Hard to say—but I bet we can all empathize with our urban/suburban sistren. Here are a few things every city mom knows:
1. Your stroller functions as your car.
2. There is a precise and delicate relationship between the weight of your child and the quantity of groceries you can hang on the back of your stroller. Need an extra carton of coconut milk from Trader Joe’s? Hmmm…are you driving the off-road stroller with the inflatable tires, or the fits-in-a-restaurant slim model with hard plastic wheels? Are you transporting the older child or the younger child? Where is he on the weight percentile curve? Did she eat all of her breakfast, or only half of it? Is she wearing sandals or sneakers? Is his diaper wet or dry? Even the slightest miscalculation can send your stroller crashing onto its back and your kid landing on the back of her head, surrounded by shattered bottles of spicy black bean dip.
3. When you’re past the stroller years (or out without your children), your purse is your car. You carry everything in it you’ll need for an entire 12- to 16-hour period. For three people.
4. You routinely find at least seven of the following in your cavernous tote: an Annie’s bunny snack pack, a W-9 form you need to fill out for that freelance gig, a permission slip you forgot to give the teacher at drop-off, sunglasses, a MetroCard, 15 $1 bills that have collected at the bottom every time you’ve thrown change in your bag, a Playbill, unused water balloons, a Minecraft party favor, a Jennifer Egan novel you haven’t finished yet because the trains are so crowded lately that you can’t even raise your arm to your face to read a book, little boy underwear, a kid’s library book you meant to drop into the slot on the way to the subway, sunblock, a Klean Kanteen bottle with the name “Ella” on it (none of your children is named Ella), a tiny umbrella, a change of shoes, a reusable grocery tote, hand lotion and someone’s socks.
5. You may look like a marsupial with your backpack strapped to the front of your chest, but where the hell else are you going to put it when you’ve got a teething, wiggly 20-pounder on lockdown on your back? Plus: easy access to the snack pouch.
6. There is no direct subway from where you are to where you need to go.
7. Do you get on the empty car of an otherwise packed subway? No, you don’t. Experience with stenches of unknown origin and gagging, weeping children has taught you that, if nothing else.
8. When you get off the subway with all of your children in tow and begin the long walk to your destination, be it a museum/movie theater/friend’s house, it will begin to rain and at least one of your children will suddenly need to poop. Badly. And soon.
9. Buses are good when trying to get around with children. There’s lots of visual distraction out the window, and generally speaking, there are more elderly people (read: people who will smile at your squawking child) and fewer hipsters and worker bees (read: people who will glare at your squawking child). Until your kid presses the “Stop” tape over and over again before you can smack his hand away. Then buses quickly become a very hostile environment. Even old people can give you stink eye.
10. You can close the stroller with one hand and one foot while footballing your daughter with one arm, shouldering her backpack, steering her brother (who is reading while walking) with your other hand, fumbling around for your MetroCard, swiping it, making a mental note of how much money is left on it, silencing the ring of your phone in your back pocket, remembering that you need to stop for prescriptions and butter on the walk home from the bus stop, and drafting a work email in your head—all while an impatient teenager rolls his eyes behind you (yes, you can see him doing it) and your daughter’s Hello Kitty lunchbox dangles from your left pinkie.
11. You know not to go to that grocery store when you’re with your kids, because if you do, you’ll have to pass the GameStop, and you will spend at least 37 minutes saying “No” to repeated requests for a new Wii U game.
12. You remember breastfeeding a baby in a Bjorn in the dairy aisle of the grocery store near the GameStop—and how, in your exhausted state, you cackled wildly at the idea of breastfeeding in the dairy aisle.
13. You know which store has the closest fruit, and which store has the cheapest fruit. Every time you shop, you do the math: Are you more tired than broke? Is it worth dragging your kids that much farther to save roughly $1/pound on peaches?
14. You swing by the grocery store on your way home to buy one item. Three to five times a week.
15. You know which stores on your main drag have the least horrifying bathrooms—and the nicest owners who will let your kids use them.
16. You know which store owners give out candy to kids. And you know which of those store owners persist in handing out the giant sugary choking hazards that were last deemed safe for child-sized windpipes back in 1977. And your kids know that a soft pinch on the back of the arm means “Don’t accept that candy, or I will destroy your duck-shaped house in Minecraft.”
17. You know which blocks to avoid because they have the busted-up sidewalk that is sure to send your stroller flying forward and your napping baby hurtling ass over teakettle. And you just really don’t want the baby to wake up yet.
18. If you’re tough enough to rely solely on public transportation and not own a car, you know exactly how much it costs to take a cab with two car seats from the pediatrician’s office to your house. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.
19. If you inherited your great aunt’s 1998 Oldsmobile, which is so dinged up already that you’re not afraid to park it on the street, then you’ve internalized the alternate-side parking protocol to the point where you can tell anyone at the playground what day and time they have to move their car on their block. And you know just how long you can leave your stroller-napping baby in the lobby of your building while you move the Olds from one side of the street to the other, then sit in it until alternate-side parking is over for the day. (Because, see, you have to move the car a few minutes before alternate-side parking ends, otherwise there will be no spots left. Long story. We’ll explain it when you get here.)
20. Your children can already tell the difference between someone talking on a Bluetooth headset and someone talking to themselves in a perhaps unhealthy way on the street.
21. They have also mastered the pleasant, slightly guarded smile of the city child who is approached by a nice old stranger lady who wants to squeeze their cheeks and talk about her grandkids.
22. You practice this safety routine with your kids: “If we ever get separated and you can’t find me, find another mom. If you can’t find another mom, find a policeman. If there’s no policeman, go see Bob at the bodega on the corner.”
23. Your laundromat is also where you receive packages.
24. You once saw a man on the street wearing one baby in an Ergo on the front, and a second baby in a second Ergo on the back. And you thought to yourself, “Nice hack, dude.”