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Mothers Anonymous

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And if you ever wanted to know what people were saying behind your back, here is your answer.

DID YOU MARRY FOR MONEY?
And then there is marriage, the true and hidden subject of much of the site, which is so often, and startlingly, less about babies themselves than about what babies have done to these women’s relationships. Numerous posts concern cheating husbands—wives snooping via e-mail; wives finding out that their husbands have online-dating accounts; wives getting “key-logger” programs to trace the patterns of his computer use; the recurrent, fiery debate about whether investment bankers cheat more than other husbands, whether porn and strippers constitute or indicate cheating, whether a husband is cheating with his besotted single-woman colleague who keeps sending him text messages, and whether anyone knows a good divorce lawyer.

See also “Have you ever had an affair?”

See also “Did you marry for money?”

There’s a melancholic sub-theme about nostalgia for ex-boyfriends, especially erotic dreams about ex-boyfriends during pregnancy. A cadre of “EWGs”—ex–working girls—inform the horrified uptown moms what their men are really like. There are a lot of questions about gayness (Is my husband gay? Is my child gay?) and a recurrent debate about whether enjoying Brokeback Mountain is a sign of gayness. A lot of the time, the women simply post on and on about what their husbands don’t do: They don’t help out, they won’t be kind, they never come home until the wee hours, and they demand sex the mothers don’t want to give and refuse sex the mothers beg for.

On Mother’s Day, a day I had expected to be a happy one on UrbanBaby, the board scrolled by all day with disappointment: no card, no gift, no help, a weekend spent with a terrible mother-in-law and a husband who claimed Mother’s Day wasn’t Wives’ Day, so he didn’t need to get his wife anything.

And amid all the self-pity, there’s a loathing of self-pity. “A baby is tiring, just suck it up or don’t have kids,” replied one poster to a mother of a 3-week-old who wondered if other women’s husbands helped with night feedings.

PUSH PRESENTS
There are phenomena I’d never heard of before I read UrbanBaby. For instance, “push presents.” Apparently, it’s a tradition to give a fancy piece of jewelry—a diamond tennis bracelet, say, or an expensive ring—to your wife as a reward, or perhaps a motivation, for getting through labor. On UrbanBaby, it’s also a tradition to mock these bracelets. And to compare them.

When bonus time comes around for the wives of IBers (investment bankers) and “BigLaw” lawyers, the boards go mad with Schadenfreude and envy and rage. In one such discussion, a woman explained that she couldn’t stay home even if she wanted to because she needed her salary: She made $150,000 a year. “Not significant,” responded the other poster. Other people began to chime in: “150,000 per year is not significant income? What planet do you live on?” And “I would quit in a heartbeat if I made $150K. It isn’t significant to me.”

On the boards of UrbanBaby, the economic calculus of Manhattan and Brooklyn (and sometimes Queens and often Long Island) is hashed out with a cruel candor that is nearly impossible to find in other places, if only because women in disparate economic circumstances are forced to confront one another’s experiences head-on. Corporate bigwigs post there; so do their nannies. Single mothers sinking into debt hash out their budgets in public; so do women in marriages where both parties float on a sea of family money and never work and spend their time managing their investments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sharpest clashes happen not between poor women and rich women but those separated by the slimmest difference—the anxious perforation between the wealthy and the super-wealthy.

“DH and I make about 300K per year. We have 200K in savings. Can we afford a 1 million dollar apartment? We can’t believe we have to spend that much to get anything close to what we want, and we both grew up fairly blue collar, so it just seems like an absurd amount of money for us (despite decent income). Have I just not adjusted to the way things are now?”

Maybe it’s no wonder that on UrbanBaby, emotions are so close to the surface. With a 26 percent rise in the number of 5-year-olds in New York from 2000 to 2004 , a simultaneous rise in the percentage of families staying in the city instead of moving to the suburbs, and an increase in the number of mothers choosing to stay home with their children, the island seems to be filling up with strollers at precisely the moment when the sidewalks have narrowed. Who can afford to have one child, let alone two or three or four? It’s little wonder that motherhood on UrbanBaby is surprisingly hard to distinguish from class war.


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