I'm a fan of Mackenzie Dawson, enjoy her pieces and often find myself nodding along as I read each word that seems to have slipped out of my less impressive head. But, for once, I found myself disagreeing with her. As always, she makes good points. New York is elitist, unfair and hard, with or without a baby. And, actually, I feared exactly what she speaks of (A stroller in a subway? Horrifying!), which is why we moved not only out of the city, but the state, clear across the country to California.
And then we moved back while I was 33 weeks pregnant. But you all know that story -- the one I was shocked to discover, the one I was thrilled to be wrong about and the one that is point of this piece:
New York City is SO EASY with a baby.
Granted, we live in the ideal family-friendly yet still hip enough to maintain our New York street cred neighborhood of Tribeca. And we're lucky enough to have a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with laundry (game-changing) and a terrace as well as a car in a garage in our building. We also chose a pediatrician on our street, which is the best move I've ever made. I realize how fortunate we are, that this is not the case for everyone and how that absolutely skews my perception.
But, beyond that, we're the beneficiaries of every other great service that most New Yorkers are privy too: Tons of parks and playgrounds, classes, building playrooms, museums, culture, diversity... and getting to our New York offerings in a New York minute.
For the first nine months of my daughter's life, I wore her around this city, making running errands, traveling to different hoods and boroughs a breeze. I would have worn her longer, but she's a big girl and after making fun of my husband for his bad back, threw out mine in the best case of karma I've ever scene. She was comfortable, cuddly and comatose most of the time much more than she would have been at home and certainly happier than a car seat.
In fact, I still have scars from the first time I tried to venture out alone in the car with her to run errands. She was screaming her head off in the back seat as I was stuck in traffic, throwing Mum-Mum's at her like one does bread with ducks, hoping, praying one would land in her lap and she could reach it, allowing for a few moments of Mom-sanity.
What would take hours to get my to-do list TA-DA-ed in suburbia, I knock out in mere minutes in Manhattan. Dry cleaners, nails, groceries, coffee, book store, toy store, post office... and that's all without having to tangle with traffic, stoplights and a baby in and out of the car seat every friggin' time. Not to mention, upon arrival, getting the stroller out of the trunk and strapping her in or assembling the Bjorn and doing the same.
When I wasn't wearing her, we were strolling, up and down the West Side Highway, which for those not familiar with New York, sounds scary but it's lovely. There's sectioned, designated areas, far from traffic, perfectly landscaped and highly entertaining. At every turn, there's something stimulating: playgrounds, water and skate parks, mini golf, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts, bike and toy rentals, marinas, sports complexes, food vendors, outdoor art and music classes, band practice. We walked through our neighborhood and beyond, exploring other parts of town, checking out various, interactive play spaces and getting plenty of natural exercise (bye-bye baby weight!) and fresh air.
When the weather wasn't nice, we'd hit up one of the libraries for free story hour, gym, music or art class, an indoor play space or one of our many new friends' apartments.
Speaking of new friends, the mom's groups in New York are unparalleled. Whether it's Brooklyn or the Bowery, there's a crew for you and they're topnotch. From message boards to meetings, they're a vital and valuable lifeline during those first few frightening months. I have plenty of friends and family in different cities and states across the country and after comparing notes, am certain, there's nothing like a New York mom's group.
Now, the classes can be COSTLY but I've free trialed my way through this city and my friends have too. It's about being resourceful and communal. Sharing the wealth so yours doesn't run out.
One of my friends set up a "babysitters club" with her mom's group, where each week two out of six of the moms leave their babies with the others and go have some free time. The next week, they switch and so on. Another commissioned a music group to come to their rotating apartments each week for a fraction of the cost the brick and mortar studios charge.
It's all about staying creative -- and local. I admit, we don't take the subway all that often because we don't have to. We've created quite the community right here. And we never do taxis or car services. Although Uber does offer a car seat caravan now and for much less than the prices Ms. Dawson quoted.
My main gripe with raising a baby in the city has nothing to do with transportation. It's about the space -- or lack thereof. But that was my complaint pre-children too. There's never enough. But, I presume that's the case with any city-dweller or small home inhabitant. And, actually, it wasn't that bad with a baby. However, now that my daughter's a toddler, it's becoming quite challenging. After this Christmas, I had to spend more money and find more space for organizational items to hold all of the excess talking toys, play food, blocks, ride-on and push contraptions, all items she never needed -- or asked for -- as a baby.
And as far as people giving me or my baby the stink-eye? Wanting us to walk faster? Be quieter? The "Bringing Up Bébé" pediatrician will have to pardon my French but fuck them.
I'm sorry, how New York of me!