Faces of AWNY: Clare Clifford-Turner

How long have you been in New York?
My husband Alex and I have two kids – Cleo is 3 years and Rafi is 10 months. We were living in London (where Alex is from) when we got the news about his job transfer to NYC the same day as my positive pregnancy test for Cleo! She was born here in NYC in 2011, and then Raphael in 2013.

Where do you live in NY? 
We are on the border of the Upper East Side and East Harlem, right by Mt Sinai Hospital, where I volunteer as a SAVI advocate. Walk left out our building doors and it’s the lively, noisy, chaotic “El Barrio”, walk right and it’s townhouses, Park Ave, Museum Mile and Central Park. It’s lively but nowhere near as crowded as downtown. Loads of families live in this area.

What do you like/dislike about your neighbourhood (in general and for kids)? 
I like the proximity to a quieter corner of Central Park, the diversity of the people, and the donut shop around the corner, Dough Loco, is pretty amazing. I dislike the transient nature of people coming and going – our building is rental only and has a lot of visiting medical fellows and Manhattan can be quite transient by default. It makes for very interesting neighbors from all around the world but we’ve said goodbye to far too many good people.

What’s a typical weekend for your family in NY? 
Make friends with someone who has a house in the countryside! haha. Really, right now two kids under three means we are slaves to nap times. We’ll make breakfast at home then each parent swaps out doing childcare with the other so we can get in some exercise (he likes HIIT, I swim and do yoga). After that we’ll head out as a family to the playground, food markets, or to a museum. The kids will (usually) take a nice long nap during the early afternoon, and then when they wake up we’ll walk in the park or we’ll get busy in the kitchen cooking up a storm until bedtime. We do most of our socializing during the week so our weekends are very low-key and family-oriented!

What do you like most/least about having kids in NY? 
Little kids attract a lot of attention from strangers in Manhattan (both admirers and critics), so people are always keen to chat with us in the street. And there are so many great events for small children – Family Saturdays at the NYC Ballet, Garden Story Time at Wave Hill, and endless classes and workshops. Our gripes are the same as most other parents – our living space is small, childcare is expensive, navigating public transport with little ones and strollers is a nightmare, and since coming to the U.S. we find ourselves having to read the nutrition label on our food – every. single. time. Why does there have to be sugar in bread?!

Funniest NY moment? 
I’ve had more than my share of Marilyn moments from the sudden gust of a subway or air conditioning vent… beware! And I must say that every show my husband has done with Upright Citizen’s Brigade has been hilarious!

If any of your children were born in NY do you have any advice for going through pregnancy/birth over here? 
I became a doula because I found maternal health care here a bit backwards – far too medical for what birth actually is, so I want to help other women have a better experience than me. Learning to navigate the consumer-driven health system of the U.S. is daunting… so hire a doula!

Having a doula to help frees you up to focus on enjoying your pregnancy, birth and new baby – not worrying about insurance coverage for procedures, or your OB’s stats for c-sections and episiotomies. Your doula can customize support, resources and evidence-based information especially for your situation – no two births are the same.

If you want a mother-friendly birth experience more similar to what you would have in Australia, choose a midwife as your primary care provider. Be prepared to ask questions and stand up for what you want, otherwise you may be subjected to the birth process as defined by the hospital you birth at, not by you and your needs.

If you also have a job, how do you and your partner juggle work and kids? 
I have two jobs; a small brand management business Tiny Identity, where most of my clients are in maternal wellness services. I have also just founded a doula group, Kin Doulas. I work from home, I work for myself, I set my own hours, and generally choose to work with people who respect that I have a life outside of work and that family comes first. My partner works 7-7 most days, so with daycare and a regular babysitter, we make it work!

Any words of wisdom for people moving to NY with kids?
The pace of life here can be really energising and motivating, but it can also feel a little overwhelming. There are a million things to do in NYC but you’ll burn out quickly if you overdo it. Take breaks every now and then, make sure you don’t forget about time for the simple things. Get Amazon Prime and FreshDirect for all your basic goods to be delivered, but buy your produce at markets. Buy/sell gently used strollers, furniture and baby clothing on Craigslist. And AWNY and Australian Mums & Bubs on Facebook has been really great for me – so nice to connect with other Aussies from time-to-time.