Friday, January 23, 2015

Is It Really That Hard to Have a Baby in Manhattan?

New York Post writer Mackenzie Dawson is catching flak for a story saying you're a terrible parent if you raise your baby in Manhattan.
“New York, New York, it’s a helluva town for babies,” said no one ever in the history of New Amsterdam, which is why my husband and I packed up our bags and moved to Westchester when our son was 5 months old. . . . I maintain that while Manhattan is one of the most fantastic places on Earth in general, it is also one of the worst, most annoying places ever for children under the age of 2.
She decries the public transit, the "manic energy," the competition and the fact that someone is always walking behind you (and wishing you'd go faster).

First of all, how does a woman of child-bearing age have the first name Mackenzie? Based on the Social Security database, that's a 12-year-old's name. Her parents must have been way ahead of the curve. (Mackenzie Phillips is in her 50s, but Mackenzie was actually her middle name.) Anyway, I digress...

Dawson makes some valid points, but in many ways the city is better for kids under 2. When babies are small, you can tote them everywhere in a Baby Bjorn and they sleep much of the time — even if you stop for a meal at a bustling restaurant. That's not possible when they get older.

When we lived in the hardscrabble alleyways of SoMa, we had a great time with Elliot as a baby. By the time he got past age 2, we felt like we needed to move. Mostly, it was because another baby was coming and our apartment was getting cramped. But it didn't help that Elliot began asking questions about the random man pleasuring himself at the bus stop. (Infants don't notice these things!)

Now we live in Manhattan, and since our third child was born in the borough, I feel like I have some authority on the topic of raising a baby here. (Yes, we live on Roosevelt Island — aka "Little Manhattan" — but just bear with me.)

Dawson is right about the transit. When you have to push a stroller around the city, you basically become a disabled person. You have to study the MTA maps to see which stations have the little wheelchairs next to them (denoting an elevator in the station).

Guess what? Not many of them do.

She also complains that you can't take a cab because it means lugging around a child seat. Here, she's a little off-base. In an exemption to safety rules, the law permits you to take your baby in a taxi without a special car seat. (Now, one could argue that no competent parent would do this, but it's well within your legal rights.)

As for your living situation: I think you really have to live in an elevator building to make Manhattan work. Hauling kids and/or a stroller up and down the steps of a walk-up doesn't seem feasible, and there aren't a whole lot of other options.

But again, raising kids in the city seems to get harder when they reach a certain age.

Lugging a stroller around is bad, but having them walk on their own is far, far worse. You have to constantly goad, cajole and scream at them or they'll stop every three feet to pick up something disgusting off the ground.

This is not something suburban families need to worry about. They just strap the kids into the car and go.

Does that mean I'd like to move out of the city? Not in the foreseeable future. But I also don't think Manhattan is anti-baby. I just think it's anti-crybaby.