Of class war and urban babies

There’s a totally amazing piece in today’s New York Times about Urban Baby, a web site where mothers post about their lives. As you might expect, there’s plenty of questions and advice about teething, naps, and feeding. But the site is also a hotbed of simmering class war. Why? Because child-rearing is the one sure place where the myth of the classless society falls apart — and supposedly liberal parents bicker over the virtues of suburban life, snipe about the value of a $700 Bugaboo stroller, and fight like rabid dingos to get their kids into elite preschools.

It is a curious feature of UB that in an atmosphere with a constant undercurrent of class antagonism, participants feel regularly compelled to divulge their assets and earnings. One afternoon last week a woman sent a query about whether she was doing decently on a salary of $100,000 a year, with two children and a one-bedroom apartment. Last month, another wrote in to say that her family’s income of $350,000 a year made it the poorest in her private preschool. The month of December provided frenzied speculation about Wall Street bonuses among many women who work in finance and wives of investment bankers who asked what they could all expect.

“It’s really funny, because it allows me to really see into the economy and where the bonuses are going,” said Raquel Palmer, a principle in private equity at KPS Special Situations Funds in New York. A mother of two, she was drawn into UB after a single visit when she read a posting about a woman trying to seduce her doorman. “A lot of the people on the site will consider themselves middle class, and they’re getting $200,000 bonuses,” she said.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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