So you're doing this. You're raising a kid in New York City. That means you're probably going to need some New York parenting hacks along the way. Because, sure, you could have moved somewhere where rent is 50 percent less and you don’t have to work 900 hours a week just to stay alive, but you didn’t. Maybe you have family here, or moving wouldn’t work with your job situation, or you just love the place too damn much to do something so sane as to move elsewhere in pursuit of less stress and financial solvency.
Thus you ignored the naysayers who said you can't afford it, your apartment's too small, you DON'T EVEN HAVE A YARD. You navigated the subway all nine months of gestation and figured out who does and does not get up for pregnant ladies. (Thank you, whole population of energetic women over 60 who rise unquestioningly while countless 20-something dudes manspread and play video games on their phones.) You managed not to have the baby in a cab, not to kill or repel your partner during the crazy that is postpartum life, and now you are in the thick of it.
Unfortunately, it turns out to be pretty f-ing hard. How do you get a stroller in and out of the subway? Where are the other women with kids? What are you supposed to do with toddlers in the winter??? Fortunately — so fortunately — you are not the first person ever to do this. Other brave parents have been there and come up with some pretty brilliant hacks for making it all work. Here are some of those tips, gathered from NYC moms who know what's up:
1. Use A Dressing Room To Breastfeed
"Banana Republic was so nice to me when I needed a private place to nurse," says Shoshana Hulkower Polakoff, a non-profit administrator who lives in Washington Heights. "They didn't hesitate to give me their largest dressing room. Fit my stroller and all."
2. Or Trader Joe's
“Trader Joe’s wine store in Union Square has cleanest bathroom with changing table. Plus free tastings!" says Sara Dimmick, a personal trainer and triathlon coach who lives in Gramercy.
3. Or Brooklyn Bowl
Sarina Appel, an Upper East Side native who works in PR, found a breastfeeding haven at one of New York's favorite bowling establishments. "Brooklyn Bowl has a couch in the women's restroom," she says. "Great for a breastfeed and even a nap. Added bonus is drinking and bowling."
4. Remember The Microwaves At Whole Foods
"My son is an insanely picky eater, and I always have to bring food from home or buy random things when I'm out," says Lindsey Plotnick Berger, a legal recruiter and stay-at-home mom who lives on the Upper East Side. "[I] discovered that Whole Foods has a microwave that you can use. I've bought / brought and warmed up food, warmed up bottles, etc.”
5. Make Your Furniture Do Double Duty
Samantha Podos, who lives on the Upper East Side and works in Global Sales Operations at Google, says the key to keeping a toddler (and yourself) sane during NYC winters is your furniture. "Every piece of furniture in our apartment has some kind of built in storage," she says. "Lucas' toys are distributed throughout the living space in the various baskets and containers, and we rotate around the apartment to his different 'toy stations' when we are home to keep our small space interesting."
6. Go To The Basement
“Ride the elevator to the mysterious B level for discarded boxes to turn into cars, houses, tunnels, etc.," says Kelly Surnamer, a stay-at-home mom on the Upper West Side. This seems like an especially great tip for January through March, when it's still terrible out but has become psychologically impossible to be in your apartment one more moment.
7. Book Classes On Kids Passport
Wondering if Art For Your Future President has a Thursday morning class, but by the time you're done calling the insurance company, the dentist, the pediatrician, and two babysitters, AFYFP is closed for the day? No problem. Kids Passport is basically a ClassPass for kids classes, with a lot of pre- and postnatal yoga thrown in. You pay one fee for class attendance — $39 for two classes a month or $99 for six classes a month. Now if they could just get more studios to feature evening and weekend classes for working moms…
8. Book Speech Therapy Online
If your kid needs speech therapy, there’s a booking site specifically for that. Try Speech Buddies, says Appel. The site lets families schedule appointments with certified speech therapists, and also sells flash cards and tools to help kids overcome speech impediments and mispronunciations.
9. Have A Lovie Strategy
One of life's top toddler nightmares, losing a security blanket, is not unique to New York parents, but there are just way more things that can befall a lovie living in the five boroughs. There are so many cabs, and subway cars, and diners for it to be abandoned in and many, many blocks to drop along, never to be seen again. Andie Perlmutter Brummer, who lives on the Upper East Side and works in insurance sales, has a solution. "I have 15 identical lovies for my daughter," she says. "She is not attached to any specific one bc we rotate them so often. So if you lose one you're not in a panic you have a whole drawer full.”
10. Make Use Of Free Story Times And Not-Free-But-Not-Too-Pricey Stroller Tours At Museums
Another gem from Appel. Mommy Poppins has a great list of free or low-cost library, bookstore, and museum story times around the city. The Guggenheim also has stroller tours once a month that cost $25 for non-members, while the Whitney also does them for $25 per adult, plus the cost of admission. (Check out Kids on the Town for a list of NYC museum family programs.)
11. Schedule Day Dates With Your Partner
Here's another tip that isn't necessarily NYC specific, but essential for New Yorkers who notoriously have even less time than everyone else. "Our kids are in school (or when they were younger with the sitter), and it feels like we're playing hookey from our jobs/businesses if we go out during the day," says Natalie Nevares, Brooklyn-based mom and founder of MommyWise, an in-home sleep training support service. "We go out for lunch, movie, go back to bed in the middle of the day with an empty quiet home, and it's just super fun. Movie theaters are empty during the week, lunch is cheaper, and restaurants less hectic. Evenings we're tired and don't have nearly as much energy.”
12. Forgo The Standard Diaper Bag
Lindsey Plotnick Berger uses a drawstring bag. "It serves so many purposes," she says. "I can use as a backpack when I'm on subway or somewhere like the zoo. Or it fits in almost every one of my pocket books when I need to look normal and carry a purse." Not to mention, it's easier to hand off to other who help with child care. "When my husband takes my son, it's not a heavy, girly diaper bag so he has no issue taking it," she says. "And when we are out to dinner and someone else takes him for a change in the bathroom or something, I can just hand over the little drawstring bag instead of my entire purse or a huge heavy traditional diaper bag.
13. Use Your Carrier To Breastfeed
I once saw a woman in Williamsburg do this very thing as she walked along with her iced coffee in hand. While I’m not sure I have even close to that level of hand-boob coordination or will ever be that cool, it certainly seems worth trying. And Missa Goehring Plosky, a marketing consultant who blogs at Staycation Mama, can tell you how. “Didn't think of it until my first was 8 months old, but totally life changing to nurse while walking," she says. Plosky, who perfected this technique on the Upper East Side before moving to Long Island, says to "loosen the straps slightly to lower the baby. Wear a shirt with a deep v neck. Put the hood up. Bend over slightly while baby latches (and lift your boob into place), and voila.”
14. Go Grocery Shopping At Certain Hours
Ever tried to jam an Uppababy through the aisles of a D'Agostino at rush hour? Yeah, me neither. Fortunately, some clear-headed women have figured this out. "Grocery shop as soon as the stores open in the morning," says Colleen Marks of Forest Hills. "No one is there, so it's easier to navigate narrow aisles with a stroller."
15. Hack Your Stroller
In New York City, a stroller is not just a means of transporting your kids. It’s a luggage cart, a coffee holder, a purse hook, a place where you store all of the things you would stow in a spacious trunk if you lived somewhere where you could own a car. But you don’t live there and there is no trunk, so these are your wheels. It’s up to you to take them to the next level, and New Yorkers are very, very good at it. When the foam stroller handle grips rip, stay-at-home parent Leigh Ann Hartwell Preston wraps them in tennis racket tape. And get ready for Preston's most brilliant tip: "Ankle weights above the front wheels of the stroller to keep it from falling backwards when the back is weighed down with shopping/grocery bags." Genius.
16. Know The Right Kid-Taxi Moves
If it takes you 20 minutes and a Xanax to get your kid in a cab, check out Appel's "taxi boarding protocol": "Ask driver for help, keep door open and remain close to door, place kid inside, unload stroller, fold stroller, pass to driver, enjoy the ride." Of course, make sure you are using a carseat and that you're installing that carseat correctly.
17. Find A Car Service With Carseats
"Finding a car service to get to the airport with kids is a pain in the neck (espECIALLY if you have to go at the crack of dawn and can't necessarily rely on Uber)," says Kate Auletta, an executive editor at The Huffington Post who just moved to New Rochelle. "I like Legends based in Brooklyn. Always on time, always a clean, secure car seat already assembled so you can just plop on in at 5 a.m. and go." Again, doesn't hurt to check yourself that the carseat is installed properly.
18. Choose Your Outings Wisely
Deborah Edell, a full-time mom raising three little boys on the Upper East Side, says living in New York has taught her to not to sweat the small stuff. "I buy organic baby food so I only feel half bad that I don't spend precious time making my own," she says. "And I never take them anywhere I don't have to." (Coolhaus may be worth it.)
19. Don't Bring Your Big Stroller On The Subway. Don't Do It.
"If you take the subway, miss the hefty, tricked out, hardware-heavy strollers (Bugaboo, Uppababy)," says Rebecca Carroll, a producer at WNYC and Guardian columnist who is based in Brooklyn. "Go with the simple Maclaren Quest or Triumph early on. My arms have never been more cut than the first two years when I lifted that stroller with my kid in it up and down the subway stairs."
20. Ask For Help
Mandalee Mankins, a full-time mom in Brooklyn, ditches strollers altogether on the subway. "I opt out of the stroller entirely," she says. "Relying heavily on the kindness of strangers actually mostly works (it takes a village, right?)." Or maybe a city.