FiDi Families is a site dedicated to finding fun, family-friendly activities in the Financial District and throughout the neighborhoods that makeup Lower Manhattan or Downtown NYC. The amount of families that have moved into Lower Manhattan is staggering and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. As a homeowner in FiDi and part of the post 9/11 wave of folks that set down roots in Lower Manhattan, we are excited to see how the neighborhood develops.
Today, we launch a new series of blog posts from residents that call FiDi and ultimately, Downtown NYC “home”. Topics will cover a wide variety of subjects and will be written from the perspective of parents raising kids in the fast-paced world of New York City. We hope you enjoy this new blog series and let us know if you want to get in on the fun. No experience required. Seriously.
Staying Home on Wall Street
I moved to New York on New Year’s eve from a suburb of Seattle, Washington. It was raining when I left, and not just the regular kind of rain. It was raining babies and mothers. If you walked down the road on a Monday afternoon, you wouldn’t walk 2 minutes without bumping into a stroller, a toddler, a baby-wearing mother or a nice shapely baby bump. And no matter where you were, a Gymboree class or the line outside the Apple store, you would find yourself chatting with another stay-at-home mom like yourself. Discussing Sophie the giraffe and that other mom-n-me class you haven’t tried yet. I believed this was an epidemic that had swept the whole of the United States. I wore my yoga pants proudly like military uniform. I used the word ‘we’ when I referred to a stay-at-home Mom. After all, ‘we’ were everywhere!
And then I moved to NYC, the Financial District, no less. The ‘Diaper District,’ I announced smugly to my husband as we signed our lease on an apartment with the holy grail of family friendly conveniences—a playroom, with very realistic plastic fruit. I thought I had done my research. The papers said Wall Street was going baby-berserk. And they were right. But babies are only half the story!
What they didn’t mention was that the only stay-at-home moms you would bump into were the ones on their maternity breaks. Before you knew it, they disappeared into Wall Street. Suits, Type-A Personalities, designer high heels tap-tapping, everyone in a glamorous sort of hurry. Disappeared into one or another of the glittering glass-walled skyscrapers I could see from my bedroom window. Yeah, in the midst of all this opportunity and excitement, I somewhat reluctantly (kicking and screaming) stay at home with my toddler.
I wake up every morning and watch women (and men) with shiny hair and perfect nails go to work while I try to potty train my 2 year old and read That’s Not My Dinosaur for the zillionth time. I trudge to South Street Seaport on a weekday at noon, dragging a deceptively strong toddler along with promises of ‘seeing the big ship.’ We make it to Starbucks and ask for a child seat every time and get the same raised eyebrow in answer every time. I take my daughter to the New Amsterdam public library and get ssshed by a beefy security guard who is more club bouncer than reading room vigilante. I go home and fix myself a sandwich because the queues of workers outside Just Salad and Potbelly snake around the corner. I only go places with accessible subway stops—I do not have the dexterity to lift my 8 lb McLaren (and 25 lb kid) down multiple flights of stairs. And you can’t always make lunch plans counting on the kindness of muscular strangers.
So what if the babies love it. If you are a stay-at-home mom, the Financial District can theoretically leave you stressed out and with a serious case of what I call the ‘sweatpant complex’—the realization that you’re the only one wearing gray sweat pants in a queue at Starbucks. Except, it doesn’t!
A couple of months and several mid-morning naps later, I’ve come to the happy realization that it can actually be tons of fun to be an SAHM in FiDi. It’s really about what you’re willing to do (or have done unto you).
Here’s a sampler from my list of coping (and coming-out-on-top) mechanisms.
- Play Stroller bumper cars
A game I don’t believe I invented. It means alarming smart banker-types by (almost) ramming your stroller into them and then apologizing lightly. It sends out the clear message that you are a transformer-like bosswoman when you’re out with the stroller and nobody dare get in your way. Bonus, your baby will love the game—mine improvises by kicking out at passing legs.
- Pretend you’re the Nanny
After being mistaken for my daughter’s nanny an average of twice a day, I decided it was more fun to be part of the babysitting brigade that takes over FiDi every morning. Hours of park-chats later, I’ve had an education. Sitters have tons of funny stories and experience to share, and know where all the good play spots (for uninterrupted facebooking) are. And they are less likely to go blue in the face when your toddler convinces theirs to eat mud.
- Swing overtime
Getting your child a sufficiently long stint on the swing at the park is very high up on the list of parent responsibilities. One of the best things about living in FiDi is that I hardly ever wait for my daughter’s turn at the swings during the day. Pearl Street Playground has a reputation for getting ‘overcrowded’ but clearly there is still a swing-toddler number imbalance, swinging in my favor. Park Slope moms and dads, give up already.
- Eat ice cream for lunch
I can’t emphasize this enough. Given that I don’t need to squeeze myself into cigarette pants and hurry off to a post-lunch meeting, I can indulge in long, leisurely ice cream lunches with my toddler. Never mind that we don’t have too many options thanks to the queues of busy workers at every normal lunch place. Get a pint of Blue Marvel at the store or step into Carvel for something more conventional. Time stands still when you are nursing a mint chocolate chip and digging into your daughter’s cone as well (it would all melt if I didn’t help her!).
- Make friends with Fulton Street
I love living close to the mostly accessible Fulton Street subway station. I imagine endless long distance travel possibilities in the near future, but even for now, I can get quite a few places without an upper-body workout.
- Stay Home
Of course, if I get really homesick for the sight of sensible flats, oversized diaper bags and the look of plain frustration that only mothers seem to have, I can always wander over to neighboring TriBeCa. Or trek to Brooklyn. Except, I don’t. I just lace up my sneakers and pack the snacks and sand kit and make it to Imagination Playground, my second favorite place on earth right now. The Financial District is home and I feel lucky to stay home here. Especially among the giant blue foam blocks. (Schools, please don’t borrow them too often!)
Your toddler can drag her feet and throw a tantrum and sing loudly on the subway. People may stare, half curious, half amused but mostly unsympathetic. No one will give you that ‘oh, poor you’ look. It’s just another day at the office after all. And rubbing shoulders with Wall Street is an important reminder that everyone has a high risk, high returns job they can love. Right now, mine is being a mom.