The Gourmet Baby

The Gourmet Baby

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The Gourmet Baby

Nine-month old Eric is typical of a phenomenon that has come to be known in the popular media as the "gourmet baby." He has two educated, professional parents who have delayed childbearing until their early thirties. He has all the best baby equipment that money can buy - the right furniture, the right stroller and a genuine shearling cover for his car seat. Eric has swimming lessons, looks at flash cards of famous paintings and simple words, plays with the best "developmentally engineered" toys and will begin the study of the violin in a year or two. He also has enough stimulation in the course of a day to make even a college student want to take a nap and shut it all out - which is just what Eric does.

The gourmet baby will grow in a few short years into David Elkind's "hurried child." The gourmet baby's parents are already investigating the "right" nursery school, the best grammar school, the most prestigious college. If the parents both work, they are desperately trying to pack what they think of as "quality time" into evenings and weekends. If the mother does not work outside the home, she has made a deliberate decision to stay home to be a "professional parent."

Although some observers have labeled the gourmet baby as a "yuppie" invention, others have noted that, like their designer clothes, gourmet babies can be found in families at all economic and social levels. It is particularly tragic that among the most susceptible to the trappings of consumerism are the parents of at-risk infants, such as teenage parents. The gap between what they see promoted as the best products for children and what they can actually buy tends to increase the alienation from the rest of society that they already feel.

The proliferation of gourmet babies

What has caused the proliferation of gourmet babies? First, societal changes such as new family work patterns, delayed child-bearing, and smaller families have contributed. Because of economic and social pressure, both working mothers and their stay-at-home counterparts are vulnerable to different kinds of guilt: the guilt of not contributing more to the family finances or the guilt of spending too much time away from children. That guilt, added to parents' natural pride in their children and desire to give them the best, materially, intellectually and emotionally, has resulted in an intense concentration on the infant as both evidence of and justification for the parents' lifestyle.

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"The Gourmet Baby." 18 Nov 2018

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