PARENTING

When I grow up…Another “stump the band” question from the 4-year old.

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There are definitely days as a stay-at-home mom or “person on a mommy-sabbatical” as I like to call it, that are a blow to one’s ego.  Having had a full life and robust career before kids, it can sometimes feel like an out-of-body experience to go from dynamic, discerning decision-making to a tedious and tiring toddler tango.  Yep.  I have some rough days.  With that being said, the City Mouse in me, relishes the urban environment and activity that’s just outside my door as it feels like my past life is right there, a grasp away and easily attainable again, should I choose to make that decision.  This is where I grew up in my career and that certainly helps.

So, it was particularly poignant on one of these tough days that I had a fascinating interchange with my little guy.  (Sometimes, I wonder about the mythical power of a child’s intuition.  Have you noticed this?)  Recently, as the welcoming darkness of daylight savings time- bedtime enveloped us and we were snuggled up on the bed, stories in hand, my 4-year old asked, “Mommy? What are YOU going to be when you grow up?” I’m pretty sure my mouth opened and no words came out. I was left, well, speechless. And, no joke, here are the responses that immediately ran rapid fire through my head, “I’m already grown up.” “I’ve already made my choices.” “I once was an… advertising….hmmm.. …. And now I’m a…well…hmmm.” But I didn’t say any of those things. I just paused.  And, after a beat, took it head on. “Well, I’m going to be a businesswoman and a mommy and a writer.”

“I’m going to be a fireman and a circus clown.” He replied concisely.

“Got it.” “That sounds like a great plan.”

Ah. To be young. The simplicity of that question at that age is delicious, yes?  His answer was not filled with the angst and momentary defensiveness of my potential answer. I couldn’t help it, but my emotional response was something that I had to physically swallow down after a day feeling a bit disconnected in mommy-land. “Mommy was someone, too once! Someone important! Someone people listened to and someone who was paid quite well for her expertise. Someone with dreams, ambitions, and frequent flyer status!!” Settle, down, there, momma. Settle down. You don’t need to give him your resume. Yet.

I actually did love that question growing up and through college and through my twenties since I found the possibilities endless and exciting. Starting from a young age, answers fluctuated:

  • a veterinarian
  • an actress
  • an acting coach
  • a lawyer
  • a teacher
  • a sports agent
  • an athletic administrator
  • a speech pathologist
  • an advertising sales rep

And I’m sure many others I’ve forgotten.

Although I was completely taken aback by the question, I paused to realize that I’m still entitled to an answer. It’s not like “it’s all over” for me. I’m still writing the next chapter of “what I’ll be….” Making it easier, in my mind as mentioned, is maintaining our city life at this point. It still feels to me like the possibilities are endless. The opportunities are plentiful and the center of the world is close to where we are. It’s buzzing. It’s invigorating. It’s humming and you can feel it through your feet. There are so many people who I encounter daily who are doing great things and starting ventures and living out passions and that is truly inspiring.

Truth be told, I have a few ideas of “what I’ll be” next. It’s my next endeavor. I’m planning to make a plan. And I can’t wait to start working on what’s next and sharing dreams for the future… with my little firefighter-  circus clown.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

The Six Week Boot Camp: Or, perhaps the most important thing that I will ever write.

 

Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 9.12.31 AMThere are certain things that I definitely wanted to know before having children (the ins and outs of childbirth), things I didn’t want to know (how much they would really change our life) and things that I didn’t know, I didn’t know, but wished I would’ve known. The topic up for discussion, falls into that last bucket.

It’s a message that I would love to get out to all new parents and I feel compelled to now, having just gone through it…for the 3rd and final time.  A subject, about which, I rarely hear anyone discuss.  It’s as simple as understanding that there’s a very difficult time with a newborn, that doesn’t last forever, but may test you, your marriage, your strength and cause you to question your sanity in your decision to ever have had a child/ another child in the first place.

It’s a time period that I wasn’t aware of until we were going through it. A time that no one mentioned to us until we were in it and by then it was a little too late. I’m calling it the Six Week Boot Camp.  Weeks one through six. The first brutal six weeks at home with baby.

Now, I don’t necessarily blame all of my dear friends who mostly had their kids before me, for not sharing this information. It is amazing how sleep deprivation can creep, like a subtle blackboard eraser and wipe out all of the notes and cues that were chalked quickly into your memory bank during the early days of new parenthood. In fact, even after having done this two times before, it wasn’t until my husband and I were deep in the first six weeks, for the third time, that we started recalling hazy memories, “Oh, yes…that’s right….7pm is THE WORST. We won’t get to sit down together at the end of the day for weeks….yes, I remember that now…I had forgotten that game of pass the baby in the evening…that’s right….…Swaddle, shush, swing, repeat.”

The difference for me this go around is that I mentally prepared for this time period because I KNEW how hard it would be. I KNEW it would be a huge challenge. I KNEW that I needed as much mental toughness as physical resiliency. In my mind, and I’m actually not really kidding, I pictured myself putting on a combat helmet, lacing up my boots, head down, determination strong. I had the advantage this time. I KNEW it was coming. I KNEW I could survive it. I KNEW it would get better.

I’ve been thinking about this time in terms of Boot Camp, but more specifically, Navy SEAL “Hell Week,” the most difficult stretch of training that trainees endure on their way to becoming Navy SEALs.  My husband and I are lucky enough to know a Navy SEAL.  A real life warrior.  I know enough about these special forces to be respectful of their accomplishments and in awe of the training process. Stories about Hell Week describe it as a test of physical endurance, mental toughness, pain, ability to perform under physical and mental stress. Additionally, this 5 ½ day test takes place on fewer than 4 hours of sleep.   It’s said to be the greatest achievement in a trainee’s life and leads to the realization that they can do more than they ever thought they could.   To me, the parallels are striking. Yes, different in many, many ways. But, definitely relatable and true, at a high level:  The conquering of a symphonic feat of physical, emotional, mental strain.

I will never be a Navy SEAL. But, I have come to think of those first six weeks as the closest I will ever get to Navy SEAL Hell Week. It’s been my equivalent of Hell Week. And I’m glad that I know that now.

The Navy SEALs have a motto that I think works just as well for the Six Week Boot Camp with your new babe and is oh, so appropriate for new parents to understand, embrace and remember daily: THE ONLY EASY DAY WAS YESTERDAY. The only easy day was yesterday.

So, mama. Remember this: Yes. The only easy day was yesterday. Set that  expectation for six weeks. You will have nights that you may not sleep at all. In fact, you will go for months without any sort of continuous night’s sleep. You may be perpetually hungry and thirsty depending on the number of children in your family, your nursing schedule, and other daily life responsibilities. You will need, in your sleep- deprived state, to conquer tasks of balance, strength and agility.   You will feel the physical manifestations of the emotional stress.  You will have moments when you lose your mental edge and think you can’t do any of it for one more minute. You will give up nearly everything else in your life for these six weeks. You will have moments when you would pay $100 for 5 minutes of sleep or a 10-minute shower. Your baby crying and sometimes, in conjunction with your other crying children will drive you to your own tears. You will need to draw on a depleted tank of intestinal fortitude to put one foot in front of the other. You will put on a brave face for kind visitors. You will mask your pain.

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But, mama, you WILL succeed. HOOYAH! You will conquer this period and come out stronger than before. It may be the hardest thing you ever do. But you will do it. And it will get better. And the fruits of your labor will be recognized. And you will, eventually, get back to being you. And, as a couple, you and your spouse will get back to being a version of the couple that you remember. And you will have fun again. And you will get sleep again. And, happily, mama, it’s actually very likely, that you will have no memory of these first few weeks. You will simply know, with pride, that you survived it all; that you can accomplish most anything else that comes your way. You are stronger than you ever thought possible.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

 

Three’s company? Three’s a crowd? The jury is out.

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Because, as I sit here, rounding out the last few dwindling hours of my “due date” and still, formally, the mother of 2, I have some time to write this post, completely in the dark as to the state of the union of the matter of 3. 3 children. It’s been interesting the responses we’ve gotten after letting both strangers, friends and family know that we were expecting 3. Some of the comments or questions we’ve received are as follows:
1. Do you have to move? Or the closely related, do you have enough space? Enough bedrooms? Are kids sharing rooms? Answers: No. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
2. Do you need a new car? Or the closely related, can you fit 3 car seats in your backseat?
Answers: No. Yes. With a little advanced planning I purchased at the outset, the only car seats on the market, capable of fitting 3 across. To answer the obvious question here, yes, we had conceptually planned on a bigger family from the beginning.
3. “Well, god bless you guys.” Shakes head in disbelief. Says the random dad in the park who was with his own 2 who are 18 months apart.
4. “Well, you’ll certainly never walk anywhere with 3 which will make the suburbs that much more appealing.”
5. “Once you have 3, you can just add a 4th and it’s no big deal.” Said by a few mothers of 4.
6. “Once you have 3, you are just really into the kid-thing so it takes the pressure off of pretending like you can have your own life back.” Said by a mother of 3.
7. “All I can tell you is, get enough help. The 3rd turned me into a full-blown alcoholic that first year.” Said the beleaguered, stone-cold, un-smiling, dead serious mom I met at a drop-in gymnastics class. She WAS NOT JOKING. Shudder.
8. “I really want a third child, but I can’t get my husband on board.” Said by a number of San Francisco moms and testament, I think to what happens, particularly in the city. Start doing the math, again, as previously discussed and it’ll never justify going beyond 2.

I love gathering all of the perspectives from acquaintances and strangers alike. Although, as a rule of thumb in life, I take all advice with a grain of salt, I do listen to the little nuggets that are given to me and sort through it all to make my own judgement.

Truth be told, I don’t know what it will be like with 3 kids in San Francisco. I’ve never done it before. At this moment, I’m trying to wrap my head around how the pick-up/ drop-offs go, getting 2 kids to different schools, hauling the newborn around and nursing and shuttling to and from activities of the older children. Hmmm….have it figured out yet? Nope. Not a clue how to do it. But it will come. Will the 3-kid thing mean we never walk anywhere again? I’d like to think that’s not the case. That would be a huge bummer. I’ll let you know on that one.

We are about to enter into yet another new phase of life in the city: Parents of 3 children, all 4 and under. And I’m ready to see what the next year has in store. It’ll be a guaranteed roller coaster ride-style adventure to be sure. And we’re about as strapped in as we’re ever going to be. Here we go…..!

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Beautiful torture: The last few days & weeks of pregnancy

pregnancyIf any of you have waited for the labor and delivery process to start, you know well and I am just now learning with #3, how truly torturous this wait can be. Even with the well-honed knowledge of what is to come, I’m still ready. Meaning the real stuff, not The Pottery Barn Kids kind of blissful land of receiving blankets and super-soft stuffed bunnies and perfectly layed out nurseries.Screen shot 2014-07-01 at 10.45.50 AM.
The what’s to come I’m talking about is the no sleep, adrenaline highs, postpartum lows, post labor contractions that bring tears to your eyes, narcotics, stool softeners, donut pillows, crying that just won’t stop (often for mom and baby), creative sleeping positions with newborns in chairs, beds, couches, sitting up, laying down, stress over the other kids waking up and handling the family changes and just keeping the wheels from falling off forever. The fear of setting all the kids up for lifelong adult therapy sessions that were certainly….Your Fault, particularly after the recommended “screen time” per kid, per week was consumed in your first day home from the hospital. Those kinds of what’s to come events. Still. Even with all of that, the difficulty of the last few weeks/days can leave one yearning for the sweet escape of JUST HAVING THE BABY!

At various points in the last few days, I thought the pressure of carrying my 4 year old- 42+ pounder down the stairs might be enough to induce labor right there or just push #3 right on out. No such luck. Or getting kicked in the stomach by the tantruming 2-year old who simply decided a diaper change was not preferable AT THIS EXACT MINUTE! might also do the trick and entice #3 to get the heck out of there and fight back on her own. But that didn’t happen either. I had never paid attention before to those, “How to jump-start labor” articles and tips because I didn’t have to. We barely had our acts together in time for #1 and #2 who were 5 days early respectively. But now, I’m taking tips left and right: Spicy Soup at Dosa? Serve me a bowl, Lyon street steps? Let’s get walking. And I can’t even claim a good, hopeful Braxton Hicks contraction in the last week. ARGH!

I am trying really hard to heed well- meaning advice to enjoy this time and it’s so true and sweet. This family of 4 has an impending expiration date and we’ve been making memories and soaking it in and snuggling in bed with the 4 of us and it really has been important and meaningful. However, the physical limitations of my current “situation” are almost too much to bear sometimes.

For once, we are really ready: the room is set up, hospital bag packed, baby clothes washed and hung, camera charged. And I kind of hate the anticipation. I’m longing for (or maybe just reminiscing about) the situation of #1, where, on my very first day of maternity leave, I kicked into labor unexpectedly and ran around the city like a crazy woman buying all of the last-minute essentials (nursing bras, bouncing chair, etc) that I assumed I had another week to procure. Just in the nick of time actually worked pretty well. Who knew? I’m 39 weeks tomorrow and shouldn’t complain, I know. I mean the due date Isn’t Even Here Yet. But it feels like it should be! And I’m ready to have myself back. Even a sleep deprived, hormone crazed, hanging by a thread version. At least I’ll be able to tummy sleep, have a cocktail and actually hold my other kids on my lap without them slipping off due to lack of room as it is now. Please! Let’s get this party started!!

So, with that being said, I’m going to wrap up this post. I’ve spent too long sitting anyway. I have some serious walking, stair climbing, jumping jacks, child wrangling to do…. If you hear from me next week and I’m still with child, it ought to be a pretty interesting entry. Who knows what kind of creativity that angst will inspire. Certainly something great.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

“But Why?” My existential trip to gain a Residential Parking Permit.

Van NessToday I ventured to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency office to obtain yet another Residential Parking Permit. Having moved 5 times in the 15 years that I’ve lived here, this is certainly a task I’ve done before. This morning’s conundrum was a debate of taking the 2-year-old with me or waiting to go by myself. For those of you San Franciscans that have completed this task, as I would guess the majority of you have, it’s an interesting trip in and of itself. Located at an unappealing stretch of “South Van Ness” the crowd surrounding the area and the actual citizens waiting at the office make up a varied and diverse population. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily feel unsafe going down there. What gives me pause are the not one, but two ARMED security guards, the metal detector to enter, the bullet proof glass enclosed customer service agents with their “safetyCOM” intercom used to communicate with each person. And because this is the office that handles parking tickets and disputes too, WITHOUT FAIL, there is always an altercation of some sort around the paying of parking tickets, booting of cars or disputing of charges. I’ve born witness to these disputes every time and not being a fan of conflict of any kind, count the seconds until I can get my green placard and get the heck out of there. I’m guessing these disputes account for the presence of guns for the security team and employees, carefully ensconced behind a protective barrier.

So, this morning I decided that I WOULD bring my daughter on our field trip and actually have found in the past, that strapping a baby to your chest and trekking to the office ensures immediate if not instantaneous line cutting, as they try to shuttle you quickly through the process. A strategy that I’ve used on more than one occasion. Our trip was easy and uneventful while inside the office. My daughter actually softened up one of the beleaguered staff that helped us who chatted up my daughter through the aforementioned “safetyCOM” and gave her some paper and pen to draw with as I gained my permits.

As an aside I always walk up to the window when my number is called and want to give a preamble explaining that I’m NOT there to rip them a new one, I promise to be pleasant, cordial, have all of my documentation in place and simply want to complete this transaction quickly so that they, too, can take a break for their lunch or whatever next respite they have from this evil window. Inevitably they all start out the transaction the same way (a) either, dukes up, assuming you’re a slightly hysterical or crazy nut, ready to tear into them for a parking infraction that they had nothing to do with or (b) already rolling their eyes at what they assume to be an ignorant newbie to the city without the proper documentation to obtain the required RSP (Residential Parking Permit.) “NO! You CANNOT use a printed check as proof of residency, no your driver’s license certainly doesn’t count and can’t be used either. And where is your updated car registration?!” DENIED!” I actually can’t think of many more unpleasant jobs in the city. But I digress….

So, this morning’s interesting twist came as we left the office and my daughter, embracing the freedom of walking and the desire to do much by herself, ambled out of the building down South Van Ness avenue, wearing a backpack and sunglasses that she insisted upon and true to her nature, started to try to engage everyone we came upon. It really wasn’t that big of a deal until we passed a homeless man, curled up on a backpack, taking a mid-morning nap on the sidewalk. I KNEW intuitively that she would find this fascinating. And of course she did. Despite me taking her by the hand and trying to distract her and move her along, she started yelling (which is her version of talking), “SLEEPING!” “SLEEPING!” She pulled away and went for a closer look. “SLEEPING!” If left to her own devices I’m sure she would’ve squatted down on her little legs, cocked her head to within a few inches of this man’s face and tried to wake him up. A trick she’s mastered at home on various family members. Because she’s only two I was able to simply respond with “Yes, he’s sleeping. He’s sleepy and taking a nap.” And that was that, we moved on to engaging with the nice man at the Goodwill drive-thru cleaning the driveway with a blower. FASCINATING! According to my daughter.   As I drove away I began to think about my 4- year old and how his questions around the man sleeping on the sidewalk would have been more sophisticated, more numerous- one after the other, eventually leading to, “but why??” as most questioning sessions do with the 4 –year old. As a parent I find that what starts off as a simple question and answer session, can turn quite existential after the 4th or 5th “but why?” And the tired mom in me sometimes has to resort to the “I don’t know. It just is.” “Just because.” Sigh. Having done no research on the best way to talk to our children around the homeless population I was curious what other people do. Certainly, as kids reach school age there are more appropriate ways to cover this topic, but within the 3-5 year old age I’m at a bit of a loss in how to deal with it. “Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a home.” “But WHY?”…. And you can see where this leads after the 3rd, 4th, 5th “but WHY?” Raising kids in the city, this is something that I’d like to get ahead of, but haven’t given it much thought. And now it has me thinking….without many answers. Candidately, I think I could host an adult dinner party, broaching the topic of the SF homeless population and really dig into some serious issues by following the lead of the 4-year old and pushing into the “why” of it all.

Until then, I’m interested in figuring out how other parents have dealt with this in the city. Do you have a good response? City Mouse would certainly love to hear.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Time for a “Time Out!” : Lesson #1 from a FTSM (First Time Summer Mom)

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Being the FTSM (First Time Summer Mom) of a preschool aged child, I now pay attention to and read the other funny articles and self-deprecating mommy- blog posts on coping with summer vacation/ end of the school year panic and fatigue. This one has been circulating wildly around my Facebook feed and while I can’t totally relate yet, I now get it more than I would have cared to before.

Personally, school for my son has been an amazing, transformative and life-saving transition. For me. Really. For the 3 years before school started, I lived unstructured days with two very small children, struggling to fill time from sun-up to nap time and nap time to bedtime. At least that’s what it felt like most days, if I’m being honest.

However, a nice perk I realized was that after 15 years of working professionally, having limited flexibility in my schedule and spending the last 5 years of it commuting 3 hrs each day to the Silicon Valley, the initial openness and freedom of a day on maternity leave was sweet and delicious. I loved that I didn’t use my car, have hard deadlines and could relish in focusing on a new little being without attention being pulled in multiple directions. That was year #1.

Years 2 and 3 at home began to get difficult for me and I missed a routine and purpose in leaving the house. Sometimes I wistfully gazed at the receptionist at the doctor’s office, for example, thinking, “Wow, you got up, showered, you’re here doing your job and making plans to go to lunch with friends. Sounds AMAZING!” On some days, I was really, really jealous of the receptionist.

Once my son started school, a new routine began of drop-off and pick-up, 5 days a week, every morning and I loved it: Getting up to an alarm again (I can’t believe I’m saying that), showering and anticipating the few fleeting minutes of social time at drop- off with the other moms. I felt I had a purpose and a place to be, at least at 8:45 and 11:45. And I’m sure my son got some benefit from school, as well! Smirk.

As the school year was drawing to a close, I had my first, “Holy Hell” moment of, “What do I do once school is out?” Complicating matters was knowing that I would also be facing down my last few weeks of pregnancy #3. A rough combo. Thankfully, my son’s preschool offered a summer school option that we’re taking advantage of, but until then have 2 weeks off in the interim.

I recently read another blog post about a fellow mom/ blogger attempting to be a super summer mom (June 6th post) and thought it was funny and honest. I don’t know that I’ve aspired to be anything quite that heroine like, but I did think that I could attempt, at least a few fun outings with the 2 kids despite my expanding girth and decreasing mobility. Over the course of 4 days I offered outings to the zoo, the park and walks over and over again. And each time, my 4-year-old said, “No thanks. I’d rather stay home and play.” And we did. Just stay home. And it dawned on me that my little guy has been on a treadmill, too and needed some decompression time.

After a big first year of school, he got up every morning, 5-days a week and went to his “job.” Every weekend morning, we typically threw the kids in the stroller to go for walks, get coffee and get some outside time. The result is that there were few mornings during the year where my son could just have some leisurely play time at home. In pajamas. Nowhere to go. And that’s just what he wanted to do. When I took a step back and just let him direct the day, I could see that all he wanted was non-scheduled time. Well, of course he did. I’m sure he felt like those first few months after I was on maternity leave where I realized, despite exhaustion and the feeling of being overwhelmed, the beauty of having nowhere you had to be. No shower necessary! No need to dress up. And my son reacted the same way.

I have to say we had some good days at home and it worked well with my increasingly tired, pregnant self to just lay low. Like some overused mommy cliché, when given free time, my son actually got out a cardboard box for some self-directed imaginative play, “Let’s make a fire station and pole!” And had a blast entertaining himself and playing with his sister all day long. The other change I made, which is quite rare, is took a day off from trying to multi-task around my house like a crazy woman and just sat on the floor and played with the kids or was able to just be there in the room when they were playing, which they LOVED. I was a passive part in their imaginative play. “Mommy, you’re in the wheelchair and we’re taking you to the hospital….weeeoooooweeeoooo!….Ok, it’s another ambulance emergency.” And they’d scamper off and back again. And I’ll had to do was sit there to play my part!

You’d think as a mom who is home with her kids, this would occur ALL THE TIME. Play time: mom & kids, around the clock! I’m sure I thought it would be the case before I had the kids. But it’s amazing how much of the non-glamorous house stuff you have to do all day long to keep everything running smoothly. Maslow’s bottom- of –the- pyramid hierarchy of needs kind of stuff. You know food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep.

It’s interesting because I’m a big believer in some of David Elkind’s philosophies espoused in the “The Hurried Child.” My central take away being, to slow down and decrease planned activities, refuse the pull to over schedule and focus on free play. I thought I was embracing this by having almost no outside school scheduled classes or activities at such a young age. However, I realized that the pull of all of the tantalizing places to go right outside our door was a double-edged sword, causing me to get up and out of the house and inadvertently “schedule” our “unscheduled” time.

My ah-ha moment this week was that it’s good to just take a “time-out” in the best possible way and find the fun things literally in our backyard. I can’t say that I plan to have boxes of homemade crafts and art stations and all other manner of ready- to- go- at- home activities all summer. We have this 3rd kid thing looming and all. But I will, when I can, take time to take a “day off” with my kids, get on the floor and just be. Lesson #1, I guess from this FTSM (First Time Summer Mom).

Until next time,

The City Mouse

“Let’s walk home from the hospital!” And other naïve new parent assessments about bringing home baby.

hospital signWith the birth of our 3rd child plus or minus 6 weeks away, it’s caused me to think about the labor/ delivery side of things or rather the logistics behind the getting to and from the hospital for the labor and delivery. I think the part that’s always put me a bit at ease is being so close to the hospital. I LOVE the city for this and it’s another benefit of our particular urban set up. With our first two children we were 9 blocks from the hospital and that gave me peace of mind. Especially when Mr. City Mouse had to travel out of the country before our little ones were born. Worst case I could walk over and admit myself I thought! And no joke, with our first child, we seriously considered and talked about just walking home from the hospital after the baby was born. What, you say?!? Why? How? Why? Yes. Yes, we did. We were dead serious. And we were as ignorant and blissful as two parents whose child has yet to be born can be. We pictured strolling out of the hospital, little one swaddled and tucked into the newly procured stroller, happily cruising home along our neighborhood streets. In hindsight, the memory of our naïveté makes me smile. How little we understood about the severity of the process for the mama. There’s a reason why they often WHEEL-CHAIR the mother out to the curb after delivery. Not give her a stroller full of baby to push 9 blocks home! Enough said.

And I’m certain that we pictured ourselves, calm, cool, collected.   Confident parents already, simply transporting our new offspring along the city streets we knew so well and loved. “Welcome, little one.  This is where you now live. Lucky you!! Look around. There’s our favorite coffee shop. We can’t wait to take you to try the ravioli and this local hot spot!” Instead from what I recall, the tension was high and we were both already sleep deprived by the time we were set to LEAVE the hospital due to a prolonged labor process.

The actual reality of taking our new little “bundle of joy” home was somewhat different from what I pictured.   It started with the process of waiting for my husband to get the car upon hospital check-out, anxiety rising as the baby began to cry. “Where IS he?? How far away did he have to park? How HARD is it to get in a car and drive it over here? AAAGGGHHH!!!” And then we had to actually get the new car seat into the car. (Said car seat base had been installed THAT MORNING, despite planning to do it sometime in the preceding 4 weeks before baby’s arrival. Oops.) And we hadn’t even left the parking lot at this point, let alone braved the 9- block drive.

On the way home, there were prescriptions to fill and even though our pharmacy is literally across the street from the hospital and couldn’t be more convenient. Thank you San Francisco! This, too seemed totally overwhelming. “How am I supposed to fill prescriptions and remember when I’m supposed to nurse this new baby? And when do I get to go to sleep?” And then there was a conversation around what we should all do for lunch since my parents were in town helping. And simply making a decision about whether we should pick up sandwiches and bring them home seemed as overwhelming as any decision I’ve ever made in my life. “I’m supposed to fill these 2 prescriptions, remember to nurse this baby, keep him alive until we get home and decide if I want a turkey sandwich for lunch?? I DON’T KNOW. HELP! I CAN’T MULTI-TASK!” Once we did make it home (no family portrait on the front stoop with our little bundle as I pictured. We were exhausted and overwhelmed.), my parents held the little guy and we collapsed into bed until the next feeding. Walk home?! Hahahaha…What silly, almost- new parents we were. We might as well have contemplated scaling Everest with the little one strapped on our backs through a frozen tundra that day. That’s about how realistic that was. However, it’s a nice, if not comical, memory characterizing how much we love our city and getting around on foot.  The happy realization that I had after a few days under my belt as a new mom is that we could walk to the pediatrician and that’s how our little guy went to his doctor’s appointments for the first couple of years. Via stroller. And I love the city for that, too.

Now, with number 3 on the way, we are now 19 blocks from the hospital and I feel just as comfy knowing it’s a short drive or cab ride away. No walking home for us! We are older, wiser and too experienced now to contemplate that nonsense. We do know what we will anticipate, which is walking #3 down our block to our favorite coffee-house to smell the fresh croissants that her brother and sister devour every Saturday morning and that she’ll soon enjoy herself. And that’s a walk we can’t wait to take.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Should I stay or should I go? An Introduction.

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Clearly, it’s a matter of the stage we’re at as parents in San Francisco. But every parent peer that we know is currently engaged in an ongoing conversation with their spouse about whether to stay in San Francisco for the foreseeable long term (read, putting their children through school and laying down more substantial roots) or leaving the 7×7 urban cityscape for one of the suburbs to the North, South or East. The data shows what usually happens, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any major city in the country.  And, anecdotally my husband and I know this to be true as well. Every 6-12 months, after developing fun, meaningful and bonding relationships with other friends, parents and families, one of them decides, sometimes inevitably to leave the city. And we are left, yet again, rebuilding our friend base for the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th time. It’s depressing, I’ll admit. And frustrating. With housing prices at an all time high and inventory at an all time low. With a sub- standard public educational system and private school tuition that can run tens of thousands of dollars a year, it’s NO WONDER that most families simply can’t make the math work or can’t justify the financial reality of staying in San Francisco for the long term. And another great many, that do have the financial resources to stay, simply find the dream of the suburbs (a large backyard, bbqs, square footage, perhaps a good public school) too appealing to pass up. And I totally get it.

There seem to be big inflection points in the lifecycle of the young adult to adult transition in San Francisco that causes one to pause and reflect on inhabiting the city by the Bay.

Single to married. Sure the city was G-R-E-A-T when you could cab or walk easily to whatever bar, club or party you wanted to, meeting an endless array of other likeminded singles. Most of these fun, young professionals were transplants themselves, open to meeting new people and having a great time, which offered countess opportunities for an array of social engagements. But now, that one finds themselves married is this really still appealing? Or is it too appealing for one spouse vs. the other? What’s the expectation of the “married couple?” Is it settling into the “forever” house and never setting foot inside a drinking establishment again? Is it only mixing and mingling with the marrieds and staying far away from the singles and their scene? And so, a conversation is had and a decision is made. One way or another. To stay or to go.

Married to married with kids. Sure you found it. Your married bliss in the city. “We LOVE exploring every new restaurant opening, and popping down the block to our local movie theater, and hosting dinner parties where everyone drinks WAY too much wine, but no cares, since no one has to drive anywhere thanks to everyone living in close proximity. And, we adore scouring the local event guides for museum exhibits, local street fairs, musical performances and take pleasure in the conundrum of a whole weekend ahead with nothing planned…What should we do? There are just SO many options!” And then the kids come. And the conversation changes. What is the expectation of “the family,” of family life of being a parent? Is it providing a big grassy backyard? A room for every kid? A man-cave for the husband’s retreat? “Will we ever eat out at one of these restaurants again?” And so a conversation is had and a decision is made. One way or another. To stay or to go.

Married with kids to school aged kids. Sure, you did it. You braved the shock and awe and incredulous comments from outsiders of having a kid in the city and really, really embraced it. “Hey, this little peanut actually doesn’t need THAT much room. Wow, we can port them quite easily to our favorite restaurant and, early on, they just sleep! While we eat and drink! Awesome!” The many parks and playgrounds that you NEVER noticed before seem prolific and walk-able distance and this city with the kid thing seems, well, brilliant! And then, they close in on preschool age and kindergarten is now right around the corner, too. “Crap! I thought we had more time!?” And you start talking to friends and associates and the local coffee patrons about wait lists and feeder schools, and essay questions and letters of recommendation and kid screening interviews and college level tuitions. For PRESCHOOL. And you and your spouse go home and cry a little and drink a bottle of wine. And swear that you’ll discuss “your plan” but right now you can’t stay in your house any longer than needed on this particular weekend afternoon, because your now TWO kids are starting to climb the walls and destroy the home and you start thinking, “wow, square footage does make more sense now that these bundles of peanut seem as large as elephants bumping through our fantastic, quaint city dwelling.” And so, a conversation is had and a decision is made. One way or another. To stay or to go.

Or maybe it’s not quite that simplistic, but painting in broad strokes, we have observed these scenarios on a repeated basis. Certainly, there are nuances. Having hurdled step #3 and nestled into square footage and outdoor space that supports our growing family in the city, we still have conversations around community, geography and lifestyle; values, long term planning and our friend base and we are still making the choice to be here.

It reminds me a bit of Aesop’s Fable, The City Mouse and The Country Mouse, where the City Mouse journeys to the country and can’t quite grasp the appeal of country living and the Country Mouse, then travels to the city and beats a hasty retreat back to the comforts of the country. The moral of the story being, a way of life suitable for one person, may not be suitable for another.   I have come to the realization that I am a City Mouse. And I am married to a City Mouse. And while we do love our journeys to the “country” our bones are more comfortable back in the city with the soothing sounds of the foghorns and sirens to greet us upon our return. In some ways, it feels remarkable to undertake what we are trying to do and yet, many, many fantastic and brave families do it every day: Raise their families in San Francisco. But when you look at the stats, you realize you are one of the tiny minority that are really giving this a shot. And sometimes, that can seem daunting.

My goal here is to provide a little glimpse into life in San Francisco through its various stages and celebrate it, in a way that’s often not talked about or covered in popular media. My conversations and debates with my spouse over the years regarding the pros and cons of staying or leaving San Francisco are no different than the conversations had by most everyone we know and I’m quite certain, by most others in similar life stages. I often hear the benefits of leaving San Francisco touted by many, but rarely hear the flip side talked about. How another may have traded square footage and the convenience of big-box retail for the richness of life in an urban environment. Perspectives change with age and that to me is the fun, dynamic nature of life.  As such, this is a snapshot of both the here and now and the journey we’ve taken so far. Thank you for taking the journey with me and beginning the dialogue.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here we go!

The City Mouse

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