A few weeks ago, I read a Salon.com interview with Laura Miller, a hip, young (childless) gal living in New York, who maintains a blog on tumblr called Too Big for Stroller. She posts surreptitiously-snapped pictures of children who she deems to be … well, too big for their strollers, along with funny (if snarky) comments.
The idea is that kids who are spilling out of their MacLarens should be walking, and that their gangly legs hanging over the restraining bars are illustrative of the epidemic of the overindulgent American parent. I don’t disagree with the basic premise. Seeing an 8-year-old in a stroller would probably make me elbow my husband and ask him why he didn’t bring my adult size umbroller. I can be as snide as the next guy.
But this part of the Salon interview rubbed me the wrong way (the italics are mine):
"I wrote a caption at one that said: 'When I have a kid, it will be strapped to me as an infant, and then walking, no middle ground.' You know, a joke. And someone commented: 'I said the same exact thing and I really meant it. But then my two-year-old started walking and she never walks in the same direction twice. The stroller is necessary.' The blog is all kidding around. I do think that at some point I will have a kid and I will push a stroller but there's still this impractical or immature side of me that thinks there's something fundamentally un-cool about strollers. I mean, you could be the world's best businesswoman, but when you're pushing a stroller it just screams: 'I'm a parent, this is all I am.' I get why strollers are around, I don't hate them, they're appropriate for babies and toddlers. I just think it's funny when kids who are way too big for them are in them."
Maybe I'm hypersensitive thanks to my current stay-at-home-mom status, but implicit in that italicized sentence I read the following equations:
Businesswoman > Parent
World’s best businesswoman + parent = 0
Ms. Miller seems to say that being a parent is far below all life's other accomplishments and, what's more, that becoming a parent nullifies all the things that once made a person interesting. If I were to take her judgment personally, I’d have to add an equation along the lines of “Meg = Pathetic Nobody.” (But that's bonkers. I mean, have you met me?)
This past weekend, my mom and I were talking about my unplanned (though likely temporary) transition out of the traditional workplace and she asked me, "Do you ever feel unfulfilled? Like you're missing out on something?" I said immediately, "Absolutely not." She replied, "No, I never did either." And that makes perfect sense to me. In the 20-ish years that my mom stayed home with my four siblings and me, she was a seamstress, Girl Scout leader, musician, teacher, mentor, chef, nurse, gardener, artisan and about 40 other job titles. My dad, in addition to working a full-time job, was a coach, handyman, tutor, outdoorsman, athlete, groundskeeper and – again – dozens of other job titles. A statement as ridiculous as "I'm a parent, this is all I am" would never have crossed their minds. Those are the models I'm working with as I forge ahead in this parenting project, and they're complex, multi-faceted examples that can't be reduced by the mode of transportation I choose for my child.
So go ahead, childless hipster bloggers, and judge me as you will. In the meantime, I'll push my stroller, write, cook, bake, clean, read, sing, run, sew and do all the other things I can think of to make myself a better, more well-rounded mom. And if you ask me what I do, I'll be happy to smile and say, "I'm a parent. This is all I am."