It’s been a year since we arrived at the MSP airport, carrying a cat, toddler, carseat, travel crib and as many suitcases as we could manage. We really miss our friends back in Brooklyn, NY – but let me tell you: parenting is a lot easier here in the Twin Cities. We knew before moving that a lower cost of living and strong schools often help Minneapolis rank as one of the top cities in the U.S. to raise a family, but some things have surprised us.
Other families who have recently settled here will know what I’m talking about. And for those of you who have spent your entire “mom life” here – I’m going to share some of the great things my husband and I have found about parenting here that you may be taking for granted. (I’m sure that St. Paul and suburbs share some of these and have benefits of their own, but I’m going to focus on Minneapolis, since that’s where we live.)
To celebrate my husband’s successful job interviews, we made a stop at the Surly Brewing Company’s beer hall in the Prospect Park neighborhood. We were shocked and delighted when the waiter gave our two-year old a little lunchbox full of toys at our table. We told everyone we knew how “kid friendly” the place was, especially for a brewery. After we settled in a Linden Hills duplex and started trying out a few more Minneapolis restaurants, we realized – wait a minute, nearly EVERY place we tried gave kids this kind of treatment! In Brooklyn, some spots don’t even have any highchairs in order to discourage families from eating there.
Just over a month after we moved in, I gave birth to our second daughter. My husband and dad were still putting together an IKEA dresser while I lay on the couch with labor pains – we joked that we should name the new baby “NORDLI.” But despite the stress of the move and the baby coming at the same time, having a child was easier here.
A few days after Emilia (we decided against NORDLI in the end) made her appearance at Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s Mother Baby Center, a nurse made a home visit to check on both of us, covered by insurance. This type of home visit is standard in northern and western Europe but not in the U.S., where generally, new moms only see a health care provider for a six week checkup. Our visit was part of Children’s Minnesota’s unique home care program and is something they do in Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka, Scott, Washington and Carver counties. It gave us peace of mind during a chaotic time.
During the fall, we became regulars at the story time at the library near our house, where I looked down and suddenly noticed that EVERY OTHER MOM was wearing Converse slip on shoes. I may not have been wearing the South Minneapolis Mom Uniform, but my daughter loved the place. While the library in our old Brooklyn neighborhood had a sweet story time, we were amazed to see that Hennepin County libraries have play areas with activities like pretend restaurants, farm stands and Magna-Tiles stations. We also were able to use our library card to get a free ticket online to the Minnesota Children’s Museum through the MELSA smARTpass program.
The other place we started spending lots of time was the park near our house, which not only has an amazing playground and wading pool, but has a recreation center with tons of affordable classes and activities – from ceramics, soccer or field hockey for toddlers and even half-day preschool for kids three and up.
And while we’re hoping Minneapolis is able to someday provide universal free pre-K like New York City does (Gov. Dayton’s state-funded pre-K was only in 74 districts last school year after the state passed a scaled-back program instead) we were glad to be able to take advantage of the state’s Early Childhood Family Education classes. Minnesota is the only state that offers a program like this through the public school system, and our entire family got a lot from an “Adventures in Parenting” class on Monday evenings. My two-year old spent time learning and having fun with kids her age while my husband and I talked with a diverse group of other parents about our shared experiences, joys and concerns. From talks about potty training to nose picking to how to talk to kids about death, our parent educator, Jane, was terrific at getting us to open up and at giving advice I will always remember.
I’m hoping I’ll discover many more ways “mom life” isn’t as much of a struggle in this great town in the years to come. Leave suggestions in the comments!