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Blog

Over-qualified for mediocrity. Under-qualified for greatness. 

 

5 easy tips for cutting down on Bay Area housing costs

Robynn Garfield

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Oh man. Not another bay area housing article.

But wait! By following these easy tips, you’ll not only be able to afford that one bedroom “industrial loft” going for $3,900 (may or may not be located on the ground floor of a fish packing plant) but you’ll be able to have a little left over each month for luxuries like soap and calling Mom.

  1. Do you own a car? Don’t EVER own a car. Car ownership is for people who live life way too fast. Sell you car, use public transportation, Uber, a bike, a hang glider, a mule, a pedicab, a solar-powered go-cart, a prius….ANYTHING but a car. Living in the bay area is a privilege in an of itself. Don’t get greedy thinking you can live here AND own a car.

  2. Eat out. Of dumpsters. Do you spend money on groceries? That’s not going to fly if you want to afford even a moderate dwelling in the bay area. Don’t spend your money on food. There are plenty of places to get food for free, like the Whole Foods dumpster, the In N Out dumpster, the sidewalk, the grocery store (don’t pay for it though, just shove that Lara bar in your pocket and run), or any children’s birthday party located at a park.

  3. Don’t (ever) have kids. Living in the bay area is expensive enough without a bunch of ratty little mouths to feed and bodies to sleep in second bedrooms. If you live out here and have dreams of family life, buy a pet bird and house it in your one bedroom loft. Kids cost money, money that could be used to pay for amenities such as walls, doors, and not living in a tent. If you have kids, consider renting them out to childless retired couples who think their 800 square foot house built in 1947 is worth $1.6 million after taxes.

  4. Lower your expectations. So you want to live in a house? You mean, a house that’s not attached to another house? You want a ruddy YARD???!!! Nope. That’s not going to happen unless you just sold a sexy little startup to Google for more money than the annual GDP of Vietnam. Lower your housing standards. Look for apartments advertised as “cosy”, “livable”, or “nearly snake free.” You don’t need a kitchen. You won’t be buying food anyway (see tip #2).

  5. Be willing to do things your mom wouldn’t be proud of. Did you find that perfect rental, close to the train and within walking distance of a hip little organic, gluten free coffee roastery? Do you want to live there more than life itself, more than anything you’ve ever wanted ever in your 28 years on God’s green earth? Good, you’re in a good place. Get weird with it. Offer to do things to and for your potential landlord you wouldn’t admit to, even on an anonymous Craigslist forum. See if he or she likes fake accents, leather, milkshakes, pictures of dogs riding horses…whatever it might be. You do it and you do it for the $3,100 a month studio that smells like meth and cheap hairspray. It’s the bay area. You’re just lucky to be living here at all.

My adventures with newborn babies

Robynn Garfield

I had never been much of a baby person before I had my own. I tolerated babies, but I was never one to rush to hold someone else’s newborn or to fawn over a fresh ‘bundle of joy’. I assumed that would change when I had my own babies. And it did. Sort of.

 

Bringing a baby home from the hospital is a terrifying moment. You’ve just spent the last nine months fantasizing about what your baby will look like, what it will feel like to hold him, dress him, bathe him, and now that you’ve got him home you realize that none of the things you thought would be fun are, and there are 10,000 other things you have to do to this kid to keep it alive.

The first night we brought my first son home was comical, in retrospect. He had been screaming for three hours and my husband and I thought we had tried everything. With your first kid, you don’t know that babies are little sadists and like to cry sometimes for no good reason. I remember both of us, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at this tiny, screaming human that we had created and feeling utterly defeated.

That feeling never stops with newborn babies.

As soon as you get him dressed, he poops and spits up at the same time. As soon as you get him to sleep he wakes up and screams at you for 30 more minutes.

Like most new moms, I found myself turing to the internet for help with my baby. Another rookie mistake; three babies later and I know that seeking help from other moms online is like looking for a needle in a gigantic stack of other needles. Other moms are brutal, and everything you’re doing is the worst and have you tried tummy time or gripe water or co-sleeping because if not you should take the baby back to the hospital and turn yourselves into the authorities you terrible awful person.

By baby number two I had a few more things figured out, but the shock of having a newborn in the house is something you can never really prepare for. I remember reading social media posts about moms feeling “baby hungry” which is something I’ve never experienced. I love my babies, but I’m definitely more “big kid hungry”. I like to be able to talk to my kids, (sort of) reason with them, play with them and have them be (sort of) little humans. Babies are little balls of needs that don’t give any thing back.

By my third, the only thing I’d really learned is how little I valued to opinions of other parents when it came to baby stuff. I finally was able to let go of the anxiety of what other people thought of me as a mom.

I see first-time parent friends fall prey to the stress of over-explaining their parenting choices to the world. A friend recently posted a photo of her newborn baby sleeping in his car seat with a short “Look who’s tuckered out” caption and then a paragraph on “I know his straps aren’t buckled don’t judge me we were in the living room I swear I buckle his seat every time we leave the front door”. As a jaded and ‘senior’ parent I don’t care any more about what people think. That’s the one nice thing about having lots of babies.

When my third was a newborn I felt infinitely more confidence in my ability to do what was best for him. I’m not sure there’s a way to get there but through experience, but it’s a lovely place to arrive at.

My adventures in breastfeeding

Robynn Garfield

My experiences with breastfeeding have taken me on a very unexpected journey I never imagined I’d be on. It’s something I didn’t think much about prior to getting pregnant. I always assumed that it would be as easy as I’d seen it happen with friends and family; baby comes out, mom hooks baby to boob, baby eats, all is well. Breastfeeding was many thing for me, but it was never easy.

 

When I was 21, I had a breast reduction surgery. My doctor at the time told me that there wouldn't be any problems with my ability to breastfeed later on in life. “All the plumbing has been hooked back up right,” he said. 

I’m not sure that my reduction surgery contributed to my challenges with breastfeeding or if it would have been equally difficult for me anyway. There’s no real way to tell, but whatever the reason, nursing my babies was a marathon of trials and emotion for me.

When my first son was born I was eager to start breastfeeding. I worked tirelessly in the hospital after his birth to try to get him to latch on and feed. I had no idea what I was doing, even with the help and encouragement of the nurses. He wouldn’t latch, and when he would I felt like he was getting very little out of me.

I scheduled a lactation consultation three days after returning from the hospital. The woman who helped me at the appointment assured me that my son was getting some nourishment out of me and that I should focus on pumping and giving him breastmilk exclusively. I pumped and nursed my baby for hours on end that first week. As soon as he breastfed, I’d hook myself up to my pump. I was pumping almost no milk, even when I’d pump without nursing my son first.

My baby cried all the time those first few weeks. I looked at formula with a sort of dread and distaste. Giving him formula seemed like failure on my part. Finally, after consulting with my doctor and our pediatrician, it became very clear that my body wasn’t producing enough milk to help my son thrive.

His feedings those first few months were endless. I’d nurse him on both sides, feed him a bottle, and then pump. Each feeding took around three hours and I was exhausted. I was emotional. As a new mother, I constantly felt like a failure. Anything I read online spoke to the overwhelming benefits of breastfeeding and gave little to no support for women like me, struggling to do the thing I thought would be so easy.

After two months I had to stop. I had never been able to pump more than an ounce of breastmilk at any feeding and my son was eating mostly formula. I needed to find a way to balance his nutrition with my own physical and mental health. I was suffering from exhaustion and stress. It was hard to stop, but it made all the difference in my ability to be an effective mother in the other areas of my baby’s life.

When I became pregnant with my second baby, I thought I had learned enough from my first experience to make the second one better. But instead of being more gentle on myself, I doubled-down my my expectations. As soon as my son was born, I began chugging ‘mother’s milk tea’, a herbal tea touted to help with production. I took every supplement I could and drank enough water to drown a fish. I pushed it so hard. And still, I produced nothing.

I remember taking a shower when my second baby was about two weeks old. I felt like an incredible failure, like all my efforts has ended up with nothing. I sobbed. I looked at my body with resentment.

I was around then I noticed that I was experiencing a strange episode every time I’d get my baby to latch on. Anytime I could get him on my breast, I’d experience a huge drop in my hormones and felt intense anxiety for about three minutes after he latched. I took this problem to my midwife and she diagnosed me with a condition called D-MER, or letdown depression. In a small percentage of breastfeeding moms, dopamine levels plummet at latch and can take up to an hour to reset.

Despite this information, I still pushed through and breastfed my second son for a month. The experience was incredibly challenging for me. I was later diagnosed with post-partum depression and many of my experiences with breastfeeding contributed hugely to the emotional struggles I developed after labor and delivery.

When my third son was born, I took a completely different approach. I was soft and gentle on my body. I set realistic expectations and learned to love and accept my body for what it was able to do, and not focus on what it couldn’t produce. I didn’t produce any more milk than I had with the previous two babies, but I enjoyed the experience and let myself be more ‘in the moment’. I breastfed my third baby for three weeks, but the experience was the best one I had. I learned to relax, accept my body for what it was, and focus on the good.

Breastfeeding is such a vastly different experience for every woman. For some, it’s an effortless and euphoric process. For others, it can be significantly more difficult. As a woman, I consider it my responsibility to support my fellow mothers in whatever breastfeeding looks like for them. I understand and love the bottle-feeding mama and I respect and support the mother who breastfeeds openly in public. We’re all in this together. Let’s lift each other up.