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Commuting With Babies

Commuting With Babies

By Amalah

So my favorite boss in the whole world left our company in the suburbs to work in the heart of our large city. She has offered me a SIGNIFICANT pay increase and a wonderful career opportunity. It’s the kind of situation I just can’t (and don’t even want to) pass up. The problem is that I’m a single mom of the sweetest little 4 month old boy and I don’t want to negatively impact his life. He is currently in daycare from 6:30am to 4:30pm every day. And while I’m sure I could find childcare that would take wonderful care of him for the extra 90 minutes that my commute would add (so almost 12 hours of every day) I don’t know if that’s the right choice for us. I could move into the city but I don’t feel like that is a good fit either. So now I’m strongly considering bringing him on the train downtown with me so we can spend the commute time together and he could be in daycare in the heart of the city. Am I crazy? Do people commute into the city with little ones?

Thanks!
Jen

Girl, if you can dream it, someone has done it. And likely lived to tell the tale just fine. YES, people commute into the city with babies, toddlers, children. On trains, subways, buses, bicycles. People commute out of the city, from ‘burb to ‘burb, there and back again…all with their children in tow. You do what you gotta do.

I don’t think your plan sounds crazy at all, especially once you add up all the positives here:

• Great boss
• Great career opp
• MOAR MONIE$
• 90 minutes of one-on-one time with your baby that you would otherwise probably spend playing Candy Crush, or simply staring blankly into space thinking about your baby.

So I say go for it, or at least decide to give it a trial go. See how the new job goes and how you feel about the commute in general in six months or so. See how you like the new city daycare compared to the old one.

In the meantime, focus on streamlining. Consider commuting with your son in front-carrier like an Ergo for now and put off schlepping a stroller on the train. (That’ll probably come later once he’s a toddler, although who knows! He might become a seasoned, totally chill traveler just since he’s getting an early start.)

Store as many baby-related accessories as you can at the daycare and invest in a really good (i.e. lightweight, utilitarian, compartmentalized) bag to pack everything else you need for the day: bottles, wallet, laptop, lunch, etc. Try to avoid carrying a diaper bag plus a separate purse or laptop bag, and instead look for something that can pass as professional that will also hold an insulated bag for bottles and/or a few other necessities for your son. I’d personally probably go for a backpack so my hands would be free (plus there’s nothing more awkward than having your bag slide off your shoulder and beaning your fellow commuters in the head), and then swap my wallet to a wristlet style so I could still have something small and cute-ish for coffee runs, lunches with coworkers, etc.

If you pump, leave your pump at work in a desk drawer and store the parts in a plastic bag tucked inside a discreet lunch-style tote in the company fridge with your pumped milk. There’s really no need to haul the parts home for sterilization every single night.

If your daycare needs a restock on diapers, formula, baby food, etc., try to buy that stuff in the city and drop it off during your lunch hour or when you pick him up — basically do whatever you can to keep your commuting load down to the absolute bare minimum. If you tend to be a little scatterbrained in the morning, tape a checklist by the front door and go through it before you leave. Keys! Formula! Laptop! Baby! Pack up whatever you can the night before.

I’d also recommend that you still keep a closer-to-home childcare option on hand. Will his current daycare or a nearby at-home center allow for the occasional drop-off if you’re sick or can work from home, or is there a friend/relative/neighbor-with-a-nanny who can help out? From experience, I can say the daycare-close-to-work arrangement can work just fine (no rushing/fighting traffic to make the pick-up time, the ability to stop by during the day for whatever reason, etc.), but there IS a drawback if, say, Mama gets the norovirus and wants to die but has to spend the day being Mama because the daycare is oh so far from home.

But don’t stress about it. You’re going to be just fine. Every situation has pros and cons, but I think the potential pros are definitely worth making this leap. Good luck and much success!

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Oscar’s mom
  • Jeannie

    I live in a city with lots of commuters, and I work at a place with on-site childcare, and LOTS of people commute across this city with their kids, by car or transit, to this daycare. So yes, totally do-able, and definitely worth a try. And that extra time with him might be great!

    The only downside is not having care at home when you’re sick, but if you have a Plan B for that you’ll be fine (and frankly, in a pinch, TV isn’t so bad if you need it to get through a sick day. It’s not like it will happen all that much!)

    Good luck!

  • metcodon

    I have been a lurker here FOREVER but this is a topic so close to my heart I cannot help but leave a comment.  My husband has been commuting with my daughter since she was 3 months old.  There is a day care in his building and we just could not pass that up.  Amy’s advice is great.  Here are my additional 2 cents.  
    1. a great urban stroller is so important (especially if you live in a city that is pretty friendly to the disabled, like Boston or DC).  We have a Valco Snap stroller that weighs 13 lbs, has huge wheels (great in the sleet and snow), and handles like a dream (and not expensive either)
    2. yes to the carrier – we’ve been using the Ergo but as my daughter got bigger we invested in a hiking back pack for the days of truly horrible weather now that she’s big
    3. we have diapers/wipes shipped from Amazon to my husband’s office so we don’t have to carry them on the train
    4. To Amy’s advice, my husband carries a small black duffle bag (from LL Bean) to the office.  It fits all my daughter’s stuff as well as his lunch (and fits in the basket of the Valco).
    5.  Now that my daughter is 18 months, we sometimes ditch the stroller completely and she just rides the train like a regular passenger.  When that happens I’m so proud I want to cry.
    6.  Important life lessons – always have emergency snacks on you because sometimes transit will go to hell for a very long time and it can get unpleasant (like the time Obama came to visit our city and my husband was stuck on the bus for 45 minutes without moving).  We were so glad for the emergency dinner of a granola bar and gold fish crackers he was able to feed our daughter.

    Good luck!

    • Kate

      I’m always surprised at how many people don’t have emergency snacks for their kids with them at all times. It’s an instant activity and it keeps their blood sugar (and therefore their mood) up. I don’t leave home without at least a bag of pretzels.

  • Lea

    Great advice so far. And I understand not wanting to move the WHOLE way into the city, but is there a halfway suburb that makes sense? Just throwing that out there.

  • z

    Do it, it’s totally fine.  I do it with my daughter, she loves it, and my nephews are totally jealous that she rides the train every day.  Twain!  Twain!  

  • Rachel

    I commute about a half hour to my work (by car because texas has laughable public transportation) and I chose a daycare near my work for a variety of reasons. It’s so nice to be close to him, I can nurse at lunch and be ten minutes away if he needs to be picked up. The extra hour I spend with him now is nice, even though he’s rear facing in the backseat and I can’t really interact with him. A train ride would be awesome because that’s extra bonus time with the kiddo, who is at a really fun age that will get more and more fun (mine is 7.5 months). Love Amy’s suggestions and shipping necessities to your office from Amazon is a great idea. Good luck!

  • Joy

    I commuted with my son for 2 years while he was a toddler.  This was in Tulsa–and I was driving rather than using public transportation, but the stress of traffic and whether I would make it back to his suburban daycare in time for closing was terrible, so I moved him downtown with me.  The only times that this was a little inconvenient were if I was working in another part of town, or taking a day off, and still wanted him to go to school.  

  • Myriam

    I do not commute with the kids, I chose to live in the city and got childcare close to home. HOWEVER, that’s because that’s what works for us. I didn’t want a long commute, we were planning for a second kid at the time and I had a 50-week maternity leave (thanks Canada on that one!). It would not have made sense to pick a daycare close to work when I was planning on sending my first one to daycare while on mat leave with the second. I really think your plan is the one that offers you the most flexibility. You start by commuting and spending more time with the kid.Than, if you decide to move, you don’t have to change daycare. Shipping from Amazon is a great idea, if your daycare can store the  quantity Regarding the sick days, my oldest is 4yo and there are only 1 or 2 days that I have been to sick to care for her, and both times she was also too sick to go to daycare. So I had someone come over to the house for these occasions.. I say go for it!

  • Jess

    Ha! Amy totally described me when youngest was an infant!  For his first 18 months I put him in a daycare across the street from my (downtown, urban) office building so that I could dash over at lunchtime (to nurse), and then around 12 months old I stopped that because it interrupted his day negatively.  

    Once he was a little older, we moved him to a daycare closer to home, but downtown was SO convenient!  The only issue was when I wanted to work from home/needed a sick day but still had to get the kiddo to daycare.

    I took the bus with him, in a sling, and the commute to/from was the BEST part of my day.  All that snuggling, and in the morning especially, baby was alert and in a pleasant mood.  And on a commute you get a lot of regulars that you don’t know but recognize, and he quickly became their “bus baby”.  Everyone loved playing peekaboo etc. 

    I also just kept the pump at work.  No need to even bring the bottles home most of them time – I just labelled them and dropped them off in the daycare fridge for the next day when I picked up the kid.

  • My baby LOVED the bus! So much to look at! So many people making faces at him! Yes to all this great advice- backup care close to home is important because you WILL get sick and you WILL want to let the trusted pros care for your child so you can get some damn rest. Streamlining, shipping of supplies, all of that… but this is totally doable and I think you should go for it. 🙂

  • MR

    If your commute is a bus or a train, then yes, take baby with you and find a daycare near work! You can spend that time with your little one, and it will be great. If that is a commute of you driving, DON’T DO IT! That isn’t extra bonding time with your kid when they are stuck in the back and you are dealing with bad drivers. That’s stressful when there is the inevitable traffic jam and you are stuck with a crying infant in the back that you can’t console. But, a train or bus is completely different because you can actually focus on your baby. GL!

  • Amie

    If you’re not driving, I would definitely do it. I commuted 90 min each way for the first two years of my daughter’s life, while she was in daycare near home. It was brutal, and I resented that commute so hard. I would get home at 6pm and she would need to be in bed by 6:30. I wouldn’t have felt like I missed so much if she had been on the train with me.

  • Rachel

    I understand if you definitely don’t want to live in the city, but you could consider finding a closer suburb. Or if you just aren’t sure and can afford it, I’d recommend trying to find a rental for a week or two, like on AirBnB or something and giving it a dry run. You might be surprised how much you like it. I can’t speak to commuting with babies specifically, but I used to commute for about two hours of every weekday, and when I switched to a closer job, it felt like I had twice as much time. If you do stick with the commute, I’d recommend trying to keep as many appointments as possible in the city, like your doctor or dentist, because it’s really hard to sneak out quickly for a thirty minute appointment if it’s an hour away.

  • Hillary

    Another hearty endorsement for your commuting together plan! My first kid and I took 2 buses for a 40 min commute to and from my job (daycare was in the same building). A few lessons learned – I cannot believe I cloth diapered the whole time. Baby in a ring sling, plus my backpack, plus my back of dirty diapers? Wow, a lot of work and I should’ve just used disposables! Sometimes she cried. And screamed. And I got dirty looks from the fresh 20 somethings on the bus (I was not only the oldest person on the bus at 33, she was the only person under 18). Once I felt so embarrassed I just got out and walked a mile home. That only happened once in a whole year, thankfully. Just be ready if it happens to you and have the lady parts to just stay on your darn train and not care what other people think. Lastly, invest in a babywearing coat! Worth every penny, IMO. Even when you get off the train, you’ll be walking to and from work/daycare and a coat that keeps you both warm and dry is invaluable. BTW, after commuting together I ended up buying a place right next to my job and eliminated my commute altogether. I love living in the city!

  • Dani

    I too am excited that I can finally chime in 🙂  I live in Brooklyn and have commuted to Manhattan with my son since he was 12 weeks old. He is now 17 months. The commute is about 35 minutes door-to-door and very manageable unless we hit train trouble, in which case everyone is an ass hole and I am ready to move to Cleveland :).  

    We loved the daycare that was close to my office, and as a bonus I could drop one pumping session per day, and walk over there at my lunch break and nurse him instead.  For the first 14 months or so we just used the ergo/beco and it was no big deal.  We brought books and snacks and he loved interacting with people on the train.  Overall people are very kind, I almost always get offered a seat and I end up striking up sweet conversations with people because of my little copilot.  

    Now that he is over 26 pounds and I’m pregnant again, we mostly use a light umbrella stroller.  There was just a point where he was super heavy and honestly didn’t want to sit on my lap anymore for that long.  He would get squirmy and annoyed.  In his stroller he sits and reads his books, has a snack, etc. and he’s pretty much happy the whole ride.  I use a backpack to cart things back and forth for the most part, and when I still pumped I left all my stuff at work and washed parts in the bathroom.  I had an alternate set at home, and would just bring that one in when I felt it was time to sanitize the others and do a swap.  (Pro tip: DO NOT bring your work set of pumping parts home until the second set has made it to the office.  If you forget the new set you will cry.)  I would bring my pumped milk to pick up each night and leave it in the fridge for the next day – no need to bring it back and forth.   Obviously some of this only applies if you’re pumping, otherwise ignore 🙂 

    IN any event, overall it’s been a positive experience, but I will say that I do miss my time on my commute when I used to read and listen to podcasts because I don’t get to do too much of that anymore. 

    I agree with many others who have said to leave whatever you can at the school.  He has a cubby and where we leave his extra sheet/blanket and clothes, I leave his books and snacks there sometimes if I don’t feel like bringing it all to work on days when I have a smaller handbag, the beco would hang in there.  Now with the stroller, there is a stroller parking area, if you will, where everyone leaves theirs during the day.  Any day care in a city would have one I’d think.  

    The what to do when you’re sick is definitely a consideration.  I am lucky enough that my husband can do drop off on those days, but it will be great to have a backup plan in place in case you need it.  Good luck to you!  And if you are in NY by any chance, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to talk to you more about our experience. 

  • Melinda

    Look at you working & single mamas getting it done!

    It might be because I’m 36 weeks pregnant, but I’m sitting at my desk trying not to cry at how wonderful this question and comment thread are.

    So proud of all of you doing the hardwork for your babies!

  • Melissa

    I drive an hour each way to/from work, and this is my first year without one or two little passengers in the back seat; my parents watched my first son as a baby, and we eventually found a sitter and a preschool near my work as well. I loved that I could attend preschool events more easily, and if either boy became sick, I was close by as needed. As I drove, we would sing songs and tell stories- it was such a nice time with my boys, and I’d do it again if I could! (Both boys are school-age now and we do daycare in town now) It would have been even nicer to take public transportation with them, to interact even more. Good luck with your decision!

  • Danielle

    Medela makes bags for sterilizing pump parts in the microwave. You just put the parts in, add water, and run in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Easy to keep at work and not have to drag pump parts around!

  • Debbie

    Chiming in to agree that commuting with baby is awesome. When I realized my best daycare option was around the corner from my office I was honestly dreading the idea of commuting with her, but boy was I wrong. Going back to work was a tumultuous time for me, full of career-related setbacks and challenges at home, and when I look back on it in a few years I think I will see it as a time when I was a bit sad, but the commuting with her, that will be the parts of this time in my life that I will remember so so fondly. Sure, there are times when it is exhausting and she screams and I feel challenged, but overall it has created this most delicious “wants nothing time” for us where our only goal is to be together and get home. I can’t be distracted and ignore her, I need to be fully present with her to keep her safe and happy while commuting, and it’s really nice to have that time every day where she is smiling and cheerful (mostly) and I am totally focused on her. Commuting with her is the highlight of my day! Do it and good luck! 🙂

  • Hannah

    From the other side…

    We chose a daycare for our oldest son that was on our way to work, but outside the downtown core. We were feeling pretty smug about it, until one day when there was a bad & sudden snowstorm right at evening rush hour.

    The public transportation in our city kinda sucks, so my husband and I drove downtown together in one car. There we were, stranded in bumper-to-bumper not-moving traffic, for THREE HOURS (normally a 15-20 minute drive). 

    By the time we got to the daycare, my little guy had been there for 12.5 hours and I was almost insane. Would he have fussed in the car, if we’d had him with us? Probably – but I have never felt so helpless as I did when it dawned on us that there was actually no way either of us could get to him.

    Definitely echoing what others are saying about commuting with your baby. It sounds like it could actually be kind of fun. 🙂

  • Kara

    I’ve tried this both ways, and I’ve found that even though the commute can be hard here and there, it’s was worth it for me to spend the time with my kids. I also found it’s easier to focus on work when I’m physically closer to my kids. Maybe this is silly, but knowing I can get to them quickly during the day is reassuring. 

    I’d also suggest also consider being aware of prompt care options or if your pediatrician’s office has a clinic near daycare/work. A commute with a sick baby is tough, but it’s tougher when you know you have to get through to even before you can seek medical care. 

    • Laura

      This situation you describe would be eliminated if the day care is within walking distance from work (as it sounds for OP). Our day care is right next to our home, and I work downtown, so I could potentially have the same issue as you, where I am stuck in traffic and can’t get to my baby.

      • Laura

        Oops, I replied to the wrong comment, ignore me!!

  • LC

    Wow!  I was really expecting all of the comments to be the opposite direction.  I have a 90 minute commute (mostly train, but it does include driving to the train station and a mile walk from the downtown station to my office).  There is an excellent and affordable daycare center in my building which starts at age 2, but I’ve been hesitant to consider switching my 2 year old because it’s a long time on the train every day and a long sometimes cold walk to my office.  I might have to reconsider.  My husband currently does drop off and pickup but would rather not.

    • MR

      The drive to the train station and train part are fine. But, you’ll need/want a good stroller that can help with the cold walk part. You’ll have lots of stuff to carry, and won’t want to make that walk longer because it slows to toddler pace. Make sure whatever stroller you have accommodates all your bags and can handle the weather, and you’ll be fine! LO will just need to be bundled up, but little kids love being outside, even when it is cold.

  • bekala

    Childless commuter here, chiming in to say that I see a fair number of kids on my commute (light rail, 30 mins one way), and I second, third, fourth, what others have said.  I’ve seen babies in carriers/wraps, toddlers in strollers, and older kids (3-4 yrs), all on their ways in to day care with their parents (and a co-worker regularly sees a mom with her 2 kids on the ferry!), and I can only think of one instance in the past 7 years that wasn’t fun for anyone, and it was clear that the kid was just having a tough morning.  I would just encourage you to stay on top of the flu shot and cold-prevention tactics, because even the most conscientious commuter can’t control every sneeze, you know?  Good luck, and congrats on the new job!

  • chopk

    I just have to add to this comment list – and thank you to all the other working moms for reinforcing my decision!  I used to live in the city and was about a 7 minute drive from both daycare and work.  It was the jackpot of all commutes.  We moved to the burbs and I put my daughter in full time care at our new community, and got a nanny for my son.  It was pure hell trying to drive like a bat out of hell every night getting home to them!  I ended up putting my daughter back in part time in the city and am trying to get them both back in full time next year.  
    I also realized that with both in daycare where I worked, it was much easier to take them to their doctor in the city, visit them at lunch, and make daycare parties. 
    I’ll say, when I commuted with both kids when we first move, it had some good days and bad (the bad being when I got hit with horrible stomach bug in the middle of the commute and had to take my 3 year old and infant in car seat into a gas station to use the toilet!)  It also really stinks when there is traffic.  If your children are older, like over one year, it is a bit easier because there is more to distract them.  
    I’ve learned that nothing is perfect.  Trust your gut.  Just because something looks better logistically, it still may not be right for you.
    Stash snacks in your work bag, keep plenty of kids music on hand, and above all, check for traffic and major events before you plan your day.

  • Jen

    Thanks everyone for your great responses!!! I’ve decided to take the job in the city for sure, and now I feel so much better about my options for child care. It’s great to hear that it really does work for you.