September 22, 2005

"It's just your mission to mow down everything in your sight because you can."

We're getting damned sick of your SUV of a baby stroller:
[M]any are beginning to suspect that the new big strollers are the latest fissure in a long-standing divide between parents and nonparents, a disagreement that usually goes unspoken, over who has made the right choice in life.

"These women have a child, and they're like, 'Look at me,' " said Ophira Eisenberg, 33, a stand-up comedian from the West Village who refers to oversize baby strollers as lawn mowers. "It's like this baby is more important than anything, and everyone should be bowing down because they created life."
I've never understood the charm of the oversized baby stroller. They should revive the old term baby carriage. Why would you want to look and feel bulkier and less maneuverable? I would think someone with a baby would look for ways to keep a sleek profile -- just like you try to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy.

But then I don't see the charm of the SUV.

But even if you like these extra-large possessions, why doesn't it bother you that they annoy other people? Don't you see why other people infer that you just don't care about how you make them feel?

Actually, my pet peeve about strollers isn't about how large they've gotten. (I assume this trend is worse in NYC, where people are into the "Sex and the City" trendy strollers and where walkways are more crowded.) My problem is the way people use strollers to immobilize older children who ought to be encouraged to walk. The dopey faces of the children who have adapted to this restraint really disturb me. What is happening to their minds and bodies?

65 comments:

Bruce Hayden said...

Just like station wagons when I was young, and SUVs today, those big strollers are womb symbols - displaying for all around the fertility of the woman involved.

Sorry to be cynical, but we guys have our phallic symbols too. These are the female equivalents.

Abraham said...

why doesn't it bother you that they annoy other people?

I'm not speaking as one of these people, but we've reached the point where somebody is going to be annoyed at anything you might do. It simply isn't practical to worry about them.

Art said...

Baby technology has advanced a lot since our kids were around. We had the old, foldable umbrella strollers. We would load the handles down with bags of stuff from the farmers market, diapers,etc so they were still pretty bulky. They would fall apart in short order because we overloaded them so much.
But you could still collapse them when you got on a bus.

I would have loved a baby jogger for use on longer walks around the neighborhood....but alas, they had yet to be invented.
Sharon thinks they came about because boomer parents like us DID take our kids out while we exercised.

The baby SUV's leave me cold...esp with older kids. That's why you buy a red wagon..and make your kid pull the vegetables around the square.

Sami said...

What??!!
I'm really taken aback by the negative tone of this. I'm pregnant with my first child, and I got a pretty good sized stroller, because it looked comfortable and it had the features I wanted. I'm certainly not wanting to "display my fertility" or my womb or anything else. The tone of this implies that because someone has a baby and is happy about it, they are trying to "flaunt" something. I hope I'll be polite to others with my stroller, but geez, why the negativity about women with babies?

MrSpkr said...

My wife feels the same way about people who have the automated baby swings. They're little more than wind-up (or motorized) baby sitters for those who can't be bothered to change their lifestyles significantly enough to recognize that a baby will suck up almost all of the parents' free time.

Harkonnendog said...

I agree 100% about having toddler+ kids in strollers. I work in an area where I see this every day almost. These kids have that dopey look on their faces because they've just thrown their 1000th fit because they WANT to get out of that stroller, they NEED to get out of that stroller, but their screwed-up parents don't want to go through the trouble of keeping an eye on their children.

I mean the poor kids are in straight jackets almost. Let them excercise!

As for this:
"people who have the automated baby swings."
That's kind of ridiculous. Babies like to be rocked. What's the difference to a baby between being rocked by a motor or a hand?
None. So why worry?

knoxgirl said...

Sami--I agree that the article was excessively negative. I suspect that some of the critics were projecting superiority on the parents as an excuse to hate them for having expensive possessions. Or maybe just for being parents. Who knows... to me it's like people who have rabid hatred for smokers.

Mrspkr, I have a 3-week-old son who sleeps blissfully in his swing. I spend plenty of time holding him, talking to him, and otherwise interacting with him when he's awake. Not everyone who has a swing uses it as a babysitter :)

Meade said...

Sometimes a baby stroller is just a baby stroller.

Jennifer said...

My problem is the way people use strollers to immobilize older children who ought to be encouraged to walk. The dopey faces of the children who have adapted to this restraint really disturb me. What is happening to their minds and bodies?

I'm with you Ann - this drives me crazy! My son has very rarely been in a stroller since he could walk. And only occasionally once he was able to hold up his head. I'd rather carry him, wear him or (once he could) let him walk. Better exercise for me, better exercise for him. Not to mention, he's just more engaged in what goes on around him.

I have to disagree with MrSpkr though about the baby swings. Perhaps I'm a slightly different situation, but my husband left when my son was 4 days old for 5 months of training. Just getting 15 minutes to eat or mop the floors could be very difficult at times, and I was grateful for the swing when I needed it.

Mark the Pundit said...

The parents I know that use swings often have more than one little kid, and the swing is just another way to know one kid is safe when you have to deal with the other (i.e. feeding, diaper change, whatever).

Too Many Jims said...

Sami,

Make sure your stroller has good wheels. The problem with umbrella strollers compared to these "SUV" strollers is that the wheels are just not as manueverable (oh yeah and the diaper bag fits beter in the SUV type).

Jonathan said...

The NYT -- first to raise concerns about the Man Date, and now first to ask important questions about baby strollers! Do these guys have their finger on the pulse of American life or what?

Jennifer said...

The problem with umbrella strollers compared to these "SUV" strollers is that the wheels are just not as manueverable

The other problem with umbrella strollers is that a child can't actually ride in them until their about 6 months old. Or really shouldn't, anyhow.

You really don't need a stroller much by then. So, then, umbrella strollers for the occasional, really long jaunt are great.

In my opinion, the only time you actually need a stroller is with a newborn. So, the big ones have their use.

Coco said...

The big strollers are helpful...on occasion. If you're going shopping and you have to walk 7 blocks to get there and 7 blocks back (and then are shopping for a couple of hours in between) and you have a toddler and an infant...a big stroller is really helpful....unless you want it to take you and hour to walk each way (toddlers are really slow)!

Plus, if you're just mindful of other people, just as you would be if you were riding a bike, or pushing a granny cart, which tons of people in the city use, its really not a problem for anyone. Except for those scenarios, however, I prefer to use the small stroller - because its a hell of a lot lighter and easier to push.

I obviosuly could drive the seven blocks to do my shopping but its more fun to walk and more practical to push when necessary.

The negativity here on this issue is weird. I don't think I've ever enountered a disapproving glare or snide comment while walking around with a big stroller - and there are far more single than married-with-children folks in my neighborhood.

But that's probably becuase my kids are so darn cut (sorry, couldn't resist)

Coco said...

Er...that should be "cute", not "cut" (I don't have them working out in the gym yet!)

Freeman Hunt said...

After reading the article, I expected the strollers to be enormous. Then I found several pictures of the models mentioned and feh. They just look like strollers to me. I remember my parents having my brother in one of those old umbrella things--it was a cheap piece of crap. If you're going to have to push something around, it's going to have to carry your bags for you. Looks like these new stollers do a better job of that.

Where I live I hardly ever see strollers at all. This must be more of a problem in areas with greater pedestrian traffic.

lindsey said...

"These women have a child, and they're like, 'Look at me,' " said Ophira Eisenberg, 33, a stand-up comedian from the West Village who refers to oversize baby strollers as lawn mowers. "It's like this baby is more important than anything, and everyone should be bowing down because they created life."

This woman sounds like her real issue isn't baby strollers so much as sour grapes.

Also, I suspect they strap the poor toddlers in because they are in a hurry and do not want to wait for the little guy. Can you imagine how much shit these parents would get if they let their toddlers walk around in public? They'd walk so incredibly slow, and the parent would have to walk slowly besides them. Now imagine that in NY. I wonder if more parents aren't strapping their children in because of hostility toward letting their children walk.

OK. Now that I've actually looked at the type of stroller pictured in the article, I don't get the problem. Are they upset because baby carriages are back in? Because that looks less like a stroller than a good old-fashioned baby carriage, modernized and smaller of course. Also, I hate the umbrella-type strollers where the kid's entire body is exposed to the elements, and they stare out into the world. I can only imagine in NYC not wanting that dirty dirty air blasting your small child in the face. Plus, the type pictured allows the mother to look at and speak to her child easier.

Henry said...

What sami said. And Coco. And freeman hunt.

Like freemna, before I went to the article and saw the picture of the perfectly normal-sized Bugaboo I thought there was some kind of super huge stroller I didn't know about.

Good grief. The Bugaboo is not especially big. One reason it is so expensive is that it has an adjustable frame that gives it a much smaller footprint than, for example, the low-end jogging stroller that is a necessity for my family.

So some people are rude. And sometimes they have strollers. This is news?

D S Creep said...

Why should annoying people be a prolem?

Henry said...

Is this now an ongoing series for the Times: Sociological Trends That We Make Up?

Fits well with the Ivy League Mothers-to-be article, I think.

Ann Althouse said...

I had the same reaction to the mismatch between the language in the article and the picture of the actual stroller. I think there's a big jealousy factor here! It looks like a nice downsized carriage for an infant, actually smaller than some of the wheelchair-like strollers I've seen (the kind that raise the problem of restraining older kids that I'm concerned about).

Freeman Hunt said...

Henry, very apt. They do fit well together. They could make it a column and call it "Snorting Down at Mothers."

Sami said...

I think there's just a tendency to judge people with kids, making comments like "I hate people who do this" or "I would never do this". I find myself doing this. Look, you don't really know what you would do until you're in the situation, and you don't know the whole story about the people you see on the street (toddlers in strollers).
Some people are rude, and that's too bad, but don't vilify a whole class of people (parents) because of a few jerks.
I also agree that many of the people quoted in the article have issues other than just being annoyed by strollers. I would hope that people would be secure enough in their choices in life not to have to denigrate others for making a different choice.
In other words, frickin' relax, people!

MD said...

Uh, I don't have kids, very likely won't have any and am pretty much the stereotypical single woman workholic career type, and geez, I don't get the negative reactions to big baby strollers at all. Of all the things you can get upset about, this is it? First of all, kids are adorable (well, at least some are). Why would'nt you be proud of your kid and want to show him or her off? It's a normal human reaction. I love to see the mommies and daddies with all of their kiddie toys. Doesn't cramp my no kiddie style. Be happy. Enjoy your kids. Ignore the grumps....

PS: Growing up with Indian parents I was always surprised by how differently children acted and were treated amongst the other immigrants I knew growing up and the non-immigrants. At any Indian function or party, the kids are running around till midnight, hopped up on coca-cola and totally unsupervised. You don't have dinner parties and not invite the kids, no matter how young or how many. It just didn't happen in my little subculture.

lindsey said...

From the article in the Times:

"Clogging up the paths of shoppers everywhere, these plastic monstrosities often contain piles of shopping bags, purses, grocery bags, extra sandals, sunscreen, diapers and no baby whatsoever," wrote Nathan Alexander of Los Angeles on his Web site, Commercialsihate.com.

How many people have seen someone pushing a stroller with no baby in it? The only time I've seen such a thing was a homeless person collecting cans.

Mr. Alexander told his girlfriend, "If I have a baby, I'm carrying it in a backpack."

Yeah, these people have serious issues. The issue isn't the stroller. They'd like to kill the baby.

Jennifer said...

At any Indian function or party, the kids are running around till midnight, hopped up on coca-cola and totally unsupervised. You don't have dinner parties and not invite the kids, no matter how young or how many. It just didn't happen in my little subculture.

That's interesting, MD. You see the same thing in the military. We have BBQ's, parties, whatever, and the kids are always there.

I'm a little stricter than many, so my kid gets no cola and I take him home earlyish so he can get to sleep. But I don't leave him out.

Ann Althouse said...

The best solution to the excessive restraint of the stroller really is one of those old harness and leash things. But that would not be a good way to fly under the disapproval radar.

alkali said...

1. People in New York (and other big cities) often get married in their 30s.

2. Hence, they have fertility problems when they try to have kids.

3. Hence, they resort to IUI or IVF, each of which have an increased likelihood of multiple births.

4. Hence, "double" (and "triple") strollers are more common.

5. Hence, snarky NYT article about how big strollers are these days in NYC.

SteveR said...

There are times when strapping kids in, who can walk, is appropriate for safety and/or efficiency of time. Anything can be overdone, even feeling like we are smarter than someone else.

Harkonnendog said...

"At any Indian function or party, the kids are running around till midnight, hopped up on coca-cola and totally unsupervised. You don't have dinner parties and not invite the kids, no matter how young or how many. It just didn't happen in my little subculture."

Neat. In Hawaii most big parties include inflatable kid's slides and the like for the same reasons.

Aaron said...

Another feature of modern strollers is that they double as car seats. The stroller seat becomes the car seat - which means a level of structural studiness that is a space and money saver. Do we want people to buy two seperate products?

mcg said...
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mcg said...

Setting aside the actual subject of the post (SUV strollers) for a moment, this paragraph---ironically---annoys me!

But even if you like these extra-large possessions, why doesn't it bother you that they annoy other people? Don't you see why other people infer that you just don't care about how you make them feel?

I frankly hope I never arrange my life based on what simply annoys other people. My gosh, sometimes I think we've become a limp, weak people that can't leave well enough alone and have elevated the offense of, well, offense to the status of a crime!

Now, if I am causing someone genuine inconvenience or physical discomfort, that's one thing. But something is not inconsiderate just because people want it to be. There must be a far more compelling standard than that.

In brief, I respect your right to annoy me, and I expect you to respect mine. If you don't, well... oh well.

mcg said...

Now, having said that, I must plead guilty to having a Big Honkin Stroller for our daughter.

Behold: The Chariot Cougar 1.

I bought this originally because it converts into a jogger and a bike trailer (much preferred, IMO, to an on-the-bike seat.) Heck, the thing even converts to a cross-country skiier but I don't plan on taking advantage of that.

What I found was that in 'stoller mode', the thing is just so darn MANEUVERABLE. Wow, the thing just glides, thanks to very low rolling friction. So on my morning walk around the neighborhood, I've taken to using it.

Now of course, we also have a more compact fold-up stroller for times when that is appropriate. And eventually, my daughter will be walking with me. Until then, though, this stroller is DA BOMB.

But not in NYC, apparently :)

Aaron said...

I am buying this on layaway in preperation for my child - it may be a little bit of overkill but my child is worth it. I know that even in icy conditions this will keep my kids comfortable.


http://www.starwars.com/databank/vehicle/atat/

jeff said...

You know, I wonder if all this is because women with small children are going out more? And those diaper bags... more and more useful stuff just seems to end up in them. And I think they are loaded for longer trips than they used to be.

Therefore a larger stroller to carry it all.

And... regarding the older kids in them, the parents probably figure that security (nobody's grabbing my kid if he/she runs off) outweighs any negatives.

It basically the same as the SUV/Minivan thing that I think was discussed here recently - the stuff has gotten larger because the "required" accessories (car/booster seats in the SUV/Minivan case) have gotten larger as well.

Or maybe it's a case of "this is what mothers wanted all along" but finally women have gotten high enough in the design chain to actually get what they want instead of what they were given. Sort of like women's running shorts a few years back.

Be said...

I don't work in downtown Boston anymore, mercifully, but my boyfriend does and he tells me that he's been run off the sidewalks several times by women with the "double wides" on Newbury Street.

I do find it interesting how so many people here view this as a case of 'sour grapes' on the part of childless people. Those of us who have to deal with this tend to think of it more as another manifestation of the sadly typical rudeness and entitlement (maybe) peculiar to our neck of the woods. An extension the whole being cut off by the cell-phone conversing saab or volvo driver thing.

Jennifer said...

Be: What does your boyfriend propose as a solution?

Mothers stay at home so he need never step aside?

Mothers drop their children in day care so they never see the light of day?

Or people just not have children?

As much as I prefer other methods to strollers, I really don't see why some people believe the sheer fact that a person is using a stroller to be a direct affront to them.

mcg said...

Be, I think we can all agree that rude is rude. A stroller-pushin' parent with little patience, a lack of consideration, and poor etiquette is no friend to anyone. And I grant you that the accusations of sour grapes are unfounded, too.

Beyond that, I agree with Jennifer: what alternative is there? There are two-seater strollers that are double-length instead of double-wide, but they have their own practical issues. And for the mean-spirited sods in that NYT article, they would be considered no better.

This article simply reeks of a nasty attitude, and it diminishes the few valid points it does make.

It's like your car example. Why the need to single out Saab or Volvo? Is it really any less rude if someone cuts you off in a Chevrolet?

Cat said...

I'm with Lindsay. When you live in a walking city like NY, it would take forever to get places if you let your toddler toddle. Under 4 it's OK to push the kid (and most times THEY want to push - always in a rush to grow up).

The bigger wheels not only last longer, they get ride better up and down curbs and through snow.

I never had a stroller as a baby - I had a metal carriage or as the Brits call it, a pram, with huge wheels and it was used for 20 years. I wish I still had it.

Like This http://www.tinyride.com/Inglesina-Classic-P102.aspx?src=NXT&cpn=1412-LG3

I think the problem is nobody wants to be bothered with anybody. If people were just polite and courteous...

Cat said...

By the way, when I meant used for 20 years...I meant my family used it. I did not use it until I was 20. : )

Be said...

Jennifer and MCG:

Two simple things:

1.) Time it so that you are not taking your jog during rush hour

2.) Tailor your route so it is not on one of the busiest streets in the city.

Common sense.
Common courtesy.

Jennifer said...

Be: You cannot be serious.

Parents should not be allowed out during rush hour or on busy streets?

Do you have a similar problem with people bound to wheelchairs? Or is that an acceptable use of space in the world according to you?

What about those who are just extra fat? Or carrying large bags?

Jennifer said...

And what on earth makes you think the life of a parent is so leisurely as to allow one to time everything around "real" people and their chosen paths?

Nancy said...

With my first, she walked almost everwhere I did. She preferred it that way. Now that I have two, I can't get anything done while my toddler runs in and out of stores on our trips to the mall. Trips to the mall mainly become trips chasing the toddler and hoping the pre-schooler is not far behind you.

I have an SUV because stooping over the children four to six times a day to buckle them in their seats is rough on the lower back. I did it for my first daughter, but when the second came along--my back was ready for a break.

MD: After hiring a babysitter so my husband and I could attend a baby shower for an Indian friend of mine, she told me that it was taken for granted that children were invited, which is why the hostess didn't mention it and why we were the only couple without kids at the party. I get what you're saying.

Nancy said...
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Bruce Hayden said...

I want to appologize for my first post. It was a little over the top. Sorry to all I offended.

I do appreciate the need for big strollers. My girlfriend has two grandsons, now 1 1/2 and 3 1/2. A year ago, we would go for long walks with them. The big one didn't last that long, and the younger one wasn't walking yet.

So, we used one of those double long strollers. And filled it up with all that junk you need with kids that age when you are going to be gone for an hour or so. Diapers, bottles, wipes, blankets, toys, etc. I had the thrill of pushing it up all the hills, while she got to push on the flats. She blamed her back and that I was getting in shape for skiing. I thought it sexist.

mcg - that one looks like a take off on the Baby Jogger we had when my daughter was small - but with maybe a little storage space (which we didn't have). It was amazing all the places we were able to take it. The big wheels made walking on the gravel road to our house enjoyable. We did have a normal stroller with small wheels that folded up, but probably used the Baby Jogger 90% of the time.

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann said: "My problem is the way people use strollers to immobilize older children who ought to be encouraged to walk. The dopey faces of the children who have adapted to this restraint really disturb me. What is happening to their minds and bodies?"

On one level, I emphasize with your thoughts here. But on the other, I should point out that small kids just can't keep up with adults, and they don't have that much endurance.

So, when you are going some where, or trying to get much needed exercise, you often don't really have much of a choice.

Let me add that kids in car seats are invariably restrained even more. You are taught to make sure the belts, etc. are about as tight as you can get them without cutting off circulation. And plenty of parents bop around town with their kids tightly restrained (hopefully) in the back seat.

mcg said...

Be, if you are talking specifically about a stoller-pushing parent jogging during rush hour on a crowded city sidewalk---I agree with you.

I think Jennifer is thinking you suggested parents shouldn't be out doing business during rush hour on crowded city streets. That, of course, is silly, but I think she misread you. I hope I am right.

Patrick said...

How many people have seen someone pushing a stroller with no baby in it?

(glances about nervously) Umm, that would be me.

I agree with the commenters who think the general hostility to baby carriages in that article is a little weird. But I do find myself getting annoyed at the moms I've encountered (many, though by no means most, and never, in my experience, a dad) who drive the child to the store in the stroller, then carry the child around while using the stroller as a combination shopping cart and aisle-clearing device. If someone else hadn't brought it up, though, I'd have considered it too small a grievance to mention.

From my POV, the baby thingies don't pose nearly the hazard or inconvenience that is occasioned by the proliferation of those rolling flight-attendant-type bags now in wide use by ordinary commuters.

MrSpkr said...

Harkonnendog said: What's the difference to a baby between being rocked by a motor or a hand?


Rocking him (or her) is one of the best ways to bond (in my experience). Parents that regularly rely on the swing to entertain/calm/sedate the baby miss a chance not only to teach their child that those qualities can come from mom and dad, but also to perform some basic bonding with the child. I'm a pretty strong believer in heavy physical interaction with young children as a bonding measure.

Knoxgirl said: Mrspkr, I have a 3-week-old son who sleeps blissfully in his swing. I spend plenty of time holding him, talking to him, and otherwise interacting with him when he's awake. Not everyone who has a swing uses it as a babysitter :)

I know. My wife and I know people that think the motorized swing is a great place to leave the toddler all afternoon. I think that's a sad waste of an opportunity to bond.

Jennifer said: Just getting 15 minutes to eat or mop the floors could be very difficult at times, and I was grateful for the swing when I needed it.

Wow. I don't envy your situation. Single parents (even those temporarily single, as my wife was around finals each semester in law school!) have a little more leeway IMHO.

Eli Blake said...

All this 'bigness' is on the way out. People's perceptions sometimes lag reality, but the fuzzy, warm, wealthy, 'hi-growth' world of the last two decades is growing colder and harder.

Gas prices are not coming down (and living in a poor, rural area where a many people have to drive long distances to get anywhere) you would be surprised by the number of SUV's and fullsized pickup trucks I see with 'for sale' signs on the windows.

Thanks to the enormous and certain to grow larger budget deficits (with debt held at higher and higher rates), you can expect that over the coming years to not be a choice any longer between government spending MORE OR CUTTING taxes, but instead government spending LESS AND RAISING taxes just to pay interest on the debt (as well as Katrina, Iraq, well you name it).

We no longer have control of our borders and have a hostile, elite foreign commando unit (google 'zetas') which is actually now operating inside the US and murdering US citizens in our own country. Meanwhile, we have no clue how to stop the influx of illegals, who will come as long as there are jobs for them. Meanwhile, the US is still the number one target for terrorists, while the best military machine the world has ever seen, which we had, has been squandered on a poorly planned and quickly becoming an unwinnable war.

Wages are going down, standard of living is going down, and consumer as well as institutional debt is going up (just in time for the new bankruptcy bill to take effect). What we have seen with airlines lately will become more widespread, as companies discover that they can file for bankrupcty and disgorge their pension systems. What are the retirees or soon to be retirees going to do about it anyway? Sure, they have social security, but for how long?

I suspect the preoccupation with 'size' is a leftover status symbol from when status symbols were in, but at least my take on this is it is going the way of the dinosaur and the world we are going into is going to be more and more about survival.

lindsey said...

Status symbols are always "in". Being prejudiced against SUV drivers and people pushing baby carriages seems to be the new "moral" status symbol among a certain crowd.

I wonder what Liv Tyler thought about having a picture of her pushing a baby carriage illustrating an article about people who hate baby carriage pushers.

mcg said...

MrSpkr: I'm glad to see you brought a bit the art of moderation somewhere between your first and second post. I had just about written you off as one of those ultra-orthododox Dr. Sears cultists who see neglect in every home where the children aren't still co-sleeping with their parents at 3 years of age :)

I actually find the kind of broad strokes you painted with in your first post a bit more irritating than the NYT article. Because at least in the article, it's easy to blow them off as people who just don't "get" the complexities of childrearing.

Eli: I appreciate your comments in the general sense; but last time I checked, my jogging stroller doesn't have a gas tank :) I don't see it being downsized any time soon.

purple_kangaroo said...

First of all, I want to say that I've been rammed by many more grocery store shopping carts than I ever have by strollers. I've seen more peopel be rude with shopping carts than with strollers, and a fully-loaded metal shopping cart is a dangerous weapon indeed.

I'm a parent of three children, ages 4, 3, and 7 weeks. When my second child was born, my first was a year old and had just barely started toddling.

Have you ever tried carrying an infant, a one-year-old, a diaper bag and several shopping bags in your arms? You should.

A double stroller was a necessity--especially since I had severe back and shoulder problems which precluded the use of a sling or front-pack carrier for any length of time.

I did a lot of research (the stroller message board on iVillage/parentsplace was an invaluable resource) and decided on a side-by-side. It was much lighter and more maneuverable than a front-and-back stroller, and it had the important safety features I wanted.

My double stroller was 28" wide (the same width as a wheelchair and the smallest possible width for a double SBS) and turned on a dime.

Even so, there were a lot of places it wouldn't fit. I can't believe how narrow some stores make their aisles. It made me realize how handicapped-inaccessible many places are.

There were times when someone needed to get by and it was impossible to get out of their way or turn around. In a case where one person is able to easily move out of the way and the other isn't, it is necessary for the person who can get out of the way to do so.

I always apologized, of course, but it's not reasonable to expect the one with the stroller to walk backwards the entire length of the store when the other person could simply step into a side aisle for ten seconds to let the stroller pass.

Our culture today is very different than it was in the past, when people grew most of their own food and rarely left home, or had relatives and neighbors to help with the shopping and/or care for the children. And may I point out that the old prams were much bulkier than today's strollers, for the most part?

The fact is that for many parents, it's either use a stroller or stay home unless they can limit themselves to 10-minute trips which don't require carrying anything of substance.

As for the swings, I had two babies with reflux and one with colic. One thing about severe infant reflux is that you can't lay the baby flat--they are only comfortable when at a 45-degree or greater angle. So things like swings and infant seats become a necessity if you are ever going to put the baby down at all. And if you have more than one child, or even if you need to do something like take a shower or cook over a hot stove, you certainly have to put the baby down sometimes.

Have you ever tried giving two toddlers a bath while holding an infant in a front-pack carrier? Extremely dangerous, if not impossible.

It's all very well to talk about bonding, but when you've been walking the floor with a screaming baby for 6 hours straight and it's 3 a.m., if the swing is the only thing that keeps the baby happy for a few minutes and/or puts her to sleep, who is going to to begrudge that to a parent?

Walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you judge.

purple_kangaroo said...

About the size issue:

I really don't think many people, if any at all, pick a stroller because it's big. In my experience, most parents want to get the smallest possible stroller that has all the features they consider necessary.

That article was totally wrong when it said that there's no difference (or no way for a parent to tell the difference) in safety between various stroller models. There are plenty of resources like consumer reports, customer reviews, and discussion boards where parents can research and compare various strollers. Of course, they'll want to try out and compare several in the store as well.

Some companies and types of strollers have many more recalls than others. Some styles are obviously safer than others--for example, a stroller with a bar or a 5-point harness is much safer and harder for the child to get out of than an umbrella stroller that lets them lean forward and catch their fingers in the wheels or slide out of the belt onto the ground.

A lightweight umbrella stroller will tip over backwards very easily if you put a moderate amount of weight on the handles. Also, as someone else mentioned, an umbrella stroller with no recline cannot be used at all for infants too young to sit up. And a stroller with tiny wheels that gets stuck at every crack in the sidewalk and is almost impossible to roll on rough surfaces isn't very useful to most suburbanites.

There are all kinds of features parents look for and consider when purchasing a stroller.

The harness type and level of recline is important, as is whether the straps are long enough or tighten enough to fit a given child. There are huge variations in weight, wheel size and type, maneuverability and ease of folding and unfolding.

Extras like snack trays, pretty fabrics and cupholders are important to some; durable construction and good safety records/consumer reviews are more important to others.

Most people nowadays want a basket big enough to hold a diaper bag and some shopping, since hanging a lot of weight on the handle makes a stroller unstable.

Different strollers are rated for different weights and heights of children. Tall and short parents will want different strollers so that they can reach the handles or aren't kicking the wheels.

Having a stroller that fits into the trunk of your car is important, as is having one that you can lift and push without difficulty.

It's really nice if the stroller doesn't fall apart after a few dozen uses, and if it has a large enough canopy to protect your child from the elements.

The considerations in making a stroller decision are nearly endless. Since it's an item most parents use a lot for several months or more, it is an important decision.

Sure, everyone used to use simple umbrella strollers or prams. But they also used to let their kids sit on the floor of the car or hold them in their laps instead of using a child safety seat. Just because people used to make do with poor tools doesn't mean we shouldn't take advantage of better ones now that they're available.

Jennifer said...

Be, if you are talking specifically about a stoller-pushing parent jogging during rush hour on a crowded city sidewalk---I agree with you.

mcg - I agree with both of you if that was what Be was talking about. That didn't even cross my mind, because what runner in their right mind wants to be stuck in rush hour pedestrian traffic?

I suppose its possible that there are a few who so desire to be seen that they don't care that they aren't actually able to jog on their jogs. But its hard to believe that's such a prevalent problem that one develops an attitude about it.

BTW, you're comment about ultra-orthododox Dr. Sears cultists cracked me up. I admit I tend toward that extreme sometimes.

Sally said...

Coco,

You are probably a polite and respectful Mommy with a big stroller on your shopping trips. When I run into big stroller Mommies like you I am entirely unannoyed. Moms such as you tend to say "excuse me" and negotiate passings and sidewalk space just as anyone else.

But, there is another mommy out there! They tend to be yuppies, and they tend to walk in mommy groups of huge SUV carriages, and they tend to barrel over others with an "out of my way!" attitude. These Mommy groups have also shown up for "play dates" at my local hip coffee shop, and have all but asked me to leave my chair, without so much as an apology. I'm wondering if yuppies, when having children, tend to view themselves as Mother Theresas -giving and selfless - as in our generation we have been raised to be so selfish. Of course having a child and being a mother is a quite normal and ordinary and beautiful thing yet I'd prefer not to be barrelled over on the sidewalks, or move from my comfy chair in the coffee shops to make way for Mommy and Me play dates. I'd also love it if one of the Mommy's my age in the neigborhood I just moved to would say hello to me before my belly starts to swell.

tcd said...

I can see why some people are hostile to people with kids. I've noticed that the 2 worst kinds of drivers (I am a commuter) are teen boys and soccer moms in minivans or SUVs. It never fails that when I get cut off in traffic or the car that is causing traffic problems is invariably driven by a snot-nosed teenager or a woman with kids in the car. They are concentrating on everything else instead of how they are driving so I think the hostility to the big strollers may be an extension of many of our other experiences with rude, inattentive soccer moms. Also, nothing ruins a nice meal at a restaurant more than a screaming brat at the next table.

Tom said...

The thing about a lot of these newer designs is that the collapsing and articulation systems are so complicated you need a PhD in engineering to figure out how the work the damn thing.

Our neighbors still push their daughter around in a stroller. She's 6. She weighs 75 pounds. I think there's a correlation.

Tristram said...

Okay, I have a 4month old. We have a 'Travel System', which allows the infant car seat to fit in the stroller, thus giving rise to the SUV size.

I don't lioke it, but here's part of the cause: regulations / laws for baby conveyors. I'd prefer smaller, but it looks like there is a tradeoof between size/wieght and price. Plastic is cheaper, and fairly ligth, but you need more of it for rigidity. Aluminum would probably be better, and titanium presuambly best, but I had already spent more then $200 on items I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE HOSPITAL WITH MY BABY IF I DIDN'T BUY!

And to add cost to insult, he is so big, he is no longer allowed to stay in the infant seat (27.5" long at 4mo, infant seat only good for <=26"), and we had to buy another car seat that won't fit in the travel system. Of course it cost more than the travel system, and doesn't have a stroller, so we are still using the stoller part of the TS.

Bah.

When you see a big stoller, you see a PITA. I see $500 and counting. And so freaking many people willing to brand be a bad parent, cite me, threaten me with child endangerment if I don't use government approved equipment.

We all have problems and annoyances, just be glad you have the money and don't have to worry about being second guessed (or worse) on the treatment of your child.

ammergal said...

1. Commenters dissing baby swings and double strollers have obviously never had colicky babies or more than one child under 3.

2. Anyone who has ever tried to take an umbrella stroller out of a mall environment onto an urban sidewalk or park path knows they are hard to push and very uncomfortable for children. What's wrong with buying what works? It's the "drivers" who are the problem, not the equipment. On the other hand, maybe it's the singles who can't bear to be inconvenienced for 10 seconds who are the problem.

3. To the man in the article who claims he would carry his baby in a backpack: I hope you enjoy the sensation of warm spit-up oozing down your neck. Maybe it will make you feel superior.

4. Is anyone really surprised to read that New Yorkers hate stroller-wielding mothers?

A said...

The judgmental tone of the article, the post and some of the comments is very sad. Do you really think that parents don't have a good reason their "older" child is in the stroller and that they are never getting any exercise because they aren't walking at that very moment? I personally hate to NEED strollers because they are so inconvenient, I prefer the sling myself. However for longer trips and if my back is hurting the stroller is a life saver. To choose to use a stroller as a phallic symbol is just plain silly.

The thought that I should care if my "larger" stroller annoys people is laughable, and I hope your opinion on that has been re-evaluated since that initial post. Do you care if the shirt you are wearing annoys people because they have to look away its so ugly, if your opinion politics annoys people because it makes them think, if you taking too long to pull out of your parking spot annoys people because they have to wait? Where is the line? (I'm not actually commenting on your choice of clothing!)

I was in NYC recently with my stroller and found maneuvering the streets, buses and subways exhausting but manageable. The NYC people were actually very helpful and kind (for the most part). If you see a stroller without a child in it its because the child will walk, ride, be carried, push, ride, run, etc. There actually ARE parents who let their kids out of the stroller now and then as you request, but I guess then the commenter who is mad at seeing an empty stroller would be mad about that too. Whom should I try not to annoy in that situation?

The bitching should really be about rude people in general, not parents with strollers.

On a more personal note, I was sad to see this post on a bog that I have been reading and loving for quite some time. We don't always have the same opinions, but this post felt a little mean and unkind.

Kevin S. said...

Says the comic: "It's like this baby is more important than anything . . . "

I hate to break it to this woman, but the baby, the baby's comfort, and the ability to transport the baby are all likely much more important than any mild inconvenience to a pedestrian.

Of course, I hate bicyclists who operate as cars or pedestrians, depending on his or her convenience. Give me uniform transportation and dependence on foreign oil.......

MrSpkr said...

purplekangaroo:

Four kids, the youngest three spread two years apart. The middle two arrived during law school -- one was colicky as heck; the other, born with Down's Syndrome, severe reflux problems, constipation and a whole host of other high-maintenance issues.

I've been there, and done that, too. I'm not trying to sound holier than thou, though I can understand if I came off that way. I just think it sad when people over-rely on gadgets to calm/soothe/occupy their children rather than being doing it themselves.