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One of the worst habits of industrialization…

May 21st, 2004 · 2 Comments

…may be the stroller!

From the Seattle Times earlier this week:

African moms carry on with tradition:

NAIROBI, Kenya — Irene Wambui can’t imagine why anyone would buy a baby stroller. She says she sees it as a cold cage filled with useless rattles, cup holders and mirrored headlights. Imagine children being stuffed into such a contraption and pushed around town like some kind of pet.


“The pram is the ultimate in pushing the baby away from you,” said Frank Njenga, a child psychiatrist in Nairobi, Kenya’s bustling capital. “The baby on the back is actually following the mother in warmth and comfort. The baby feels safer, and safer people are happier people.”


Africans consider the traditional method of toting their children the only true version of day care. When it’s time for feeding, the food is right there as a mother shifts her child to the front of her body, nestling the infant to her breast. The baby stroller could change all of that. But many people here said they thought the devices would be just another instance of Africans adopting the worst habits of industrialization.

I’m not fond of strollers either. I don’t think they are practical. Toting one around in my car takes up too much space. My double stroller used to fill the entire trunk of our previous van: I’d say a prayer when I shut the door, hoping it would fit. And as the article about Africans illustrates, the use of strollers assumes that there is appropriate space and quality roads for their usage.

On the island, if I’m shopping, it’s easier often for me to use a backpack: some of the stores downtown feel almost claustrophobic for me with their narrow aisles, that make pushing a stroller nearly impossible. This is true for many shopping experiences.

While I’ve never become completely comfortable with a sling, I’ve loved using my backpack. It is nearly ten years old now, I figure, since I bought it five years ago from a UC Santa Cruz professor who had carried her four year old in it during cross-country skiing. Despite all the use, it’s still got lots of life left in it. Here’s a photo of me carrying Elisabeth in the pack: the accessory hood I bought is covering her, although, while sleeping, she has leaned her head out of the side.


I like the feel of Baby on my back. She can touch my hair (don’t pull!) and hold onto my shoulders. She gets a better view and is close to me. We share laughs, almost cheek to cheek. In the pack, Baby comes with me wherever I go. In the stroller, she is distant, and sometimes I have to park and brake, run back and forth, amuse and entertain, picking up and rotating books and toys.

What intrigued me the most about this article was the African perspective that the stroller is the ultimate in pushing the baby away from you. Most American women might not think twice about using a stroller to go for a walk, visit friends or go shopping with Baby. Although I’m not crazy about the stroller, I’ve never looked at it as something negatively impacting my relationship with my child. To see a necessity of American motherhood described as a “cage” and as one of “the worst habits of industrialization” makes me wonder. I wonder how often we in the West think we are improving relationships from the primitive, when in fact we are confining our children and losing the happiness we could have had.

Tags: motherhood

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob V // May 22, 2004 at 5:03 am

    Strollers don’t purport to improve relationships from the primitive. They only claim to make it easier to take your kids around. You have a good point about the sling being a preferred method. However, many parents might be willing to take their children for a walk with a stroller, but not with a sling.

    The sling might provide a better experience. The convenience of a stroller might convince parents to choose to experience the experience in the first place.

  • 2 Julie // May 22, 2004 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Bob,

    You are right – I should not have included the word “relationship” in that sentence. What I was trying to say was that I appreciated the African perspective – it helps me take a second look at my own life and assumptions.

    It is true that strollers don’t directly claim to improve the parent-child relationship, although most marketing (to parents) implies that not only will the product make your work easier (entertain your baby, make cleanups faster) but that it will also make it easier for you to love your children/have a happy family/ be a better mom etc…