The Market

How to raise 4 kids in a 4th floor walk-up (no, we're not joking)

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | March 26, 2012 - 9:59AM

Recently, we posed the question, "Can babies and walk-ups ever get along?"

Honestly, we thought that -- with the exception of some very rare cases -- the answer was basically "no."

Then Bronx mom Sally Dunford contacted us to say she'd raised four boys in a fourth floor walk-up, and lived to tell about it.

Naturally, we had to find out more.

"We didn't expect to be in this predicament," she tells us. "We took the apartment when I was pregnant with my oldest, and the babies just kept coming."

Her oldest son is now 36.

When she and her husband moved into their apartment in 1975, the fact that it was a walk-up translated to $100-less-than-market rate rent, Dunford says. Today, she thinks the difference would be several hundred dollars a month.

"The apartments in the Bronx are huge," Dunford says. "Ours really made the stairs worth it."

Dunford admits to having had dreams where the landlord put in an elevator. But she contends that climbing stairs never got difficult enough to seriously consider moving.

Here are Dunford's tips for making a walk-up work with kids:

1. Be incredibly organized. Dunford used to pack the diaper bag the night before (when the kids were asleep), making sure to include everything she needed for the following day. As her brood got bigger, she tried to only go up and down the stairs once a day.

2. Be a minimalist. "Babies don't need as much as people lug around. Just bring some diapers, wipes and some snacks," Dunford says.

3. Enlist the kids' help. As soon as her kids could climb up and down the stairs themselves, Dunford had them carry something small for her.

4. Make it into a game. "My kids learned to count on the stairs," says Dunford. "We always tried to make climbing the stairs into a game to reduce the whining," she says.

5. Take it easy post-partum. Immediately following her labors, Dunford had her husband do the heavy lifting -- bringing home the shopping and the laundry.

6. Outsource when possible. The aforementioned laundry and grocery shopping can be the hardest things to schlep up the stairs. Consider having your laundry picked up and dropped off (or even better, install a washer/dryer if you can), and go the FreshDirect route for groceries.

7. Leave the strollers downstairs. It might take a little bit coercion, but try to get your neighbors/landlord to let you leave your stroller downstairs.

8. Buy cheap strollers. If you have take your strollers up and down the stairs at all (and chances are you will), buy cheap, light umbrella strollers. Skip the (heavy) luxury strollers you see all around town. "We used to go through those cheap strollers every few months, but it was worth it," Dunford says.

9. Take a deep breath. "The best thing to do in this scenario -- and all the others relating to parenting -- is to try to relax and go with the flow," says Dunford. 

Related posts: 

Can you raise a family in Manhattan on $400,000 a year?

Can babies and walk-ups ever get along?

Rachel 'El Bloombito' Figueroa-Levin: Un babyador en a cuatro floor walk up es muy exhaustido

Fox 5's Julie Changs 5th floor walk-up: "I buy umbrellas like packs of gum"

Ask an Expert: Should my walk-up have a fire escape?

How to find a family-friendly building in the Financial district and beyond

Is it okay to put a kid in a windowless "bedroom"?


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