Day 24: Raising Babies the Utah Way

June 12th, 2015

Joslyn Hamilton, freelance editor and writer, Salt Lake City, Utah

 I’m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

I lived in California for about fifteen years, but waited until I was about to move to Utah to get pregnant. This was not on purpose, but it has been interesting. I’ve had a lot of exposure, through many friends, to raising babies the California way. And now I am meeting a lot of people, through various and sundry mommy groups and neighbors, who are raising babies the Utah way.

Weirdly enough, if I had to describe the main difference between these two theologies, I would say that the California way of raising babies is more pious—in that my Californian mom friends, by and large, have much stronger and more rigid opinions about right, wrong, and baby products.

Let’s talk about high chairs, for starters. I am about to buy high chairs, so have been asking every mom I know which high chair brand they recommend. The California contingent has collectively advised me that there are really only two acceptable high chairs: the Stokke Tripp Trapp, a sleek Scandinavian-style design that retails for $250 and is an excellent and stylish edition to your dining quarters, and the Inglesina Fast Table Chair, which is much less expensive—only $60—but no less chic and handsome. It folds up so you can easily take it out to sushi restaurants and free symphony concerts in the park.

When I ask women in my Utah mommy groups which brand of high chair they recommend, they generally say something like, “Brand? Uh, my sister gave me her old one. She probably got it at Walmart, but I don’t know.”

My friends in California also have very strong opinions on things like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and which foods are acceptable first foods. They read all the articles, know all the scientific studies, use critical thinking skills to compare and contrast different points of view, and then draw intelligent and progressive conclusions, which they can argue vehemently.

People I’ve met in Utah don’t even realize that there are decisions to make about a lot of these things. When I ask them what food they first fed their babies, they say “What do you mean? Rice cereal, obviously.” Or, “Baby food.” My friends in California wouldn’t be caught dead giving their baby actual baby food, unless it was made by hand in their Vitamix with locally sourced organic produce from the farmers market. #artisinalbabyfood

My friends in California send me gorgeous baby clothes that make me squeal and hold impromptu, highly styled early morning baby photo shoots. These outfits are ordered from Europe or Etsy and come with handwritten notes by the baby-couture makers. 

Women in Utah buy all their baby clothes at Walmart or Super Target, and I get the feeling this is less a price-point issue than an imagination issue.

I am wistful for my friends in California and terribly sad that I am not getting to raise my babies around their babies, where we could trade chic outfits and discuss the latest in infant-rearing theory over cold-brewed coffee at the local artisanal donut shop, and have book clubs to discuss the latest French parenting book. But in small ways I have really embraced Utah parenting. I am secretly enjoying not having my California friends around to tell me I shouldn’t drink wine while breastfeeding (relax). I am loving my unambitious suburban stroller walks to the park. And it’s strangely relieving to simply take my pediatrician’s word for most things, instead of having to constantly weigh his opinion against that of every other “baby expert” in my life.



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3 Responses to “Day 24: Raising Babies the Utah Way”

  1. Tom says:

    What did the Utah moms think about the placenta eating?

  2. Tom says:

    PS This one cracked me up. There is a much longer piece here waiting for The New Yorker.

  3. David says:

    We’re pretty fond of this one :)

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