I learned to re-explore my city with a child from my friend Yen, an award winning architect, foodie, and all around awesome mom. A few months ago, we sat down to dish on parenting since I find her to be such an inspiration to all working moms raising children in an urban environment. I hope other city dwellers steal her "Day of Trains" idea -- it's genius!
Name: Yen Ha
Mother to: Liem (4 years) and Ai-Linh (13 months)
Living in: New York City
Tell me something only parents know.
Only parents can know how absolutely hilarious it is to have and raise kids. Everyone talks about being tired and no social life or how precious children are but the reality is having kids around is a riot of laughter every day. We literally lay around in bed at night before falling asleep, recalling all the amazingly funny things the kids did or said. And just when you think they could not possibly be any funnier, they learn something new and you are rolling on the floor again.
Our posse is really only just starting to have kids now, it's been a bit, 'Children of Men' -like, but all that's changing now. Were you one of the first to have kids in your posse or have you been surrounded by friends with kids for awhile?
Another one of the difficult things of being a parent that I didn't know about! We were and still are the only ones in our posse to have kids. It's great on the one hand because all of our friends are pretty thoughtful about us having kids, everyone hangs at our place all the time because then we don't have to worry about the kids or find a babysitter and we still get to hang. But on the other hand there will always be those nights where everyone just happened to meet up at a bar and then it turned into a wild awesome night. We can't do that kind of thing. I actually recently decided that I didn't want to make any new friends who didn't have kids because it's just too hard. Our group of friends is so tight, we've been together since college, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. But it's not easy.
Since your kids are growing up around your friends, is there any topic that can't be discussed with them?
It's not so much that we can't talk to them about stuff, but more that I think until you have kids and go through the actual experience there are just some things you will never viscerally feel as a non-parent. The really nice thing about our kids growing up around our friends is that they're both so comfortable with each other. Our friends hang with the kids and the kids chat with the friends.
That's really great that they have a voice with adults. I know in Asian families, sometimes children are expected to remain fairly quiet. As a parent, what did you swear you'd never do if you were ever to become one that you do now?
As much as Rich and I talk about other people's parenting methods and then secretly mock them, the truth is we always recognized that we would have no way of knowing how we would be until we actually had kids. We did talk about it a lot, for example neither of us have any clingy or hovering tendencies but we did wonder if having kids would change that natural inclination (which it didn’t).
Lulu needs friends whose parents will allow them to run around outside!
Running outside is the best. We worked for a long time with Liem on getting him to stop at street corners. So now when we go out he'll often speed up down the block, running or on his scooter. Sometimes we lose sight of him momentarily but we know he will always, always, always stop at the light.
Yeah. I've seen other friends train their kids to do the same! It's a city kid thing. You have to teach them to stop at the curb early on…
Yeah it really is a lot of work but like most things, totally worth it. I've always thought it really sad for the kid if we always had to say no stop running, no stop that, no, no, no.
What is the single most game-changer to having two kids?
Single most game changer is NO TIME. For us the first two months were the worst. And I've heard this from other parents too. It's no sleep, no sleep, and no sleep and neither of you get to catch up because if you're not tending to one you've got the other one to accommodate too.
Now that Ai-Linh is 13 months, are you gaining back time?
Definitely it's hugely better now. And I suspect it will only get better. I think people tried to tell me the first several months would be hard but I just didn't know or believe. It's easier now because she's older and her schedule can align with Liem’s more often than not.
I'm sure working on two schedules is quite hectic. What's the one product that makes life as a Mom easier?
A good bag that Rich isn't embarrassed to carry. When Liem was born I found a bag from the Canadian company m0851 - super awesome. They're all waterproof so every time food or milk spilled (which was more frequent than I care for) I just sponge it off. It's not really a diaper bag but a perfect size bag to throw everything we need in. We've also have a going out routine going on that really helps. It's like a series of questions we run through every time we go out. How long are we out for? Food for Liem? Got it, snacks and sandwich. Food for Ai-Linh? Ok, her bottle is filled, an extra thing of formula, a container of oatmeal and one of fruit. And last diapers and wipes for Ai-Linh? Yup. Then we're good.
Ah yes, we go through the same routine for Lulu. We also throw in a change of outfit and a couple of toys!
You remind me that sometimes we're too lazy to bring an extra set of clothes and then bam, leaky poop or worse, vomit.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?
Traveling! Seriously I love traveling with Liem and I love it with Ai-Linh now too. It's so awesome to see the world through new eyes, to see what they might find incredibly fascinating.
Liem was on six planes and had been to Napa twice before the age of two. We got him a passport at 18 months. Lately we haven’t been able to afford a lot of long distance traveling so we'll go on local trips. Last weekend we had our first official Day of Trains where he got to pick the train and the direction. I can't wait to do that again.
I read that on your blog. I think it is a wonderful idea. It's great that you take Liem out for a day of exploration on public transportation! It is really a wonderful gift your kids give you -- the luxury of "everything is new again." Thanks, Yen!