equal measure!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:42 AM on June 15, 2012


but the amount of people who think of themselves as important because they have a passing acquaintance with a friend of a Senate staffer is astounding.


This isn't really something that strikes me as that long-lasting a sentiment in DC, if only because many, many people are friends with Senate staffers. I used to get thrilled by wearing my Smithsonian ID badge on Metro (ooh, a plastic dangle tag, like an adult!) but I was, well, 17. Summer associates are like that, too, but I feel like the novelty of being a security clearance reference wears off after a while, or seriously, at least it should.

I am still amused by the number of old classmates who have moved back to the area after college and are congratulatory on their hip new apartments in NoMA and Columbia Heights, areas that they never would have touched seven years ago.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:49 AM on June 15, 2012


But even the DC suburbs have vast income disparities.

Actually, the Washington Census MSA has one of the lowest household-income Gini indexes (Table 4 on page 7) among large US metro areas. DC proper's Gini in the same report is through the roof, suggesting that the suburbs' Gini may be a bit lower.

As a relatively recent transplant to Fairfax County, the numbers match my observations compared to Boston and New York. There's extremely wealthy and extremely poor people living here, but the upper-middle class makes up a comparatively huge portion of the population. Of course, the stats are also helped by larger working-class households. It's pretty common in this area to have several wage earners supporting an extended family living in a single house, which'll make per-household stats look better.

This relative equality is mostly a good thing, but it does drive some of the nuttier competitive instincts in the area. Add in a culture of immigrants in the broad sense -- not just from other countries, but other parts of the US -- with the ambitions that go along with economic migration and you get a melting pot of sharp-elbowed parents.
posted by backupjesus at 8:50 AM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Somebody should set up a battle between this DC parent's board and the Park Slope Parents forum.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thought that. Special snowflake request: can that battle take the form of a cage fight under a jungle-gym dome?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:02 AM on June 15, 2012


People using strollers at all, unless it is some sort of minimalist bare bones thing for temporary usage in an airport, look like complete idiots to me. Carry your kid in any of a half-dozen ways. Better for you, the kid, safer and best of all you'll look like a real parent instead of a side show. Then let them walk.
posted by docpops at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2012


At age two, my twins weighed 30 pounds each. Add to that at least one diaper bag containing food, drinks, extra clothes and diapers for both (they did not wear the same size diapers for most of a year between ages 1.5 and 2.5, and besides, diapers are designed with gender in mind.) The bags also contained toys to keep them occupied so I didn't have to be Daddy Entertainer every second.

So basically, I had 75bs of children + stuff to tote around.

Carry them?

You try carrying a couple of two year olds around a mall for an hour. Or three. Who are squirming and crying to be put down. Try feeding them both at the same time. A task which already requires four arms even when they're sitting down and not in your arms.

Walk a mile in our shoes before making ignorant, snide cracks about sideshows.
posted by zarq at 3:46 PM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was lucky, my daughter was still on the growth charts. My friend's kid weighed the same, was nearly as tall, he was 18 months YOUNGER than my daughter. So you tell me how a 7 months out from pregnancy mother with arthritic knees is going to carry an 11 kilo seven month old WHO CANNOT WALK YET around while she does crazy shit like shopping for food, or walking for exercise, or paying bills. At least my two year old could hold herself up on my hip for a while - hell, she could hold herself there unsupported by the time she was 10 months. A seven month old can't.

Not to mention at ten months post-partum I was still getting the physio I needed so I could walk. So better for you is debatable.

Carriers only mitigate, they don't make the kid any lighter.

And anyone who thinks baby carriers are less bourgeoisie than prams has not been part of that subculture. Sure you can knock up a SPOC (single piece of cloth) carrier for a few bucks, but it's not the super-awesome hand-woven in Eastern Europe by grandmothers using wool from organic goats and worth a couple of hundred bucks, so it isn't that good. And Ergos aren't the cheapest of things either. And I've rarely met a baby wearing fan who doesn't have a few carriers (I made an ergo and a met tai and I spent $60 on 2 commercial carriers). And if you think you can actually get shit done with neither pram nor carrier, you haven't actually tried. Exactly where does one put a newborn if you have to carry them AND do something silly like buy food?
posted by geek anachronism at 7:54 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


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