Strollers carry children, Goldfish crackers, and multiple meanings.
At one time, Amanda Parrish Morgan, AB’04, owned five strollers, each with a different purpose. “Their accessories and condition,” she writes, “were markers of other things.” What these parenting essentials signify and enable, both personally and culturally, became the subject of Morgan’s new book Stroller (2022). It’s part of Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series, about the stories behind ordinary things. Her comments have been edited and condensed.
What made you want to write about strollers?
Strollers were at the center of a brainstorming web—they related to culture, weight loss and exercise, anxiety in modern parenting. It’s not unique to parenting, but there’s an idea that if you buy the right thing, then you’ll have solved a much bigger problem. Strollers seemed like a very visible example of that.
And this is maybe more sentimental, but I have really good memories of having my kids in the stroller. Moving through the ordinary days of suburban existence started to feel a little bit magical when seeing it through my kids’ eyes. At the end of the book, you writeabout strollers having made possible a life with kids that you hadn’t imagined. In what ways?
I had internalized what I realize now is a very misogynistic narrative—that whatever parts of myself were left over after tending to my children would be very diminished, that I would be a shell of my former self. When I got my first running stroller, and I realized I could run as fast as I did before, it felt like a stand-in for this bigger idea. The stroller offered a way to do a hobby that I knew didn’t matter to anyone but me. It also meant that I got to have these two people that I love so much with me doing things I love to do.
How did you balance writing about the hard and joyful parts of parenthood?
Many of the ways we talk about parenting didn’t really speak to my experience. I would see some glib stuff, like “Mommy needs a glass of wine” or “Isn’t parenting the worst?” and I didn’t feel that way. I wasn’t finding a lot of writing that took parenting seriously as an intellectual pursuit too, and I wanted to bridge that gap.
I hope we can continue to move away from the idea that women’s worth can only come from being mothers, and that it’s the pinnacle of fulfillment—but there’s a flip side that I participated in when I was younger, of mocking women who take motherhood seriously. I feel glad that I tried to engage with the tension between glorifying motherhood and dismissing it or denigrating it.
What’s your relationship to strollers now?
We don’t have one anymore—our last one bit the dust last winter. My office faces a road that is popular for pedestrians and if I’m in a certain kind of mood, when someone walks by with a baby in a stroller, I get really teary and wistful about it. Strollers feel like a metaphor for that era when my biggest concern was keeping my children physically safe, and they were three feet from me at all times. Bittersweet, I guess, is the best word for it.
What do your kids think of the book?
They know they’re in it, and my daughter, who is 8, was like, “Oh, am I famous?” I went to talk to her third-grade class, and it was in some ways the best book event I’ve ever done. They asked the most amazing, honest questions, like “How many times did someone say your book was bad?” Really getting to the heart of how writing can be.
What do you think is the Cadillac of strollers?
I do have to say, those UPPAbaby VISTAs seem pretty nice. We’ve never owned one, because it would just be embarrassing—I’m so disorganized and there would be papers underneath it and Goldfish crumbs. It would be a waste to buy this $1,000-plus item and use it as a Goldfish carrier.