There are so many challenges to being a new parent, no matter the season. Sleepless nights, endless crying, and dirty diapers are not bound by a particular time of year, and spit-up does not care about the vagaries of the changing months. But then, there is winter. More specifically, there is winter in Chicago, a time when the hefty challenges of new parenthood are compounded by factors like mountains of snow, subzero temperatures, frigid air that makes your whole life hurt on contact alone, and the endless pot holes caused by the aforementioned mountains of snow and cold.
Lest anyone argue that winter is hard everywhere, ask them this: Have you ever confronted bumper-to-bumper traffic in a city of 10 million with a screaming baby in the backseat, all while knowing that once you finally almost make it home, your car will likely get stuck on your residential side street, because it snowed 14 inches last night and the side streets are always plowed last? Anyone unfamiliar with this situation doesn't know what it means to survive a winter in Chicago with a baby. (And because of this, they don't know how lucky they are.) Here are some other winter truths that Chicago parents are just all too familiar with:
We Live By The Buddy System
Staying inside with a newborn lends a whole new meaning to the term "cabin fever." A 2003 Finnish study found that women with kids were more likely to experience mild postpartum depression in the winter months, according to WebMD. A great way to combat the loneliness and isolation of being stuck indoors with a newborn is to establish a buddy system with another new mom in your neighborhood. In a big city like Chicago, it's not difficult to track down local activities or play groups, and having a friend (or friends) helps.
Getting Groceries Delivered Is A Life-Saver
As important as it is to get out of the house once in awhile, it's equally important to recognize the limitations of winter. When it's five degrees below zero, no sane person should bundle a 2 month old up for a car trip to Mariano's.
Peapod, Instacart, Google Express, and Amazon Prime all offer delivery services, including incentives for first-time customers. There are also a variety of smaller, local companies that deliver organic foods and other niche products. Even better, Amazon Prime Now, a same-day delivery services for Amazon Prime members, extended service to the Chicago area in October. According to The Chicago Tribune, the delivery area "extends north to Evanston and Arlington Heights, south to Oak Lawn and west to Glen Ellyn and Downers Grove." SCORE.
Potholes Are The Worst. THE WORST.
If I don't mention potholes at least 10 times, I'm not properly conveying how awful the pothole situation really is in Chicagoland. When I was pregnant, I dreaded driving because the baby kicked in protest about every five seconds. When I neared my due date, my husband and I pre-selected a route to the hospital that included the fewest possible potholes, which was about, oh, 1,000 potholes.
And then there's the experience of dodging potholes while your innocent little baby peacefully slumbers in the backseat, unaware that you're frantically swerving to the left and right in a hopeless attempt to avoid the craters of doom. I do not exaggerate. This list of the world's worst pot holes at Gadling.com places Chicago between Zimbabwe and Srilanka, calling Chicago's road holes "on par with many third-world countries."
An article at Crain's Chicago Business bravely attempted to untangle the complex budgetary and political relationships that result in Chicago pot holes never being filled. The article concluded that as for future repairs, "As Cubs fans like to say, wait till next year."
Getting Dressed Becomes A Logistical Nightmare
Honestly, just getting myself dressed during the winter is a logistical nightmare. Dressing an infant, particularly a newborn, during the cold winter months is a whole new level of complicated. On the one hand, you want to make sure they’re completely covered, from hats with those things that hang down over the ears, to making sure there's no gap between the socks and the bottom of the pants. (Damned be that gap!) But on the other hand, experts warn that since newborns overheat easily, it’s important to unbundle them once they’re inside, and to not over-bundle when they’re outside, according to WhatToExpect.com.
Newborns are also more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, so new parents should dress young babies in an extra layer of clothing, according to Parents.com. So, to sum it up: Too many layers, and baby might overheat. Too few, and they're at risk for hypothermia. Easy, right? And then there’s nighttime clothing. Since babies under the age of one aren’t supposed to use blankets, which increase the risk of SIDS, sleep sacks, aka. "wearable blankets," have become the go-to item. Sleep sacks, however, don't always keep baby as warm as blankets would. My own solution is to pair thick PJs with a thick sleep sack.
Chicago Is Cold, But It's Also A Winter Wonderland
Despite all the drawbacks of raising a kid in a city with a cold season that lasts eight months, there are also major perks, like the fact that Chicago is an actual winter wonderland. I challenge you to deny this after taking a stroll down Michigan Avenue with the glittering snow-covered trees, the twinkling holiday lights bursting from the storefronts, and the Marshall Field's ... err, Macy's holiday windows telling their sweet holiday stories.
This year, the Chicago wonderland will be even better with the addition of a new ice skating rink at Maggie Daley Park. It's a "skating ribbon," that, according to the Park's website, is a looping pathway of ice with hot chocolate pit stops along the way. It's sort of like the winter version of intertubing down a river, only in this case, the river is bordered by a thriving metropolis.
Winter Coats Are The Enemy Of Car Seats
Car seat safety deserves its own department in academia. They could devote entire semesters to the intricacies of adjusting harness straps. And then, winter coats are thrown into the already-baffling mix. As it turns out, poofed-up winter coats aren't safe for car seats because you're adjusting the straps to the baby plus the coat, which means the straps are too loose, according to Consumer Reports. In the case of an accident, the fluff of the coat might as well be empty air. Rather than let your baby freeze in the backseat, check out this clear, thorough article by The Car Seat Lady about winter car seat safety.
A Bundled Baby Is An Adorable Baby
True, winter brings its challenges, but there's nothing cuter than a baby bundled for a cold day, and that's a fact.