As an adult, I've lived in the Midwest, the South, Appalachia, the East Coast, the West Coast, and now New York City.
I think it’s safe to say, I know a thing or two about living in different parts of the United States and living in New York with my four kids makes me want to shout to all the parents on the street and subways, "IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS HARD!"
Just kidding, because living in this city is incredible in many ways, but at the same time, with 2+ kids, there's a reason why everyone moves out to the ‘burbs and buys a minivan.
Let me tell you about my typical day in NYC:
6:20 a.m.: My 4-year-old daughter pokes me in the face and asks me if it’s time to wake up (we share a bed). I tell her to go back to sleep. This wakes up my 6-year-old son because he’s on the bunk above us. No, we’re not one of those co-sleeping families; we just have six people sharing 1,200 square feet.
6:22 a.m.: I’m lined up to go to the bathroom behind my son and daughter because my husband is in the shower with the door locked. All six of us share one bathroom. Technically, we have 1.5 bathrooms but my 1-year-old son lives in the half-bathroom … and he’s still asleep.
6:25am: My 1-year-old is now crying in his pack-n-play in the half-bathroom because he heard the 4- and 6-year old awake. His cries wake up the 2-year-old who is just one thin wall away.
6:27am: Despite the fact that I’m 5’10”, I use a step stool to climb up to the highest shelves of the kitchen cabinets to grab the cereal. The kitchen is so tiny we have to use even the highest shelves for everyday items. I pour the $7 cereal into four bowls, and the box is now empty.
7:55am: Everyone is fed and dressed. We put on our rain boots, rain coats, and fight over who gets which umbrella because school is about to start, and even though it’s raining, we have no choice but to walk every day.
7:57am: Go back to apartment to get the rain cover for the stroller.
8:23am: Everyone is cold. Everyone is wet. My voice is hoarse from yelling at everyone that if we don’t keep walking, we’re going to be late for school.
8:45am: The 4- and 6-year-olds are at school. Despite the overwhelming odds, they got into our neighborhood public schools. That’s a rare feat in New York City. Otherwise, we would be paying $30,000 and more for a year per child in tuition.
8:47am: Because of $30,000+/year tuition prices (yes, even for preschool and daycare), the 1- and 2-year-old stay home with me. The three of us are off to the grocery store. We buy a half-gallon of milk and a few apples. The total is $18.
We’d buy more but…
1) We can’t afford it
2) I can’t carry it all home
3) We don’t have any room left in the fridge.
8:48am: We try to leave the grocery store, but the 1-year-old reaches out of the stroller and the aisles are so tight, he knocks down the display. The grocery store employees glare at me so I try to leave quickly, but the double stroller gets stuck in the doorway.
9:02am: I decide to explore the city because I “only” have two kids with me. When we arrive at the subway, I realize it doesn’t have elevators and I have a double stroller with me. I make puppy dog eyes at any able-bodied person who passes me, hoping they’ll offer to help me carry the stroller down the multiple flights of steps. But, because the 1-year-old can’t walk and the 2-year-old needs to be corralled, I need to hold the two kids, which means two people have to offer to carry the double stroller down the steps. No dice. We leave the subway.
9:03am: I catch a cab, but then realize it doesn’t have car seats, and I don’t want to take the chance of driving through the city with no car seats (even though it’s legal). We go back home.
9:30am: The 1- and 2-year-old have been crawling on top of me for the past half hour because our “family room/kitchen/living room” is about 200 square feet. Cabin fever inspires me to enroll them in a music class. I scratch that idea after I look online and find that my neighborhood music class is $600 per child per quarter.
10:33am: Snack time at our dining room table.
(No seriously, this is our table.) I’ve been eating standing up for three months. We eat the apples. We’re now out of food.
11:45am: I get an alert that my package delivery was attempted, but could not be delivered. WTF?!? Nobody even tried to get in touch with me. (We don’t have a doorman so the delivery people don’t even bother with delivery. They just leave a note in your mailbox saying you can come to the post office tomorrow to pick up your delivery.) At this rate, I momentarily consider (GASP!) shopping at AN ACTUAL STORE.
11:47am: That note reminded me that we had a failed delivery attempt yesterday too. So, I put the kids in their rain coats and rain boots and start the 1-mile walk to the post office, hoping that whatever I ordered will be small enough to fit in the basket under the stroller.
11:53am: On the way to the post office, the potty-training toddler tells me that she has to go potty RIGHT NOW. We stop in a coffee shop, a pizza restaurant, and a grocery store, and no one has a restroom. I pull the portable potty out of the stroller (because that’s what you carry when you have a toddler in New York), and have the toddler pee right there on the sidewalk.
11:58am: We get to post office and discover the package is a huge box of diapers. I realize I can’t carry it home AND push the stroller, so I’ll have to get a baby-sitter so I can come back to pick up the diapers.
1:00pm: Kids are down for a nap, so it’s time to do laundry. But, we don’t have a washer or dryer in our apartment. I contemplate if it would be legal to run up to the third floor to throw a few loads in, but then I realize I don’t have any money on my laundry card. And, to put more money on the laundry card, I have to walk to the apartment’s offices which are half a mile away. That would definitely not be legal. I turn underwear inside out and decide it’s good for another day.
1:30pm: Kids are still asleep, so I consider an at-home workout but I feel too tired to do it. Check fitness tracker and realize I’ve already walked 9.78 miles today.
2:30pm: Kids are up from their nap and I still need to get the laundry done. I decide to take the laundry to the dry cleaner. They tell me that they’ll wash it and fold it. Score! I could get used to this!!! Then, they tell me it’ll be back in three days. And, it’ll cost $65. Decide wearing underwear is not important.
3:00pm: Time to pick big kids up from school. The rain has now turned into a downpour and I can’t bear taking another hour to walk home with all of these little legs, so I bring the quadruple stroller. (Yes, that’s a real thing.)
3:15pm: Walking home with all four kids in the quadruple stroller. Passersby say one of three things:
1) Are they all yours?
2) I’ve never seen one of those strollers before!
3) Does that thing have a motor?
3:16pm: Drunk vagrant screams at me, “Have you ever heard of birth control?”
4:00pm: Home from school. Realize it’s the first of the month. Check bank account: paycheck has been deposited. Pay rent. Check bank account: negative balance.
5:00pm: After feeding kids dinner on red, Ikea “dining room table,” I give them a bath.
6:00pm: Get ready for rare date night out. Excited because I finally found a baby-sitter who charges less than $40/hour. Sure, she’s been nanny-shamed on every mom Facebook group for being on her phone while the kids are at the playground, but maybe that’s why she’s so “cheap.”
7:00pm: Arrive at restaurant. I blink several times because it appears as if the restaurant is empty. Assume it’s just lack of sleep, but when I ask the hostess, she says their dinner rush doesn’t start for another hour.
8:45pm: Return home and hand a check for $105 to baby-sitter who informs you she’ll only take cash. No, she’s never heard of Venmo.
9:00pm: Hand $140 in cash to baby-sitter (because running to the ATM put me over the next hour limit). Account is officially overdrawn for the month.
9:15pm: Crawl into bunk bed with 4-year-old. Scoot to edge of bed to avoid wet spot. Understands why it’s called the city that never sleeps.
Kudos to all those parents who do this every day … I’m just a hack who will only be here a year.