Living in the city with the kids is wonderful, but for sure takes a little bit of a "try-and-see-what-works-for-you” approach. City life is not for every family, for sure, and I know plenty of people that would rather live in suburbs, but after trying that in a couple of different areas, we quickly realized that we are very much the “city people” and would much rather sacrifice the living space over the vibes the city brings and the benefits it has included. I will cover the living space some other time, but here are a few things on how we get around with the “team” in the city.
One of the reasons I love living in the city is because it doesn’t require a car to have a fulfilling life, and in all honesty, for me personally , it is MUCH, MUCH easier to haul everyone across the city on foot then deal with the “car situation” : the car seats, the entertainment while in the car, the issues of carseats… and then there is parking and traffic - entirely complete problems of their own.
An absolute must for me in the city is baby gear in different shapes and forms. There is no question that a good stroller - or several , actually, has been my big key to happy sanity. We invest high in them because this is the major cause of whether I will love life or hate every day of it. I found through experience that there is no ONE stroller that will fit your bill for every point encountered. City living can absolutely be done with just one stroller, but it is much more difficult that way, at least for me. Some days I need something with a large basket, and on another day I need something small and compact, and then there are days where I need to be in 15 places at once at stroller is not an option at all.
On the days I know no public transport is involved in any shape or form, I pull out my trusty full-size stroller, where the baby can rest comfortably throughout the day and all the necessities can be carried in the basket. Whether it is a single stroller with a riding board attached, or a double with two full seats, depends on a few factors. If i know there will be a need for a nap, but no option for one at all, the double stroller serves as a carriage, a home-base and a bed , all in one. A narrow profile of the tandem style stroller gets you anywhere where a single stroller can fit, which is a plus. You loose some storage and encountering stairs may be an issue, which is a minus. A side-by-side double is easier if you have to go up or down the few stairs ( that many museums love to have) and your storage ability is typically more, but it may not fit into some of the city shops, and if you don’t have a subway , the bus drivers will not take you on unless you fold the stroller. But if you tailor to your day’s needs with the right stroller - it will run as smooth as can be, with babies being happy, rested and content, which is 80% ( if not all 100) key of a successful day.
For public transportation with the baby and strollers, situations vary depending on where you live. If you have a well-established subway system, as NYC or most European cities do - count your very many blessings. I miss NY subway daily. Even if there is no elevator for easiest access ( which NYC offers several stations with elevators and the few blocks of walking to and from are totally worth it, in my opinion!) , there is always someone willing to help when they see a mom with a stroller. For the cases when no one was around, the stroller that can “walk” the stairs by going into two-wheel mode was my life saver: i take the baby out, hold him/her in one hand, pop the wheels to close and just “walk” the stroller behind me, while having a toddler hold on to my jacket/finger/shoulder bag. Sure , you will not be skip-hopping down the stairs and need to take a little bit of time ( toddlers don’t walk fast ) , but it’s not a big deal at all. Once down the stairs, I would put everyone back where they belong, straps and all included, and wait for the train. IF the train is too full, we would skip one - 5 minutes don’t make a huge impact on your life , but it can be a tremendous life-saver for your sanity. Getting out by yourself with no help is the same process as getting in, but a lot easier, because you are walking up.
If your subway system is limited or you don’t have one at all, buses/trolleys are the second best option, but it has some tricks to it. First of all, KNOW your laws and regulations, and don’t take anyone’s but written book’s word for it. For example, in San Francisco, strollers in UNFOLDED state are allowed by law and regulations ( they fall into (assistance category alongside with guard dogs and wheelchairs), and no driver can refuse you a ride. IF they demand you fold the stroller, they MUST provide a car-seat for your children to sit securely in. Otherwise, not only they cannot refuse the ride, they are supposed to come out , clear the path, and secure the stroller with belts provided in each bus. The only time they can refuse the ride is IF ALL the spaces are already occupied - believe me , that never happens. But this is not the story that some of the bus drivers will tell you. After a couple of years of dealing with some of the attitudes, we found that a compact, but still fully functioning stroller was a great solution for me - if a driver pulls an attitude and doesn’t want to lower the lift, ( which happened a few times) , i can easily pick up the small stroller up the stairs without any assistance and off we go.
Next in line come the carriers - I always have one in my bag or the stroller. I found that we have a need and use for 3 types : the sling, the wrap and the structured one. I also discovered over the years that babies have preferences and often those preferences change, so having all three on hand is a lifesaver and completely worth the price tag. Carriers are also a fantastic solution for when we are on the go with a single stroller and suddenly a certain someone needs a rest and we don't have time ( or ability) to sit down. I put the smaller child in the carrier, a bigger one in the stroller and everyone is happy, content and we are making it everywhere on time.
BEATING THE CITY TRAFFIC
And last but far not least - the "need to be in 3 places at once" situation. Although San Francisco has cab and Uber services, and they are great, nothing saves you better from traffic jams then good old bicycles, two child seats and a couple of scooters. We use this method quite a bit, actually. Often I take some of the kids with me on scooters or/and in the stroller, and the others go with J on the bikes. We'll trade if one of us needs to be somewhere with no time to spare, and at the end of the day we just meet up after everything is done. We have three bikes and five scooters, but for daily use we figured that we can perfectly manage with two bikes ( because our oldest is practically my height! when did that happen?!) and three scooters: we attach an extra scooter when not in use to the rack on the back and pull it up when everyone needs some sort of a vehicle.
It is not always very convenient to carry the baby in one hand and be holding a toddler in the other, or ,when we meet up at the end of the day, to walk home pushing the stroller and bikes, and that is why Babyzen YoYo is unbeatable for us: it folds small enough to pass for just a regular bag, so we attach it to the bike and viola! you are were you need to be within 15 minutes, all traffic avoided and you still can have your sanity and not have to carry the baby everywhere you go all day long, unless ,of course, that is something you like doing and your baby will sit in the carrier all day ( ours won't - stroller is a must for us), and that's where baby carriers come in handy again.
We have a couple of rules that we stick to religiously. First - everything that kids want to bring they have to carry. Unless it’s a baby/toddler under 3, they are completely responsible for carrying their own toys/fun and that is why 99% of the time you will see our kids with backpacks - that’s the “magic chest” that has it all. Some days they are packed fuller then others and I try to somewhat control the contents and keep it light enough so that they don’t get tired, but this is where they have complete freedom of choice, and that is where they also learn about their own abilities. Lunches/snacks also go into individual backpacks. Of course, as a mom - naturally - I carry some of this or that too, so a good bag is a "must" for me always.
For getting out - the prep is the night before. We made it a rule early into marriage/parenting years that everything for the day ahead needs to be done the night before: toys packed, lunches pre-made as much as possible, baths taken, clothes selected and prepped, so that all it takes in the morning is getting up , washing/brushing, breakfast and off we go. The total time from out-of-bed to out of the door is under 40 minutes for everyone included, and but I always budget in another 30-40 minutes for a newborn up to 3-4 months. I don’t know that the magic is, but from birth to about 4 months is ALWAYS takes an extra 40 or so minutes to get out.
A LIST OF DAY-TO-DAY BASICS
STROLLERS in the city:
Single full size with a riding board : Stokke Xplory, Bugaboo Buffalo
Double : Stokke Crusi
Compact : Bugaboo Bee 3 , Babyzen YoYo
Structured : Stokke MyCarrier
Soft Structured: Ergo Original
Slings : Sakura Bloom
Wraps : Solly Baby
SoYoung, Kanken, Skip Hop ( that double up as a little harness too - those little tiny feet can run way too fast sometimes!)
Petunia Pickle Bottom, SoYoung ( great for dads - J claimed Charlie as his bag from day one )
BIKES AND SCOOTERS:
Public Bikes, Micro Scooters
One very last thing - here is what I found from my personal experience as well. While it may seem as “a lot of things to have”, when you live your life actively and to the fullest, it is important to have the carrier you love, the stroller that doesn’t make you feel like you are sick and tired of it, and for me personally, feeling “put together” does in fact, involve all the baby gear as well. And since we don’t have to spend $1500+ on gas and other things “car related”, it makes up with abundance for the ability to have a variety of styles/colors of baby gear things. Plus, it’s another little drop in the cup of trying to take care of our Earth.
So, there you have it - our tips and tricks. Share yours here or on Instagram - I am all ears!