Upper-Middle Class Parents Clash Over Parenting Advice

While millions of Americans scale back and re-imagine life with less, a privileged minority in the upper-income stratosphere have brought their worries and sometimes frivolous arguments online, where they anonymously debate how to tote a child in a 3-story house, why rich people don't feel rich, and whether to judge parents by their strollers.

The site, DC Urban Moms and Dads, serves a city where 29 percent of children live below the poverty rate.

VIDEO: Mark talks about life as a stay-at-home-dad.
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The posters mostly hail from the District's tony 20016 zip code, where median family income is $133,000.

On DCUMDs, the well-heeled parental set from Ward 3 dominate the forums that are brimming with thousands of questions.

"Dating: When do you reveal your income? Do people steal strollers? Can your child be starving and fat at the same time?" Or, complex issues made matter-of-fact like a self-defined closeted lesbian who sees the benefits of heterosexuality for social success or job security.

It's where a mom digitally pondered the great income divide between her family and a babysitter.

"A former day care provider, who the children love and who we trust, agreed to babysit once in awhile. Nice I couldn't be happier. However, now I feel embarrassed about her coming to our house," wrote the anonymous poster. "Day care providers don't earn much and I know she came from a relatively poor family and here we are an upper middle class family, nice house.

"We're not rich by Washington standards but comfortable and we could be considered rich if one group grew up poor. Am I crazy?" the mom wrote in a thread titled "Embarrassed about my house with babysitter."

The class-sensitive question led to some backlash from other posters who were unable to comprehend the wealth guilt seizing the original poster. "You are insufferable," one commenter posted. Said another: "Stop being embarrassed and pay for her services already! She will appreciate it more than your misplaced agony. Poor people have their dignity, too."

It's these type of clashes that led the Washington City Paper to label the forums "The Mommy Fight Site."

Created in 2001, D.C. Urban Moms and Dads stemmed from a mailing list Jeff Steele started for his wife and another new mom to share parenting tips and coordinate activities. When his wife no longer wanted to be involved in the daily grind of maintaining the 8,000 subscribers' mailing list, Steele took over the email list and online forum that receives around 80,000 visitors a month.

The result: An upper middle class battleground where posters can exchange fire wearing a vest of anonymity.

Lisa Schwartz discovered the forum years after dropping the high volume mailing list. "When I started using the mailing list, I found it to be very helpful and it was really utilitarian," says Schwartz.

The board, however, came loaded with craziness due to its anonymous nature. And, the mom of one found some insight in the vitriolic nature of the board. "In a sense craziness can be useful if you're trying to learn things from people's points of view," says Shwartz.

What she didn't enjoy was competitive claws on display. "One of things that made me feel alienated is that competitive habits seemed to spill over to one up people through their children and to one up other children through their children," says Schwartz.

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