The Perfect Double Stroller and Gaining Perspective

Double Stroller A w grayOne of the lowest points in my ability to keep a healthy perspective about parenting (and life) occurred in 2006 when I was pregnant with my second child. Instead of harnessing some wisdom about a child’s true needs that I ought to have gleaned from my first two years as a mom, I became shamefully obsessed with finding the perfect double stroller.

“Perfect” had a precise definition. I wanted a stroller that was smooth and sturdy for long walks, but light enough to carry in and out of the car without Herculean efforts. Ideally it would have a good cup holder, adjustable handles, an easy-to-use basket, quality wheels, and cost less than a week’s vacation in Fiji. I had not succumbed to the pricey Bugaboo with my first child, and I would not fall prey to “needing” the Mercedes of strollers as a second-time mom either. That much perspective I was able to maintain. At least.

The perfect double stroller didn’t exist, of course. I knew that to be true about single strollers, but chose to forget it. Most of my friends (and the people who write on online message boards) had regrets about the brands and models they owned. The basket was too flimsy. The wheels were good for walks, but too big to fit anything else in the trunk. The system for opening and collapsing the thing took a PhD in Engineering. Nevertheless, most people made do with their choices and moved on with their lives.

Despite that bit of logic and knowledge, I spent ungodly amounts of time reading online reviews of double strollers. It was a time-consuming, silly “hobby.” We ended up with two doubles anyway: a heavy, clunky one for walks, which we bought used from friends; and a light, cheap one to keep in the car. Both are fine and far from perfect just like the two single strollers we own for the same variety of purposes. Yes, that means we have four strollers, which would shame me except that we had two more kids after that, and they sufficiently wore out all four models.

Don’t worry. I have nothing left to say about strollers. I’ve long since deduced that this entire period of my life had nothing to do with strollers anyway.

As time passed, I saw that my hyper-focus on finding the right match was really about my desire to control the imminent change in our lives. We were going from one child to two, which was making me anxious.

But if I’m being absolutely honest, there was even more going on than that. I think I allowed myself to lose perspective because I was lonely and bored. I’d stopped teaching when my oldest was born, and I wasn’t writing yet. I didn’t have the full social and spiritual life that I have now, nor the confidence to know that my kids simply needed a good mom engaged in their lives and her own life. They didn’t need a seemingly flawless mom who was wrapped up in finding an equally flawless stroller, winter jacket, pair of rain boots, nursery paint color, big kid duvet cover, and more. I was worrying about all the wrong things as if finding the right stroller or the perfect anything else would affect our lives in a way that truly mattered. I had lost my mind over nonsense and never wanted to be that way again.

I have less of what I call “stroller moments” now, the shorthand my husband and I use for when I’ve crossed the line from reasonable decision-making, planning, and thinking to needless obsessing. (We have a few different code words for when he needs a dose of perspective.) I recommend the code word concept for forced, on the spot self-awareness. It’s a tool that gives me a path for escaping any new pit where my mind has fallen.

These days my stroller moments are more often about friendship and family issues, but the underlying problem is still a false sense of control. Why is so and so mad at me? Do I make more effort in our friendship than person X, Y, Z?

“Is this the double stroller all over again?” I might say to my husband. From the expression on his face I can always see that it is before I’ve even finished asking the question.

One day I’ll probably help my kids find their own code words. However, with their youth, and thank God, their health, they’ve earned their lack of perspective. I’m going to let them enjoy that innocence for now.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

Read Nina Badzin’s essay in This is Childhood, a book and journal on the first ten years of motherhood.

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This entry was written by Nina Badzin

About the author: Nina Badzin is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. She has written about parenting, marriage, friendship and more in The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, Kveller, and elsewhere. You can read more of her work at www.ninabadzin.com  and connect with her on Facebook facebook.com/ninabadzinblog and Twitter (twitter.com/ninabadzin).

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  • http://annieneugebauer.com/ Annie Neugebauer

    I have no experience in strollers (and seriously, why can’t someone just make a good one?), but I definitely have experience in the concept of a ‘double stroller.’ I’ve never had a name for it, but I think I might borrow yours — which will be utterly confusing to everyone but me. :) I think it’s wonderful that you have so much self-awareness. Thanks for a nice reminder!

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Ha! I loved that, Annie. You need to randomly say “double stroller” and let me know what other people say back.

  • http://jessicavealitzek.wordpress.com Jessica Vealitzek

    Love the code words — it probably also helps you and your husband bond, no? On the suggestion of a friend, my husband and I created a code word for the middle of a fight when we’re just spinning our wheels in frustration and need a break, a word that represents a shared, funny moment in our past. So, in the middle of a fight when we’re about to wring each other’s necks, one of us will say, “Backpack.” We might not bust out laughing anymore, but it helps redirect for a few minutes. :)

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      This totally reminded me of Lily and Marshall in How I Met Your Mother. Do you watch that? They do the “break” thing during an argument. It’s a good idea!

  • Amy

    Great insight! I often wonder when an issue is a “double-stroller” or really warrants significant attention. I tend to obsess about my 4th and 1st graders’ school… Why do they “hate” school? Are the dreaded timed math tests really necessary or just destroying their confidence? Would homeschooling better nurture their autonomy and love of learning or simply drive us all nuts? For me, it’s not always clear when to “make the decision and move on” and when to continue considering options, weighing, thinking…

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Yes, that nails it. When does something merit more attention and when is it time to accept one choice for now and move on. In this case, you could probably reevaluate at the end of the school year to see if you really wanted to make a switch. And then evaluate again the next year? But once you’ve made the decision for that year, maybe it would be freeing to let things sit as is for at least a few months before you let the questioning begin again. Just an idea!

  • http://www.deepestworth.com Shannon

    Looking back, I think I had my fair share of “stroller moments” too during young motherhood, but I hadn’t really thought of them this way before. I suppose there are still these moments in my life, but not near as many.

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Yes, it’s nice to see those moments diminish. I’d say maturity counts for some of that!

  • http://jessicafhinton.com Jessica

    Yes! And I can soooooooo relate! I went through that same obsession with finding the “perfect double stroller” when I learned I was pregnant with my second and then with my third, my new obsession became “improving my home.” You’re right. It really was a distraction, a distraction I used to feel more in control in what felt, at the time, to be my out of control life. So, so true, Nina.

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Thanks so much Jessica for sharing your thoughts. And for sharing the post on G+!

  • http://abandoningpretense.blogspot.com Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

    I can relate to your stroller incident, mainly because I try to control everything. And… everyone. I’m a work in progress.

    Funny coincidence: I also just published a post today that featured a story about a stroller.

    =)

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Will go see!

  • Lisa Pierson Weinberger

    What a great post! I “double stroller” all the time (I’ve officially turned this into a verb). I wish I had half the perspective you do when I’m in the thick of it.

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      I never have it IN the thick! And I’m so happy with the verb form. Will adopt it immediately.

  • Daisy Florin

    Love this piece. My husband and I always say that before becoming parents, we worried about all the wrong things. The transition from one to two is almost as daunting as becoming first-time parents so I’m not surprised to hear about your “double stroller” obsession. Thanks for being so honest about how we avoid facing the thing that really scares us.

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Thanks so much, Daisy. For me zero to one was so terrifying that one to two was actually not quite as bad. Two to three was fine. Three to four sent me into LOTS of obsessing! I’m better now. (And done growing the family!)

  • http://theselittlewaves.com Galit Breen

    I work this exact same way, too.

    With awareness, I see it as a positive — I’m mindful and thoughtful.

    But without? Oy. I’m a mess.

    Love — and relate to — this. So much.

    • http://ninabadzin.com Nina

      Galit! I’m happy you can relate. (Though sorry for you too when it’s the mess time. I so know how that goes.)

  • http://www.urbanmoocow.com/ Deb @ Urban Moo Cow

    Oh, how I can relate to this post. I think I did a pretty good job with child-related things of taming my inner stroller-obsesser, but in general, I fail miserably. I am so grateful to my husband, who, despite his faults (and he has a few), does not fall victim to this sort of myopia, and can help me pull myself out of it. We don’t really have a code word, though. Perhaps I will steal yours. Or look on the interwebs for hours until I find one that suits me. ;-)

  • http://www.schoolofsmock.com Jessica Smock

    I am forwarding this article to my husband. When I was pregnant and waiting for approval from the university to begin my dissertation research, I literally had nothing to do. Very bad combination: pregnant and a researcher. I spent MONTHS obsessing and scouring the internet for the perfect baby gear. My husband thought I might be going clinically insane. BUT we did get an incredible deal on our fantastic expensive stroller (half price!) from Craigslist due to my insanity. That stroller probably has more miles on it than my car.

  • http://www.stephaniesprenger.com Stephanie Sprenger

    I love this Nina! I think I will use that metaphor as my own barometer to help catch myself when I am going off the deep end about something that is meaningless. Well, obviously not meaningless, as it has a great deal of meaning to ME- but perhaps not the meaning I should be focusing on! :) Control issues are usually a big trigger of my “double stroller moments.”

  • http://ShanaNorris.net Shana Norris

    Oh, I’ve had my share of stroller moments. I find that I have them less now than I did in my days as a SAHM. Or – like you said – they’re rarely about material things, choices, etc. now. My husband and I have date night tonight – I think we’ll have a little fun trying to come up with our own code word/phrase :)

  • http://www.nourished-mom.com Jessica

    You touch upon something very interesting here. I am also prone to bouts of “double stroller” obsession, and this was even more frequent when I was a new mother. You should have seen how crazy I became about my children’s nap schedules! I agree that boredom, loneliness, and lack of control were all underlying factors. Code words are great. When either my husband or I enter this obsessive frame of my mind, we call it having “crazy head.” :)

  • http://alarnarosegray.com Alarna Rose Gray

    I definitely need a code word. My ‘double stroller’ moments are always about people, though, not things. Takes up an unholy amount of space in my head. Am I really that bored, lonely and needing to be in control? Okay. Don’t answer that… :) Thanks for your perspective, as always!

  • http://mothereseblog.com Kristen Levithan

    This is so wise, Nina, and so resonant. I was especially struck by your realization that your “double strollering” was more about your own boredom and loneliness as it was about the stroller. I spent so many hours of my kids’ early days “double strollering” – for me, though, probably the best verb would be “eczema lotion-ing.” (Somewhat less mellifluous.) :)