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Why You Don't Need That $800 Stroller

Perspective on the parenting biz

by Heather Cabot  |  1956 views  |  6 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Someone is finally saying what so many parents think but rarely blurt out loud. When did parenting get so expensive and why do our kids need all of this stuff? I'm talking about the luxury strollers and designer layettes that ultimately give way to $100 toddler jeans, homemade baby food delivery services, parenting coaches and preschool scouts.

I remember making several trips to Babies R Us and buybuy Baby when I was pregnant with my twins, and was nearly brought to tears by the infinite choices of strollers, cribs, car seats, high chairs, and play pens. And that was just the gear. Picking out the cutest nursery decor for a boy and a girl, not to mention stocking up on wipes, diapers, lotion, and gallons of Dreft detergent, was a whole other ordeal. Of course, there was the expense to consider. But what weighed on me, in a way I never expected, was what the purchases would say about me as a mother. If my husband and I opted for something less posh or a generic brand, were we depriving the babies or just being practical (even on our registry)? Somehow reason just flew out the window the day we got pregnant.

It was an experience shared by fellow 37-year-old mom of two, Pamela Paul, who told me in a recent interview that her first trip to a baby superstore was downright frightening. "I kept thinking, 'What is all this stuff?' I didn't know the differences between nipples or whether I needed nursing clothes... I felt like I had entered some kind of cult," she says.

In her new book, Parenting, Inc.: How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers -- and What It Means for Our Children, journalist Paul draws on her own parenting journey as she examines this new phenomenon. She calls it "the anxiety of underspending," and attributes its rise to savvy marketers capitalizing on the insecurities of new parents coupled with a celebrity-mad media which breathlessly catalogues every new toy or outfit sported by Suri or Shiloh.

"People are more worried about spending too little instead of spending too much... They worry, 'If I don't get this mobile for my 4-month-old, is he going to fall behind?," she says.

In the book, the Time magazine contributor reports on what psychologists and educators have to say about some of today's "must-haves," as she pulls back the curtain on the baby business and the estimated $1.7 trillion "mom market." She offers some peace of mind and perspective to those of us dealing with both the sticker shock and the pressure to buy, buy, buy (which, by the way only seems to grow as fast as our babies do.)

About the Author

Heather Cabot, Founder & Publisher, The Well Mom www.thewellmom.com

Read more by Heather Cabot

6 comments so far...

  • I completely agree. I run a home daycare and I don't have as many toys in my home (including in basement storage) as some of my client's only children do in their bedrooms!

    Though I agree that quality matters in items that are going to last (like strollers), I disagree that there is a dollar-for-dollar connection between price and quality.

    In other words, is that $800 stroller four times as durable and comfortable as the $200 one? Short answer: No. It's almost certainly better quality than the $200 stroller, sure, but will it make a qualitative difference to your child's comfort, will it provide enough bang for all those very many bucks to make it worth spending FOUR TIMES the amount? Again, no.

    Let's not be deceived. It is not sufficient rationale to spend huge amounts of money for "quality" for incremental gains.

    I use three strollers with the daycare:

    A single umbrella stroller (four years old), purchase price $23. It will be replaced this summer -- with another of the same price.

    A double stroller (10 years old), purchase price: $180

    A quad stroller (8 years old), purchase price: $1200.

    An $800 stroller for one child? Total overkill.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 24th April 2008

  • I just spent yesterday convincing my expectant friend that she would not get her money's worth out of an $800 European-style pram!! She wants the best for her baby, of course, but doesn't plan on having any other kids and doesn't realize how quickly they grow!! You can definitely get a lot of stuff used (or borrow it!) because they'll grow out of it so fast!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by biomom on 21st April 2008

  • Totally agree with everyone. Spend the money where it counts. For all the toys my boys have, they've been more interested in the pots and pans and books and all the things we don't want them to play with!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Amanda on 18th April 2008

  • We had very little money when my babies were born. I was lucky enough to find good quality items second hand -- and that's another point for buying quality in the first place.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Daisy on 14th April 2008

  • Hi agree with your point, Dana. There is a ton of absolute junk on the market when it comes to baby and kid gear. (Hence all the safety recalls!) For something you want to use for a long time - like a stroller or car seat - it's good to go for quality. On the other hand, I think Heather is right that new parents feel they should have all this stuff that they really don't need. The $200 diaper bags for example. I say: if you're into fashion and bags and must have a cool diaper bag, go for it! Enjoy! But new moms should realize they don't need an expensive diaper bag and maybe they can manage with their existing shoulder bag and not spend a dime. It's an interesting issue!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 7th April 2008

  • Okay, I understand that an $800. stroller may seem excessive, but it's not always the money that dictates but quality. Depends on where you live.
    I bought an $800. Emmaljunga stroller back in 1993 and it's still going strong. I call it my 4 Wheel Drive stoller and soooooo worth the money. I had my first living in Boston. It's lasted through 3 kids, it has travelled around the world, made it onto beaches when those plastic $200.00 ones wouldn't and trekked up hiking trails. So my $800. stoller was the best buy for my kids.
    There are only 3 purchases for having a baby where money should not dictate and that's a quality crib, a quality carseat and a quality stroller. The rest is junk and will end up in the trash within a year.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dana Hostage on 6th April 2008

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