My family and I have been living in lower Manhattan now for close to two years. When my children were just about nine months and two years respectively, we packed up our lives and moved from the quiet comforts of suburbia in the Bay Area to the craze and hustle that is NYC.
We sold both of our cars and packed everything we owned – including the goldfish – into a twelve foot U-Haul. Tears were shed as we said goodbye to everyone from parents and friends to our local pharmacist. I sadly bid adieu to the doctors who had cared for my children, and the local parks where they took their first steps. Life was about to change in every single way, and while the city lover in me was excited, the mother half that has encompassed my heart and soul was very, very nervous.
The greatest challenge that I have faced as a stay-at-home-mother in the city has been transportation. Where I once had all of the space and ease of a private vehicle — which we stored for no extra cost — I now have strollers; many, many strollers. Our lives have been impacted by this in every way, including grocery shopping, pediatrician visits, and diaper hauling. Every day requires a plan ahead of time based on our activities, because travel around the city just isn’t simple any longer. We live about six city, crosstown (meaning extra-long) blocks from the nearest subway station, so it’s really a decent sized travel day even if we do take the trains. I must make sure the proper stroller is out of storage and ready for the hike — typically we use the Maclaren Twin Techno because it’s easy to compact, holds two children, and is light enough to carry around.
Subway travel used to give me major anxiety. Last year, I’d pack my youngest in a carrier on my back and sling the diaper bag while grasping my son and the double stroller in both hands on our way down the steps. More often than not, and definitely to my surprise, someone would offer to help me up or down the stairs. New Yorkers are really quite sympathetic to their fellow city dwellers- it’s a sense of community that I never expected before we moved here. Now that the kids are old enough to walk down the stairs themselves (they are 2 and 4 years old) to an extent, we make sure to travel during non-rush hour times and at our own leisure. The anxiety I felt was mostly from being rushed, whereas now we take as long as we need to. The subway is an inexpensive and relatively fast way to get around, so we try to utilize it as much as possible.
Bus travel around the city is very much the same, only it’s a little more cramped and I find that people have less patience. Typically, I will walk in lieu of taking a bus or the subway, as it is much less stressful for me and the kids, especially when it is just the three of us.
Despite the fact that all three of us get violently carsick, taxi cabs have proven to be a convenient and fast way to get where we need to go, especially if we’re running late. While in New York City, children are not required to sit in car seats in taxi cabs, it really feels like a gamble even in emergencies to sit in the back of a car clutching two children. Jack is big enough that he is strapped in on his own, while I keep Zoe tightly clutched on my lap-this way she is also able to see outside, and is more likely to avoid nausea. The drivers tend to weave in and out of traffic without much grace, stopping abruptly and causing us all to get car sick almost instantly. It certainly doesn’t feel like the safest option, but it is comforting to know that there is pretty much a ride around any time we need it – especially in emergencies.
Some special and infrequent adventures require private cars, either hired independently via a car service or rented on our own. The Zip Car option is really fantastic for our family, as the cars are available to rent by the hour, relatively inexpensive and are scattered throughout the city. We’ve rented them occasionally for day trips to the beach or lakes around the outskirts of the city.
Airport trips are the one exception when we will book a car service for long distances. I’m willing to pay extra to have someone load my luggage, provide car seats for the kids, and get us to the airport in a timely fashion. While we can’t seem to avoid the car sickness, at least it’s a little more manageable when we’re all in our own seats.
For day-to-day city travel, we depend on our strollers. I prefer to walk where we need to go if it’s feasible, and it happens more often than not that we pick activities that are ultra local so that we can walk. It took at least a year to find the stroller that would suit our lives the best, holding two children and compacting small enough to fit in our hallway closet. It has to be light enough for me to drag onto a bus and down the subway stairs, while also holding a baby in the other arm. Finding a stroller that could easily pass through most city doors and hallways, and one that was comfortable enough to operate for long distances was definitely a challenge. I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect stroller, but I’m getting really close!
There are certainly things that I miss about living in the suburbs, but life in the city isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected. It’s so nice to be able to walk everywhere necessary, from the pharmacy to gorgeous parks, to fabulous museums and even our local hospital. I find that I’ve needed to get much more organized and better at planning, but it’s made me a better person in the end, all the way around. My kids are very social and used to the pace of living in the middle of the city, and aren’t fazed by much. The beauty of children is their ease and adaptability… something I’m learning from them more and more every day.