Fighting traffic and struggling with broken metro escalators is hard enough when you’re only trying to get yourself to work.  Add to the mix commuting to work with kids in tow, and you’re in for more headaches.

A new mama recently asked for tips on how to commute with her baby on a train with stairs.  Which got me thinking about the logistics of how we all get our babies where they need to go in the morning.  (That is, if they’re not home with a family member, nanny, or au pair.)

Here are some tips for commuting with baby, depending on what mode of transportation you are using.

If You’re Taking Baby on Public Transport

  • Consider Baby-Wearing: Many of the parents I’ve spoken with who commute via train, subway, bus, or even ferry, use a baby carrier to avoid the stroller. (Think Ergo, Tula, LILLE, or Bjorn).  Though I didn’t commute to work on public transport with my kids, I navigated the D.C. Metro with them from time to time and always preferred having them in a Moby wrap – with a maternity coat zipped over them!  Or, once they got bigger, in the Ergo.  If you’re baby-wearing, you can carry a light diaper bag backpack that includes diapering essentials, pump parts (hopefully you have a pump at work), a few toys and books, and the bottles and food your baby will need at daycare.
  • Go Small on the Stroller: Perhaps your baby hates being in a carrier, or baby-wearing just isn’t your thing.  If you’re going to go the stroller route, go with a smaller, lighter-weight stroller.  That way, if you need to carry your little one up the stairs of a train (or up a broken escalator), you’ll be able to manage more easily.  Check out the Pockit Lightweight Stroller.  It apparently folds up so small you don’t have to check it when you fly on airplanes, too.
  • Or, Go Sturdy on the Stroller:  If you’re going to be going up and down a lot of stairs, you could go in the opposite direction.  Instead, consider commuting with a jogging stroller.  (For example, the Baby Trend Expedition, Thule Urban Glide, Bob Revolution, Graco Gotham Fastaction, and Joovy Zoom 360.)  These strollers are designed to absorb the shock of the bounces. So they may be a good option if baby will be jostled around a bit during the commute.
  • Practice Once Before the First Day of Work: If you’re still on leave and contemplating how this is all going to work, it’s best to do a trial run.  Spend time mapping out a route that involves accessible ramps and elevators.  And consider timing yourself, to see how much extra time you’ll need to add to your commute.
  • Let Go of Fears of Asking for Help: We’re all in this together, mama.  If you need a hand getting a stroller onto a train (particularly at rush hour), there will certainly be plenty of people around who are more than happy to help.  Think about it: you’re giving a stranger a psychic boost by giving them an opportunity to be helpful, even before they start their work day.

If You’re Taking Children in the Car

  • Study the Parking Situation: Depending on the location, finding a spot to park at your daycare or nanny-share can be a struggle.  Of course, you want to do a quick in-and-out and get on your way.  But you still may need to park blocks from the daycare.  Talk to other parents or daycare staff.  And determine where you can park that’s safe, legal, and as convenient as possible.
  • Add in Commuting Time for Car Seat Struggles: If your baby is tiny, you may not have experienced this yet.  But older babies, toddlers, and even preschoolers certainly have opinions about getting into their car seats.  As they want more independence, you’re faced with “I do it MYSELF!” when you go to buckle them.  And even now, my 4-year old can take a good 5 minutes to be convinced to sit down in his seat.  To reduce exasperation on your part, take it as a given that the getting-into-the-car thing will be a process.  And allow a few extra minutes for it.
  • Take Advantage of Having a Trunk: Jewelyn Cosgrove (mama and author of the great posts, How to Create a Maternity Leave Plan Your Employer Will Love, and What’s a Freemie: A Genius Invention for Pumping Mamas) had the wonderful idea to take advantage of that trunk space in your car.  She says she keeps a bag of extra items for daycare back there.  When she gets the “we need more diapers” memo, she’ll always have some at the ready during the commute.
  • Use the Time to Sing! Commuting by car with your kiddos can be a great time to introduce your little ones to some of your favorite music.  And to learn some fun new kids music, too.  Over the past few years, we’ve commuted to: Beatles One (who doesn’t love some Yellow Submarine in the mornings!).  Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volume III (yes, my kids have been known to request Keepin’ the Faith).  Sugar Free Allstars (there’s an amazing song about a monster truck on this album).  And the Jack Johnson Curious George soundtrack (if you love Jack, his kids music is awesome, too).

What if you don’t commute with baby?  Or you have some commuting time left after you drop off your kiddos?  Take Dr. Emma Basch’s advice and make the most of your commuting time: How to Embrace Your Commute: Finding Your Zen on the Way to Work.

Finally, I’m here to give you hope.  Commuting with kids is stressful, no matter which way you look at it.  But my husband and I just hit parent nirvana.  Our youngest graduated from daycare this summer and started pre-K last week at the same school where his older brother goes.  One drop-off, one pickup.  Our lives became instantly more simple.  (In some ways…)  You’ll get there too, and yes, it’s glorious.  Just give it some time.

Want more advice from seasoned working mamas as you head back to work after maternity leave?  Join the next session of Mindful Return and meet an amazing community of women.

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