Monday, January 24, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the URBAN Mom

Kate and Lydia, because they live in the suburbs, fight different domestic enemies depending on the season and the weather. Our girl Guru Louise, however, is the big city mouse, where the domestic enemies don't vary so much season-to-season...they do, however, make us feel a little better about leaves. Particularly that leaves aren't skittery animals with long creepy tails...

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There are a lot of wonderful, amazing things about raising children in the city. My children get to ride the subway, visit arguably the best museums in the world, and when we walk down the street to our neighborhood market they hear people speaking in tongues. However, this suburban girl had a few things to get used to when her husband was transferred here a few years ago. I still don’t understand the rampant littering, the incredibly high cost of living (I once paid $7.89 for a dozen eggs), and don’t even get me started on how often I see public urination. But when I gave birth to my first baby a few months after our move, far greater enemies were revealed. The domestic enemies of the urban mom:

The Laundromat
This might be obvious, but apartment living means no in-house washer/dryer. If you’re super lucky your apartment building might have shared coin-operated machines in a terrifying, dank room that has lint balls the size of Chihuahuas on the floor. Most of us urban moms have to journey to the local laundromat with the family’s soiled belongings. Now all of you non-urban moms, please take a moment to consider how you would get all the dirty laundry currently in your house to the laundromat without a car. Then add an unruly toddler. And be pregnant. Yeah, that was me last winter. I had two tactics: either push the laundry and carry the toddler, or vice versa. I wish I had a photograph of me 35 weeks pregnant with 20 pounds of laundry strapped to my back and my screaming 2 year-old strapped in her stroller with snot and chocolate milk smeared all over her face. It really is one of my *favorite* motherhood memories. Once you finally make it to the laundromat you then have 2.5 hours to kill with your child in a confined space. My kids usually spent that time eating lint out of the dryer traps, using the laundry carts as bumper cars, or committing laundry larceny.


Oh yes, and let’s not forget when my daughter caught the stomach virus the last winter. She would puke and poo and puke again and there was no where to put the filthy, revolting laundry. Seriously, this mess may have rivaled Lydia at Five Guys. I did my best to rinse the chunks out in the bathroom but then I just started shoving the sheets, PJs, clothes, couch covers and every other soiled fabric into trash bags in the entryway of our apartment. What else could I do? Take an actively vomiting child to the laundromat? By the end of the second day my husband came home to find our daughter nibbling saltines and wearing an XXL Miller Lite T-shirt and a swimsuit bottom.

Pests
We all know city living equals crowded living, which means pests. I’m a reasonably clean person but there is no fighting the presence of pests in my city. I’m talking about the nasty ones, too, like roaches, mice, bed bugs, and even rats (my least favorite). You can be neat as a pin but if you have a disgusting next door neighbor then you. will. have. pests.

You can imagine how shocked I was one day to realize that we had turned into the dirty neighbors. My husband was up late one night when he saw a giant mouse waltz through our living room and dive at a piece of waffle that my toddler had thoughtfully shoved into the radiator. I used to envy how some moms had dogs that would eat up the food bits their kids dropped on the floor. But really, you don’t need a doggie vacuum in the city—your resident pests take care of it each night. Awesome.

The most horrifying story I know about city pests is from my friend Melissa in NYC. She was at Washington Square Park with her son and witnessed a particularly fearless rat jump into the basket of her friend’s Bugaboo stroller to enjoy a tasty pastry her friend had tucked away. True story. There was a murther-furking RAT IN HER KID’S STROLLER. Did you just gag and throw up in your mouth a little bit?

Playground Sprinklers
Every single one of my neighborhood’s five playgrounds has a water-play feature in the summer. While I agree that this “perk” is entirely necessary for keeping children from over-heating in the staggering summer temps, I hate these sprinklers with every fiber of my being. If your kid loves water play then you cannot keep him out of the sprinklers, which means that what used to be a simple, quick trip to get some fresh air turns into an ordeal of extra shoes, clothes, towels, etc. Also, FYI ladies: those swim diapers only catch poop so if you put one on your kid for the sprinklers and then put him in the bucket swing he will leave a puddle of urine for the next child. If your kid hates the sprinklers (like mine) then they get mega pissed off when the water-loving kids leave a warm puddle (of what?) in the bucket swings or inadvertently turn the slide into a water park attraction with their sopping Pampers. Throw in the ice cream truck on a 15 minute loop and really, it’s just a good time all around. Thank you, Parks Department.

Parking
This is another thing my suburban mom friends regularly take for granted. When we finally got a car during our second year here I was elated…until I realized I had to park the damn thing. I often return home from a morning of errands with two cranky kids and a trunk full of rapidly spoiling groceries only to discover that there is no parking in front of my building, or near my building, or anywhere on the whole freakin’ street.

What follows is a dizzying waltz where I double park in front of our building’s entrance, lock the kids in the car and rapidly dart back and forth from my trunk to the building, haphazardly dumping my groceries inside the building entryway while frantically screaming, “I’ll be right back!” at the kids. I’m fairly certain I look like a psychotic poodle on uppers. No matter where I am in this relay race I’m either worried about someone stealing my groceries or stealing my kids.

Despite all these enemies I’ve actually loves raising my kids here. However, like many families, we’ve decided to move our family back out to the ‘burbs soon, mostly to find better schools, etc. Soon I’ll be battling the domestic enemies of the suburban mom…but each time my picky kid showers the floor with her dinner I’ll think fondly of the city mouse family that took residence with us each year. They were such good eaters…

xoxo Guru Louise
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PostScript:

Guru Louise has said goodbye to New York City...and hello to Boston. Boston Mommies, give a shout out to our girl, as you probably remember how hard it is to make mommy friends in a new city. In January.

xoxo Kate

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

34 comments:

  1. Wow! Guru Louise, I bow down to you! I guess we all have our battles where ever we live, but walking my laundry all over the neighborhood would cause me to Chuck Norris roundhouse anyone in my way. You are awesome!
    And I live in a complete opposite situation. I live on 15 acres in the country. One of my chief complaints is that no one delivers. I actually have to cook my own meals everyday. But we do have our nonsense too. You may have inspired me to write a post about it. Like this past weekend, when my big kids were supposed to be outside keeping an eye on the toddler, and they put her in the chicken yard, with the chickens! PS: You might be a redneck if you use a chicken yard as a pack-n-play! But I did have another kid in there to supervise. Does that make it better?

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  2. Great post, Guru Louise. I loved it! I once had a opossum jump in my backseat when I opened the door to get my toddler out of the car. I freaked, but they hit it off real well. Good times, good times...

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  3. That was great! I would love to be one of those uber-cool city mommies in the awesome faux-thrift-store outfit and Bugaboo stroller, going from museum to library to farmer's market with a cooing child the way that "You've Got Mail" makes it seem it would be, but then reality sets in: laundromat. Done. Life in suburbia it is.

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  4. a rat?!? GAH!! a rat!!!???? oh.my.maude.if.crap.like.tat.happens.there.i.will.never

    *runs screaming out of post*

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  5. When I was an Urban mom, they had Wash/Dry/Fold services at the local laundromats. That was a Blessing because it was actually cheaper than doing the work myself with their machines.

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  6. I was lucky to have the in-building laundry in NYC, but yes - it was quite a site to see me balancing a laundry cart on wheels with a 6 month old, barely able to sit up, perched on top. Never had a rat jump in my stroller, but squirrel, yes. And the only thing worse than the sprinkler is if that particular playground also has SAND. ug.

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  7. Hubs keeps dreaming of moving to the city so the kids can see all the fun and culture of living in a place like Philly (where he went to college). I keep reminding him he used to walk there with an open knife on his person for protection at night. Doesn't. sound. like. a. kid. friendly. place. Your list may help me. Then again, he never pities my mommy battles anyway (sigh).

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  8. I have always lived in the burbs. Born in the burbs, lived in the burbs all the way through college, and now raising my kids in the burbs. I have occasionally thought about the exciting life I might lead or the many interesting things I could see and do if living in the heart of a big city. After reading Guru Louise's take on urban life I must say that I am now perfectly content with living out the rest of my years in you guessed it...the burbs. I have three children 6 and under and another one set to arrive soon. First off, there is no way I could fight the rats off. My house is constantly littered with cheerios, crackers, and yes even peanut butter! And get this...we have a dog! I'm sure we would have not one but two rat families sharing our residence - ugh! Now the other biggie for me is the laundry. Daily I struggle to get all the dirty laundry from every nook and cranny upstairs to the washer and dryer downstairs. Then once it is washed and sorted there is the huge task of carrying all 50lbs back up the stairs into the appropriate room where it will sit for the next week - I mean get folded and put away in an appropriate amount of time - unless they wear it again, then Mommy NEVER has to fold it - woo hoo! And the cycle continues. Kudos to you Louise for braving the trip to the laundromat and managing to make it home with clean laundry and your children. I don't know how I could ever do that! You have opened my eyes to an entirely new set of challenges - all of you urban moms are AMAZING!

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  9. I'm so with you on the water park front!

    And I'd like to add a rant about riding the bus with two small kids. And a stroller. And a diaper bag. I am eternally grateful to the number of complete strangers who have picked my toddlers up out of the aisle as the bus hastily lunges on while I simultaneously try to fold a stroller, deposit my token and make sure I have not left any person or item of importance at the curb, all the while yelling at my kids, "Any seat! Just sit anywhere! The first seat you can find!"

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  10. Oh, the parking picture made me laugh so hard. We are new to the "city" and I couldn't parallel park a Smart Car. So I have to add in extra time if I have to drive somewhere just so I can drive around praying for a spot I can just pull right in to, which is usually a 10 minute walk from my destination. We are in Old Town Alexandria, and the streets are so small too, so if I even try to park people get angry and honk because they can't get around me while I go back and forth 62 times trying to get in the spot. Good times. So I pretty much don't go anywhere I can't walk to, take a bus, the Metro, or that has a free parking garage.

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  11. Wait, kids aren't supposed to wear beer shirts? Aw hell...

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  12. OMG that parking photo...

    Sprinklers are EVIL. So are laundromats. And I'm not even a mom!

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  13. I will gladly stay in my teeny tiny town in Illinois where nobody talks to me and I can smell the pig farm two blocks away, if it means no rats will eat my cinnamon rolls.

    Thanks for the chuckle!

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  14. I agree that rats are disgusting, but I think roaches are EVEN MORE VILE; *shudder* Just thinking about them made my skin crawl....

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  15. Wow Guru Louise! You are an amazing woman, that is all I can say. I do think you'll love Boston though. I'm from there myself and have moved up to the country of New Hampshire, but depending on where you are in the Boston area, you're going to do great. As for meeting new people, may I suggest meetup.com? It's a fantastic site that has all sorts of groups to join, from book clubs to mommy groups. That's how I met some of the best friends a girl could ask for

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  16. Great post. We live just outside of a suburb of Seattle (so slightly rural), but head into the city to visit our cool, urban friends. I always enjoy a night out, but I'm thankful to get across the bridge and back out to my quiet, wooded home.

    I have a rat story, however, which goes to show none of us are immune. One cold, fall morning one of my sons and I went out to warm up the car before I took them to school. My son was petting our German Shepherd in the drive way, while I slid in the door to start the car.

    Suddenly, I see my dog dart over to the car and jump on something. It was a rat. She, of course, knew that it was hiding up in the engine compartment (for warmth) in my car. As soon as the rat darted out, my dog was all over it. My son and I were stunned to see my dog "dispatch" the rat.

    Somehow, I managed to call my dog off of the rat and put both the dog and my speechless son in the house.

    Needless to say, I'm always a little nervous about what might be lurking around when the weather starts to turn cold. We have neighbors with horses, so I think they are attracted to the grain.

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  17. When I lived in downtown Austin TX, we had a possum what would tear the kitchen window screen to come in and eat all the cat food. And a family of raccoons who would camp out on the front stoop so I couldn't get into my own apartment. Now I live in LA, where the city parks are a freakshow of epic proportions. I'm almost glad my autistic son hates them so we don't have to go anymore.

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  18. I live right on the border of the 'burbs and the boonies. It's interesting the things I see there. Hubby was out in his truck running an errand and when he went to climb back in there was a snake in the foot well that he almost stepped on and it just calmly went back up into the engine area. But we also have the problems with the 'burbs and the DC traffic where it can take you 1 1/2 to 2 hours to go 30 miles. Fun times.....

    Jrseygirl in VA

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  19. More reasons not to live in the city - or TO, just so I can say I did it? But then I'd never win "Never Have I Ever..."

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  20. Also, my dad's favorite line was to tell us to play in the traffic. Brings back good ol' memories

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  21. Welcome to Boston...I am a NYC transplant and I loooove it here...except right now where I am fr-fr-fr-eezing my butt off. But here is a funny and true story, one of my first memories of moving to Boston was seeing a rat in the back of my building and I was overheard saying (while sober) "Oh Look! They have Rats in Boston too! How quaint!"

    I'm a winnah!

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  22. Oh yeah, I moved to Toronto LAST January and have made a total of ONE mommy friend. :(

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  23. Ok...after reading all of your posts..I'm glad I live in the freakin.boonies.from.hell. Yes, we have chickens, and barely neighbors, and have a 20 min commute to school which we pay too much for. BUT! we do not have rats..although...I have been sitting on the 'thrown' and had a MOUSE sit and STARE at me and just saunter away...yes..happened. Not 5 months ago...They are unbelievable. NO morals these mice. So...Guru Louise...YOU ROCK FOREVER.....and I will just meekly live my life in nowhereville. NO big cities for me and mine. LOL One day at a time chickies! I LOVE YOU GUYS and this darn blog..keeps me sane...please don't stop!!! lol

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  24. Louise, I loved your post! My family just moved from St. Louis to Boston last May, where we have no family and knew NO ONE. (I write about these adventures in my blog, www.adventuresinparenting.me.) The other Boston mommy bloggers have been wonderfully friendly and welcoming! Two of them started an official Boston Parent Bloggers group for us in November. There are lots of opportunities to get together. You should join! Check out bostonparentbloggers.com.

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  25. Awesome post as always Guru Louise. I wish we would hear from you more often. I am also an urban Mom and loved the listing of our travails. I would add that you always live in a space that is too small. My living room looks like it threw up toys and I would kill for a playroom or even dank basement (or perchance even a small backyard) to throw my kid to play. I love when I visit my best friend that we can just let the kids play in.the.basement. A whole separate rant could be posted on school and how ridiculous it is to get your kid into preschool. We live in Queens and even here I was placed on the waitlist....in February. And my son's classroom is about the size of one of those Pod storage boxes. (I know, I know Manhattan Moms. These poor ladies also have a grueling interview process for the pleasure of paying $30k per year + to get their little geniuses schooled.) You'll be a great addition to Boston, Guru Louise, so get out there and mingle at the park or playground or library (but no stalking this time).

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  26. ha... true words... especially the "leaving your kids in the car while dumping your groceries in the building while shouting". Done that sooo many times... glad to see I am not alone!
    Have a great time in Boston!

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  27. Welcome to Boston! We moved here from NYC for the exact same reasons! We should meet up sometime...we can play in the sprinklers in the Commons' playground. :) Seriously, let me know if there's anyway I can help you get settled in. Boston is much more accessible with kids, you'll love it!

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  28. @Dawn Marie C and Debbi: How do I get in touch with you? Send Kate and Lydia your contact info and I'll stalk you...uh, I mean, email you!

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  29. Welcome! I'm here in Boston (well, Cambridge, actually) too, with two little boys. We should meet up also (and Dawn Marie and Debbi). It's lonely in all of this snow.

    As for the rats... I married into two cats, so we don't have that problem. But I've seen them running underneath the neighbor's stoop.

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  30. How to grow big brass ones: There's 7 washing machines & 6 dryers in our mega-apt. complex. Some chick has filled 6 of them and clearly has another little pile waiting. But ... it's not actually IN the washing machine. Nor is it even within 6 feet of the machine. I stare in frustration while my 18 mo. old - who is sitting in the loose pile laundry so high I'm fearing he'll actually fall out of the Home Depot shopping cart thoughtfully provided by management. What to do? Are you kidding? Duh ... promptly start filling the empty washing machine with my clothes after doing a 5-second impromptu triage of OMG It Has To Get Washed TODAY! Then the chick notices I've just taken washer #7. And has the balls to get in my face about it. 4" taller than me, sure. But I've been schlepping an 18-mo. old around for the past 18 months. Try me.

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  31. Hi Guru Louise - I also just moved to the Boston area in the middle of the worst winter they have seen in decades (according to my new neighbors). I've never had to deal with kids in the city, other than the weekend I took my 3 1/2 year old daughter to visit my best friend in Manhattan. Kudos to you on the challenges you faced. If you ever want to hit the sippy with me let me know - I just scored big at a wine shop going out of business. :-) I'd love to not drink alone (anymore).

    I just discovered this blog through the Memorial Day article about how Moms don't get holidays. I had to reread it with the onset of 4th of July weekend.

    Have fun when you can!
    Lori V.

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  32. I feel where you were coming from girl... One of my favorites are the noisy neighbors... You finally put that fussy 8 month old down to sleep, who had been fighting it for an hour... Then BOOM! The loud a** next door neighbors. Start yelling and screaming... Or dropping bowling balls. Whatever the hell they do next door that causes so much ruckus and wakes your not so little bundle of joy up.

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  33. Get the population demographics from the city. Toronto laundromatsYou want a good mix of ethnic backgrounds and the more kids (the more dirty laundry) the better. A neighborhood full of retired people is bad news

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  34. Good coin laundries run on change machines.Toronto laundromats If a customer cannot get change, they are going somewhere else

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