Wednesday, April 19, 2017

There is no elevator to success.

 You have to take the stairs.
-- terrible motivational posters everywhere

Given the predicament we found ourselves in, expecting our first child this summer at the tender ages** of 32 and 34, there's been lots of discussion recently about whether we'd stay in our East Village apartment or move elsewhere.

After weeks of apartment searching, seeing at least a couple dozen units, we made our decision....we're staying put. Though dishwashers and washer/dryers and new buildings are all alluring, we just couldn't get past what we'd be giving up by leaving the East Village and the apartment that Sean has called home for 8 years. But here's the's a 4th floor walkup. At 5 months pregnant, I'm winded by the time I get to the top, but it's been do-able. But it's some of the reactions that've been fascinating. When people learn that I'll somehow be 9 months pregnant taking those stairs, or that we'll be carrying a small child up with a stroller, they respond with a mix of amusement, sympathy, and, sometimes, horror.

But here's the other thing. Since we made the decision, I've been much more attuned to stairs in the city and have been counting obsessively (it's become a form of mindfulness). I learned that getting off the subway and walking up to ground level often has as many, or even more, stairs than our 5 flights of stairs to our apartment. Here's a rudimentary breakdown:

  • Our apartment, top level: 64 steps
  • 2nd Ave F stop, subway level to ground (the one we take most frequently, given it's across the street): 59 steps
  • 57th St F stop, subway level to ground: 73 steps (ok, so this was partly because the escalator was out of service, but that's exactly how many steps I had to take to see daylight)

Once I realized this, I felt like such a sucker for focusing on apartments with an elevator or in a low floor. Turns out there are days I easily take 300-400 stairs without even realizing it (my prehistoric, pre-counting days).

I don't intend for this blog to become all about the difficulties and amazingness of parenting in the big city, though I imagine I'll make a mistake or two along the way. But this does lead me to Lesson #68, which is that you don't have to change everything and move to the Upper West Side or Jersey just because you're having a baby. Plenty of people make it work exactly where there're at and I'm excited to join their ranks. Even if you have mobility and the ability to pay moving costs and higher rent, you don't have to just because you think that's what your baby wants. Know what your baby probably wants? I imagine that it wants you to be happy and love him or her and to have a full, vibrant life.

As for me and my husband, we're looking forward to the sleepless nights and excitement living in a bustling neighborhood that will be awake along with us. Now that we're expecting, I've noticed that there are children living in the area and their parents seem pretty sane and like they might be friends/playdates further down the line. I can't wait to experience the neighborhood and city with new eyes and our new companion.

The major caveat is that we haven't had the baby yet so there are lots of unknowns. When our lease is up in a year and we're over hand-washing our dishes and taking the stairs, we might decide to leave. But for now, I'm happy that we've made the decision to stay and make it work. Every painstaking stair step up to our apartment reminds me that we're pretty damn lucky and happy and are going to welcome a baby into our lives, not changing every aspect of it for her.

**for NYC standards, for which I believe the formula for when it becomes 'normal' to have kids is about +7-10 years over most other places.

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