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Winter: A Parent's Nightmare

A few years in, I can say confidently that being an urban working parent in winter is a challenge like none other. It's begun and now there's no turning back until Spring.
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Now that Winter Storm Juno has left New England, families everywhere begin the process of digging out. After a mild few months, winter has finally set in and the snow that's fallen probably won't leave for months. It's enough to make a mom lose her mind.

The idea of moving to Boston with a toddler in tow was intimidating to me at first. I was a Western girl who was used to driving everywhere in places where every store had a large parking lot with plenty of space out front. Boston meant no more climbing in and out of the car for every errand; now we'd be taking the bus, riding the train and walking miles of sidewalks.

The first few months were better than I expected. Parks everywhere and sidewalks on every street made up for the tight spaces and lack of parking.

Then winter came.

A few years in, I can say confidently that being an urban working parent in winter is a challenge like none other. It's begun and now there's no turning back until Spring.

Of course, being an urban parent almost guarantees you're a working parent. With rents and mortgage payments sky-high, hardly any family in high-priced areas can get by on just one salary anymore. If you're lucky there are two of you and you can trade off the extra child-watching days.

What extra child-watching days, you ask? First, there's the sick days, when your child can't go to school or daycare. (Don't forget the sick days you'll have to take after you catch whatever they had.) Then there's the snow days, when school is cancelled due to inclement weather. Don't forget the Delayed Starts and Early Releases, too. There's the holidays, winter is full of them, and just because the kids are off doesn't mean your office is closed. If you're a single parent, these days can eat up all of your leave before you get halfway through the year.

If you have young children, winter takes away your major modes of transportation. Sure, the rules are that everyone is supposed to shovel their sidewalks, but not everyone does. And if you usually pull out the stroller for a young child or a long distance trek, you won't be able to push it down the narrowly-shoveled walkways.

During my first winter in Boston, I often found my son and I stranded at home. His stroller's wheels couldn't handle the snowy sidewalks and I wondered if maybe we should've bought something sturdier. One day, out on my own, I ran into another mother who was stranded with her stroller. Sure, she had a tricked out jogging stroller with wheels powerful enough to go over snow, but it was too wide for the thin path on the sidewalk. Her only option was to walk with her child in the narrow street that was even narrower thanks to the piles of snow accumulated from the plows. Together, we picked up the stroller and carried it over a half a mile until we got over the top of the hill on the busy street. There she could go into a safer side street where she was unlikely to run into any cars.

The cold and the snow means that for most of your family activities, you're stuck with indoor options. No more carefree hours at the sunny park where no one charges admission. No more thoroughly worn out kids who fall asleep in minutes. Instead, everyone is stir crazy and there isn't much to make it better. In the winter, you usually have to find your fun inside and there's probably a ticket involved.

When your kids do play outside, there's nothing simple about it. Boots, snow pants, coat, scarf, gloves and hat all have to go on and no one knows where anything is. If you're lucky they're outside for a while, but plenty of kids are back only 20 minutes later and all the gear now must be pulled off and set out to dry, taking up all the space in your bathroom. There will also be demands for hot chocolate.

Speaking of all that snow gear, it costs a pretty penny and odds are you'll have to buy a new set every year. Plus you'll need to replace all the lost items that go missing along the way.

If we're lucky Spring will show up in April, but we may not see good weather until June. So I'm going to appreciate the little things I can find this winter like hot cocoa and footie pajamas. But I can't wait until family togetherness isn't quite so claustrophobic.

Jessica writes about Parenting, Divorce, and Life in Boston at Don't Mind the Mess.