Some nights when my baby is sleeping, instead of reading the boards straight through, I play with the site’s primitive search function to see what turns up. One night, I searched for bitter and found this stay-at-home mom posting in a rage: “I am so angry and bitter. There is no solution.” Her baby woke up at 5:22, her husband won’t wake up for night feedings, and “he gets to do whatever he wants/whenever he wants. Me? Never and going back to work wouldn’t change a thing. It would be me rushing home to relieve nanny. and it would still be me on weekend. I truly don’t foresee marriage surviving children . . . The rage I feel is unreal. Yes, he makes a lot of money and allows me to SAH. but that is about it.”
Then I tried cheating.
“Can anybody help me think about this—I think I have to leave my husband (he’s been cheating on me and worse) but i feel sad about having to date people that don’t love my daughter in the same way he does. How does one do that?”
Other good search words: pathetic, furious, divorce, whore, affair, and nanny.
But really, anything can work. Try behavior:
“Please help,” writes one poster. “I know that dh is cheating on me, but I love the person that he’s become. He sings around the house, loves playing with the kids, and is a general joy to be around. It’s just so sad that I couldn’t be the woman to inspire this new behavior.”
A THEORY OF THE FIFTIES AND THE SEVENTIES
On UrbanBaby, two equal and opposite forms of nostalgia nudge up against one another like hot and cold fronts.
First, there’s nostalgia for the fifties, when (the fantasy goes) mothers were a safe, proscribed, protected, narrow, and paid-for class. There weren’t many choices for women, and that was a good thing. And at the center of this fantasy is a man who is a good provider, someone who can bring the fifties life into the far-less-affordable 2006.
Numerous posts play out this fantasy like that old dating board game, in which the fate of your plastic marker was determined by which man you landed on. “Would you rather marry a blue collar guy who makes a lot of $$, a white collar who makes little money, or old money who is a cheater?” asks one post. “If you were to marry again, which would you prefer: doctor, lawyer, ib’er , hf’er [hedge funder], journalist?” asks another. (This provokes a certain amount of hilarity at the limited choices available.)
In some posts, there’s a giddy, anxious glee about reclaiming those roles. “I am one sick little 50’s housewife. Love making a menu, list of ingredients, clipping coupons, going to store, buying specials, stocking up, coming in under budget. Love it! What the hell is wrong with me??” And sometimes there’s something else: a feeling of loneliness, a rush of rage at not being appreciated. Stay-at-home moms on the site often seem amazingly angry, and it’s not unusual to read a post that says nothing but “I hate my husband.”
And then there’s nostalgia for the seventies, when (the fantasy goes) motherhood was a freewheeling, chain-smoking, martini-swilling, no-car-seat experience, and we all came out just fine.
“I remember sliding around on the vinyl backseat of my grandparents dodge swinger.”
“Fun, right? I remember getting a dozen kids in the back of a neighbor’s pickup to go swimming at the unattended lake.”
In one post, a woman suggests that people imagine posts that would have been on UrbanBaby if it had existed in 1970 and got an array of parody postings from “My dumb kid ate all my dope!” to “My wooden spoon broke as i was spanking dc—should I just use my hand to spank?” to “My 3 yo twins ride their Big Wheels and Hippity Hops across the street to the park alone, should I make them come home before dark?”
The night Britney Spears spoke to Matt Lauer to defend herself as a mother, the boards were on fire. A hundred (or maybe twenty, or maybe 500: It’s impossible to tell on UrbanBaby) invisible women live-blogged their response to her every word, critiquing the eyelash that dangled from her face like a broken windshield wiper, laughing at her description of her husband, Kevin Federline, as “simple,” moaning in disbelief when she defended her driving her child around without a car seat as “country.”
She was everything that they (or we) were not. She was tacky. She was “white trash.” She gave her child a “Wal-Mart” name. She definitely didn’t seem to be thinking too much.