Strollers as a class symbol

Cars are the classic class symbol: when you see someone driving around in a BMW, Audi, or Range Rover, you know they have a certain amount of money. Yes, they are luxury cars and, with that, comes a nicer ride. But they also signify to those around that you come from a *certain* socioeconomic class. I’m not @-ing people who do have luxury cars—just recognizing that their consumer choices have social ramifications.

Well, when you enter into parenthood, strollers do that same thing. Strollers signify to those around your class status.

First, you have the Uppababy and Stokke class of strollers. These can be reaching the $1,000 mark or higher. But even beyond the price tag, these strollers signal a certain *fanciness* (if you will, lol). These strollers are all bougie, all day—you can’t deny it. Don’t get me wrong though: I’ve pushed a few Uppababies in my day, and damn, do they do feel nice. There’s just something that’s smoother about the ride.
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Maybe I think they feel so nice because the stroller we have falls into the ‘bougie-but-pretending-not-to-be’ category of class status. We have the Baby Jogger City Mini GT. Now, if you don’t have a kid, you have no idea what I’m talking about. But once you know this stroller, you will see it everywhere. It’s in the $300-$400 range, which is NOT nothing. We justified it by claiming that we walk the dogs everyday with A, so he’ll spend a lot of time in the stroller. Which is true! But now, almost two years in, I’ve started nitpicking the stroller (he can’t sit up straight enough!), which is ridiculous and I recognize that. Still, it’s a really nice ride and says to the people around us that we have some money/will probably make more money in the future/but try to pretend we don’t care about class status. Lol. (can you tell I’m trying to be self-deprecating here!?)

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Then, we have the good, old umbrella strollers. Classic. What most of us grew up with probably. This says, I’m just getting what is practical (both financially and otherwise). They can range from $20 up (though some of the fancy brands have umbrella strollers for $200—this isn’t what I’m talking about).

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Now, of course, there are things that fall in between these *very rough* categories. But, like I said earlier, I’m trying to light-heartedly call attention to the fact that parenting is a political, social and economic endeavor—and that the purchases we make as parents can perpetuate things like class status in the world. I don’t know if we would make a different choice if we did it all again, but at the very least, it’s worth recognizing.

My Miscarriage Stories

My first miscarriage was in September 2015. The first month we started trying to get pregnant, we got pregnant! I felt so lucky and a little nervous, but mostly lucky. We told our family the day we tested positive. It was so exciting! I still have the videos of telling our family. Around 5 and half weeks, I noticed some brown stuff in my underwear. I remember exactly where I was–in the powder room of the house where I babysat. I immediately called my husband. That first day and a half, there wasn’t enough bleeding to be sure of anything. Lots of women spot during their first trimester, they say. I didn’t know if I was letting my anxious mind get away from me or I really was miscarrying…

I knew so little then. I didn’t even know if it was a miscarriage or a chemical pregnancy I was experiencing. I didn’t seek any medical supervision, because I don’t know why…I just didn’t.

There was a day and a half of mental torture—I would check my underpants obsessively for any brown or red discharge. No, I’m not! Yes, I am! After about 2 days, the spotting got heavy enough that I was sure I was miscarrying. It took me about a day of intense grieving—just lying in bed and being sad. The next night, I had the most intense pain of my life. Then after those days, it felt just a like a period but a little weepier.

That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about miscarriages, I think. Before I had my own, I thought they were these surprise, acute events and were over in a few hours. I didn’t realize they would happen (both physically and emotionally) over days, weeks, or even months. It can take over a month for a woman’s body to heal from a miscarriage. My body took six weeks. Emotionally, it can take longer. The longest emotional symptom I had was anxiety.  When I got pregnant with A, I was extremely anxious. Every single time I went to the bathroom for the three weeks between my positive home pregnancy test and my ultrasound, I checked for spotting. Luckily, it all worked out and I ended up with the sweetie little, hyper, happy boy we have today.

Flash forward to a April 2018. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called ‘Joy, pt. 3’ and said that some things happened in our house and I needed to find the joy in motherhood. The main thing that happened that week was my second miscarriage. It’s almost an identical story to my first miscarriage. First month we were trying. Six weeks along. Spotting. Uncertainty (and that mental bargaining with grief) for a few days. Then finally, confirmation.

Again, I remember where I was vividly when I first saw spotting (something about the intensity of that emotion must cement the memory). I was peeing before my regular Monday yoga class, when I noticed just a little redness on the toilet paper. My yoga instructor, who I have known for years and went to prenatal yoga with while pregnant with A, asked if I was okay (my emotions must have been showing on my face). I cried during yoga class that day, and afterwards, cried to my yoga instructor.

The second time, I did get medical supervision, because I have a relationship with my OB (the same one that delivered A). Blood work and an ultrasound confirmed I was miscarrying on a Tuesday. I was by myself in the doctor’s office. Got a lot of hugs from the ultrasound tech, who said she’d had two miscarriages herself. Freaked out the Phlebotomist by crying when she asked me my birthday.  The only thing different between this miscarriage and my first is I didn’t have the intense pain, just a boat load (the *official* medical term, btw) of blood and clots. It’s only been a few weeks, so that intense pain could still come. This time, there was definitely grief. Not as intense as last time—since I had A, I’m just more distracted and can’t focus on it as much. There was more disbelief though—‘Is this really happening a second time?’ I said multiple times to my husband. Sometimes I’d laugh when I said it. Sometimes, I’d be serious.

Miscarriages suck. They are emotionally and physically tough, and often women have to go about their lives and pretend like everything is normal to their coworkers, friends, and family. I know I needed to talk about it to process it, and there were times I felt like people thought I was over-reacting or talking about it too much. Yes, lots of women experience them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t suck. Many women have a miscarriage story or two. These are mine.

Tickling and consent

I hated being tickled as a kid (and as an adult now!), as I’m sure many others do. I always lived by the belief that you shouldn’t really tickle kids. In all my interactions with toddlers and elementary aged kids, I tended to follow that rule.

But A seems to love being tickled. And I don’t mean, ‘he laughs when we tickle him so that shows us he loves it.’ Everyone laughs when they get tickled, whether they like it or not. It’s an uncontrollable reaction. When I say A loves getting tickled, I mean he ASKS to be tickled. With a cute little grin as he anticipates it, he says ‘more tickle? More tickle?’.

So given his enjoyment of it, we do tickle A—but only in some circumstances. I’m not the first to write about this, and I don’t pretend this is my idea. But I will reiterate it in brief and clear terms: tickling can help introduce children to the idea of consent. In the current reckoning of rape culture going on (#metoo), teaching my son what consent is from an early age is important. Of course, I’m not going to talk about sex and rape to my one and half year old, but I can teach him that when someone doesn’t want to be touched (or tickled), you stop.

This goes two ways during our tickle-times. First, I proactively ask him if he wants to be tickled before I start. Second, if he says ‘no’ or ‘stop’, then I stop immediately. Both actions show him that he has control over what happens to his body and that I will respect those boundaries. I am modeling for him behavior that I expect from him.

I think the major criticism of this is that it takes the organic playfulness out of tickling. For a kid who—at least most of the time—wants to be tickled, stopping to ask before you start EVERY time might seem like a lot. It doesn’t have to be an overly serious conversation though. Last night, I just said ‘can I tickle you?’ and he grinned and said ‘Yeah’ in that adorable way that he does. So, I tickled him. And we played. And maybe, unconsciously, he filed away in his mind something about consent.

The Value of Caregiving

A few days ago, I was reading about ‘the baby penalty’ for women in academic careers. The article talks about how women who have babies early in their university careers are more likely to take second-tier and lower-paying positions (adjuncts or part time teaching positions at universities) or completely leave the academy. The article presents this as something to fix—which, of course, it is.

But what if, instead of approaching this as a problem of why women are pushed away from paying careers, we approach it as a problem of why men are pushed away from caregiving? Instead of ‘women are prioritizing caregiving over careers’, we say ‘men are prioritizing careers over caregiving’? After all, sitting on your deathbed, are you going to say ‘I really wished I worked more on Sundays,’ or are you going to say ‘I wish I spent as much time as possible with my kids’?

Maybe this is semantics, but it was a little thought that kept niggling away in my mind as I read the article. Perhaps because I was the ‘problem’ that this article is trying to address. I am a mother, young in my university career, who finds herself more and more drawn away from a career in a university and more and more towards caregiving (happily).

I’m hesitant to even publish this, because I don’t want to undermine women who do value careers and want to dedicate their time to that. That’s badass and awesome, and women often face enormous struggles when they are dedicated to their careers. I say this coming from a home where my mother was the primary breadwinner and my father was the one waiting for us at home when we got off the bus. He always worked when we were kids, but he also dedicated much of his time to caregiving (Do you agree, mom & dad? Lol—LOVE YOU). I am really proud of that fact.

The point is: caregiving is systemically under-esteemed in our society, and men are pushed away from it because of that. As a traditionally feminine undertaking, caregiving is chronically underpaid and undervalued (think teachers, early childhood educators, nursing home staff, stay-at-home parent etc.). Some may even think that full-time caregiving is not contributing to society (think of criticisms of stay-at-parents—‘what do they even do all day?’).

Despite that, I do believe that having deep, personal, loving connections is the meaning behind this thing called life. And caregiving facilitates that. I feel sad for men that are denied the opportunity to invest their time and emotional energy into caregiving because of the capitalist pull towards paid work. Obviously, there are some practical components to this:

  1. Households need money to survive, and caregiving is either not paid at all or paid very poorly.
  2. Some people don’t actually like caregiving. It’s a grinding at times (though joyful at others).

But still, if A were to call us in 30 years and say he was going to be a stay-at-home parent, I would not only be thrilled for him but proud of him as well.