As hard as we’ve tried to get exclusive access to how Arnold Schwarzenegger will be celebrating this Father’s Day, we’ve been stonewalled (by robots sent from the future) at every turn. So we’ve resorted to plan b and shifted our Father’s Day focus to three new Chicago dads. We sent each of them five questions to get their perspective on what it’s like being a new dad in Chicago. And no, none of them were asked to opine about Go the F**K to Sleep. Their responses to the questions we did ask are below, and we encourage other Chicago dads to add their thoughts about anything — even Go the F**K to Sleep — the comments section.
Our new Chicago Dads Panel:
Jason, 31, Derivatives Trader, Old Town
Kevin, 32, Multimedia Developer, Lakeview
Ted, 34, Attorney, Lakeview
1. Does raising your child in Chicago until they are ready for college seem like viable option?
Jason: Living in Chicago until my kids are in college is a possibility, but more likely we will move to the burbs in 7-10 years. Private school tuition is extraordinarily high, so the only way to make it work is to buy a home in a “good” school district — I think “good” is a relative term when it comes to CPS. I would also like to have a yard for my kids to play in, although Chicago has so many parks within walking distance of most neighborhoods this has become less of a priority.
Kevin: I’d like to raise my daughter in Chicago. I love this city and I believe that she would be better off being exposed to the diversity it has to offer. Copious parks and museums are also a huge draw, as well as a bigger population giving more opportunities for my daughter to make friends. But the problem with living in Chicago is definitely the cost. Everything costs more. Food, schools, gas, rent, and the biggest thing is housing costs. A decent two-bedroom condo in a good neighborhood starts at around $200,000. Anywhere else, that amount of money could get you a decent sized house with a garage and yard. It’s a decision that I am still struggling with, do we trade in the perks of city life for cheaper housing, or suck it up and live our lives under huge mortgage payments.
Ted: At this point, we’re leaning pretty strongly against staying in the city. When I was younger,I was convinced that I would be one of the people who stayed in Chicago forever, but things have changed with the baby. And yes, I realize that this was very predictable. Most significantly, while Chicago has some very good public schools, navigating the system to make sure your kid gets into one seems like a huge headache. Also, the city becomes quite the obstacle course once a baby arrives, and I have grown less tolerant of some of the dirtiness, late night noise, etc. that didn’t bother me in my younger days.
2. More dignified way to walk around Chicago with your new child: Stroller or baby carrier?
Jason: For a man, a stroller is far more dignified than a baby carrier. That being said, I need to walk about a mile to pick up my daughter from daycare and pushing an empty stroller with one hand and walking my dog with the other is a pain and seems to encourage weird looks and unsolicited commentary from passersby. Yesterday a lady said “Uh oh, did Daddy lose the baby somewhere?” So bottom line, baby carrier is less dignified but more functional for me than a stroller.
Kevin: I think for men, Zach Galifinakis and his promo shots from “The Hangover” have made BabyBjörns in vogue for men, as long as you wear some shades and keep your beard a little unkempt.
Ted: Stroller. I can’t do the carrier, or at least haven’t given in to it yet.
3. Do you think you could have handled the responsibility of having a child five years ago? What’s changed about you?
Jason: I could have handled it five years ago, but I think I am better at it now then I would have been then. I had 10 years after college of living in Chicago and doing whatever I want, I am glad to have that out of my system and really don’t feel like I am missing out now that I can’t go meet friends out whenever I want to.
Kevin: I don’t think you are ever ready to become a parent. It hits you like a ton of bricks. Everything is new, and it is a completely different way of living. Tough week at work and want to have a few drinks with friends? Tough luck, tonight the only shot you are getting is some spit up shot right into your eye. Want to watch that new action flick that just came out on Blu-ray tonight? You better hope that the subtitles don’t get in the way of any of the action. Want to take a nap? What is this “nap” that you speak of? I’m sure I would have figured it out five years ago, but I’m glad I got a lot of fun, flicks and naps in back then.
Ted: Yes, I think I could have handled it, but five years ago I was still going out more and living it up in the big city. By 32 or 33 I was over a lot of that, which makes it easy to move to a family-oriented lifestyle without dramatically changing what you enjoy doing, or feeling like you’re missing out on something.
4. The Chicago boutique baby store scene: (a) a nice alternative from chain stores with baby sections, (b) stores that you want to avoid at all costs, or (c) some other opinion?
Jason: B: Stores I want to avoid at all costs. I actually haven’t been to one since my daughter was born, but last fall my sister and nephew were in town from Arizona. Her baby didn’t have warm enough clothes, so we stopped by the store “Little Threads” in Roscoe village. We grabbed a hooded sweatshirt that fit a three month old. It was grey and it had a robot on it. No brand name, just a robot. $47. Next time I will just go to Old Navy.
Kevin: No boutique shopping in my family. With the exception of a few nicer outfits, everything is hand me down, thrift store, garage sales, or gifts. Baby clothes get spit up on, drooled on and worse, and they only fit for a small window of time, so I don’t feel like it’s a wise use of funds.
Ted: I am happy to say that I have never heard of the “Chicago boutique baby store scene.” But I’m sure my wife has, and it sounds financially dangerous, so I will do some investigating. Thanks for the heads up.
5. What is your biggest concern about the world your child will inherit? Are these the type of things you think about frequently and worry about frequently?
Jason: I am mostly concerned about the rising national debt and the possibility that my daughter someday might receive lewd photos from a politician.
Kevin: I worry about the world my child will inherit all the time. I think my biggest concern is that we are on a planet with finite resources, but most people never consider that. They are to busy forming their opinions based on what a cable talking head or talk radio host spouts on the air in order to stir controversy and gain a higher ratings share. I feel like we have an entire fourth estate that is shouting fire in a crowded theater and no one has a grasp on reality because of it. I hope to instill a sense of reality in my daughter, and hope that her opinions will be based on rational and critical thought, and her actions will based on a willingness to help others. I also worry about the things she will inherit from me. I have bad habits, some passed down from my parents, that I hope she will not have the opportunity to pass on to her children.
Ted: Yes, I think about these issues from time to time, particularly the environment and what will probably be a declining American standard of living in the years ahead. But serious problems confront every generation, and all we can do is equip our kids the best we can to deal with change and adversity, and to use their lives to make a positive contribution to others.