The baby gear thing is foreign to me. Truthfully, it’s a little overwhelming. Choosing a car seat seems to involve crunching actuarial statistics. A visit to DCUM makes a stroller purchase seem even more fraught: It turns out that the brand name I choose will mark me in the eyes of other parents.
A DCUM mom who started the discussion summed it up this way: Bugaboo is rich and trend-oriented. Maclaren is highly-educated upper-middle class. Graco is low class. She admits to having a Graco, but feels alone in a sea of Maclarens.
The question attracted 19 pages worth of comments. Some said no, they don’t judge. Others said they looked down on people who spent too much on a stroller. Someone justified an expensive model as something received as a gift. There was a digression into the shabbiness of parents who let older kids ride in strollers—a gateway habit to obesity, critics alleged.
Then the Bugaboo owner stepped in: “I own a bugaboo and I don’t give a damn if you all judge me,” she wrote. “We live in Gtown and it’s been great on the bumpy streets... In fact I also wear quilted jackets as do my children and drive a Tahoe. Also highly educated. So really you can judge away I am happy with my decisions and you can be happy with yours. We probably wouldn’t be friends if we met at the park and that’s fine too.”
And they were off. “You are a planet killer, waste your money, and dress your kids funny,” a commenter shot back. “How can one not judge you?”
As the discussion went on, posters used strollers to extrapolate about people’s finances, based on whether they had expensive strollers and costly or more modest homes. People defended their modest homes by saying they were saving, or accused people of bigger homes of going into debt for show. Posters were called bitter, envious, haters, and “jealous bitches.”
Thankfully, I’m not buying a stroller at all. My sister-in-law let me pick one of her old ones instead. Given the choice between her Peg Perego and her BOB, I picked the lighter one. My logic: I was living in a second-floor walk-up, and didn’t want the struggle.
If only I’d read the DCUM discussion before decision time.
SUBJECT: Dual-income families, what is your HHI? What’s your net worth compared to your income?
Everyone knows it’s not polite to talk about what people make. DCUM’s culture of anonymity changes that equation.
In the last few months, separate income discussions on the site have focused on household income when one parent stays home, household income when two parents work, household income if you send a kid to private school, and net worth compared to household income. Most of the figures are jaw dropping—at least to me. $300,000. $450,000. One mom posted that she and her husband made $750,000 a year. She made the bulk of it but her husband threatened to kill himself if she quit or reduced her hours, because he couldn’t stand to live on anything less.
Who are these people, and what do they do?
Clearly, I’ve been sheltered from Washington’s moneyed class. I grew up in the Midwest. I’m a writer. My husband is also a journalist. Most of our friends have similar jobs. I can only guess what they make, since of course it’s not polite to ask. But I do know that some of them still have roommates.
Are the high earners all lawyers? People assume DCUM is heavily weighted toward the legal profession—something that the site’s many point-by-point deconstructions of rival arguments certainly points to. Other posters, also in the $300,000 range, say they work in IT. Some federal workers posting to the site make upward of $125,000.
“Jesus Christ am I poor compared to you folks,” says a poster with a household income of $110,000, more than double the median figure for the country.
For me, the cost of living has been the biggest obstacle in my relationship to Washington—one that looms larger as I ponder adding a child to that relationship. Like having a great boyfriend with one fatal flaw, I’ve held back on fully embracing the city because of its cost. Washington has so much going for it—good job market, smart people, free zoo. But it’s so much more expensive than Chicago or Philadelphia, other cities I’ve called home.
One nice thing about DCUM is that I learn I’m not the only one with this issue.
“Is anyone under 35 without a rich mommy and daddy be able (sic) to buy a good house?” asks one poster. Under the headline “So tired of living in the DC area,” another describes her frustration with traffic, self-important people, and the cost of housing, where families must kill themselves with work in order to afford a small home in a decent school district.