So, people ask me all the time what I think about New York. I always answer with a sort of neutral “hmm, it’s ok, I guess.” Because it is. It’s just ok.
I moved here at 8 months pregnant. The only New York I know is that of being heavily pregnant and then, a new mom.
I don’t know the New York of starry-eyed dream chasing, climbing the career ladder, seeking your fortune, attending fantastic parties, making lifelong friends, the New York that allows you to find yourself and inspires your soul to grow.
This is not my New York.
My New York could be Houston or Cleveland or Celakovice, Czech Republic or anywhere really. I know I won’t be here forever, and this is a pit stop between here and the next thing.
That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it though. It just means you won’t find me at gallery openings, rooftop parties at dawn or in high-powered business meetings. Instead, I’m more likely to be pushing a stroller around a park and singing ‘Wheels on the bus’ to a slightly bemused 7-month old.
Sounds lame, maybe, but it’s an interesting way to experience a new city, in and of itself. You end up seeing a whole other side to a city and speaking with people you never would have spoken to otherwise. Because lots of people like babies, including posh old ladies, homeless people, hardened lawyers, people who can’t speak English, builders, teen girls, everyone. You end up having a dialogue with a vast cross-section of society. THIS is my New York.
I recently met another mom who had also moved here from abroad while pregnant and our conversation went something like this:
Her: How do you like it here?
Me: I kinda hate it. It’s terrible. Right city, wrong time. My life-timing is all off. But, hey, you have to stay positive and see the good in everything, right? So I’ll say it’s ok.
Her: I’m so relieved to hear you say that! I feel the exact same way but haven’t met anyone else who understands it.
Yep. I get it. Because this is why: As someone who’s moved here with kids, you have no narrative here. There’s no logical progression of a life before kids into a life after kids. There’s no ‘roots’ that give way to this new space in your life. It’s like you’re just beamed down to this crowded, smoggy, stressed-out place and have to scramble to set up a life that works for you and everyone else. And in this city, that’s not easy.
As a New York interloper mom, you:
- Have no family or community support
- Have lots of expenses. From groceries to baby swim classes to daycare to babysitting – everything is about 5x what it costs anywhere else. Even cooking from scratch can often be more expensive than ordering take-out food
- Generally don’t have too much incentive to work because unless you’re a high-powered high earning executive, your take-home pay after taxes is the same (or possibly even less) as what it costs for someone to look after your child
- If you do choose to work, it’s generally just to keep a foot on the career ladder and future-proof yourself in the job market for when your baby goes to school. Grim, but them’s the breaks
- Working hours are intense – 60 hours/week is not unusual. Some would say that’s a ‘light load’. New York is not really set up for work-life balance. That said, business does move fast so if you’re savvy you may be able to set up a freelance business and create your own schedule
- The subway is kind of a nightmare to navigate with a small child. Few elevators, very crowded, often filthy
- The weather is extreme, boiling hot in summer and bitterly cold and dry in winter
- The highest rent in the USA for the littlest possible space. You constantly feel like you’re living on top of everyone and running out of space for everything. If you tell anyone in any other city what you’re paying for rent, they’ll look at you like you’re a crazy person. Let’s just say that we could have a 5 bedroom house on 2 acres with a pool in Texas for what we pay for a 1 bedroom apartment here…
- Everyone around you is always rushing and always spending. It’s like a hamster wheel that never stops and it’s exhausting
These things are the facts. But – you’ve got to stay positive. You can observe all this stuff, look at it, and leave it there. It doesn’t really have anything to do with you. You don’t have to participate in this madness, just watch it and let it go.
In every life situation, even difficult ones, you can choose what you take from it. You can choose to take only the painful bits, or you can choose to look at every tough situation as a beautiful opportunity for your soul to grow. I know which I choose.