First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage … and then comes the move to the ’burbs for schools, a front lawn and a bigger house for Junior. But some people can’t or don’t want to uproot their urban lives when they become parents. And the city has much to offer them, too.
Child Care/Early Education
D.C. is one of the few municipalities in the country to offer free universal preschool. That means it’s available to every 3- and 4-year-old who lives in the District — as long as there are spaces left. There are more than 6,000 seats available each year, so space typically isn’t a problem.
However, before age 3, waiting lists for private child care in the area are long.
“I have a lot of friends who are pregnant now,” says Andrea Wiktowy, 35, who lives on Capitol Hill with her husband, Michael, and 18-month-old son, Felix. “My advice has been, ‘Put your name down on day-care lists now.’ ”
The Wiktowys got on the waiting list for the child-care center at the State Department, where Andrea works, while she was pregnant. They still haven’t made it to the top of the list. Fortunately, a spot opened up in February at a center near their home; they’d applied in March 2012.
In a city, square footage is a precious commodity. No big deal, says LaToria Brent, 33, of the Stronghold neighborhood in Northeast. Brent and her husband, David, have a 3-year-old daughter, and are expecting a baby in November. Brent describes their home as a “typical D.C. rowhouse” and says it’s smaller than what they could have afforded farther out. But, she says, “My daughter has the entire house to play in. In suburbia, it would be harder to chase her!”
In many D.C. neighborhoods, parks, libraries and pools are within walking distance. “It’s 100 percent easier” to walk down the street than to load a minivan up with a stroller, Wiktowy says.
“I’ve never owned a car,” says Susanna Montezemolo, 38. She and husband Markus are raising their 21-month-old daughter in Adams Morgan. “I get more exercise by not having one.”
Brent says she thinks D.C. is one of the best places to have kids.
“There’s so much to do,” she says. “We go to museums, parks. There are mommy groups and play dates” everywhere. Having everything within walking (or Metro) distance means less planning ahead and more spontaneity, she says.
Wiktowy says she walks to the grocery store, to her son’s swim lessons, the pediatrician’s and even Gram’s place — Wiktowy’s parents live two Metro stops away, or 14 blocks.
Being in a dense neighborhood rather than a spaced-out suburb provides more possibilities for interacting with other parents, some say. “If I lived in the ’burbs, I’d be so much more isolated,” Montezemolo says.
Many moms and dads cite D.C.’s active Listservs as great resources; they also appreciate the city-sponsored programs, including kid-friendly workouts at D.C. recreational centers.
“You see all the moms together, Monday to Friday,” Brent says.
Another great tip? While pregnant, take a class in your neighborhood aimed at expectant mothers and their partners (such as prenatal yoga). Montezemolo took a set of classes on natural childbirth, “and everyone in the class had about the same due date and lived in the area. It was like instafriends.”