Some roommates leave dishes in the sink. Other roommates crowd the apartment with hideous furniture and bizarre knick-knacks—but your roommate? He’s happy to let you decide the décor. When your first roommate is your baby, you’ll get to decide everything.
Finding Your New Place: Location, Location, Location
Never has this real estate rule been more important. For a new single mom, finding a place in the right location is more important than to almost any other first apartment hunter. You want your apartment to be near your childcare provider, be it a private babysitter or a daycare center. (There is enough stress in your life without having to manage several busses and subways with the baby, just to get to work or class on time.) You also want to be near family or good, supportive friends – emergencies happen and you want to have backup care for your baby nearby. And finally, you don’t want to be stuck out in the boonies when the baby needs more diapers, so you’d like your place to be just a few short minutes away from a grocery or drugstore.
Safety First. The first rule of furnishing when you have a baby is “safety first.” You’ll be likely relying on hand-me-down furniture, so check everything carefully for chipped paint, sharp corners and unsafe materials. Be especially careful with used cribs; the slats should not be wider than about the width of a soda can and a new safety regulation – since 2011 – bans new cribs with drop-sides.
Your baby will learn new tricks every day, so make sure that you are one step ahead. A rickety bookcase with a TV on top and the power cord dangling is an invitation for a toddler to explore. Before your baby starts to crawl, you need to crawl – yes, crawl – around your apartment, and check out and secure all the danger spots, including covering all electrical outlets that tempt little fingers. This is also the time to move all cleaning supplies up out of reach of your little explorer.
Think Multi-Use. As anyone with kids will tell you, babies can come with a lot of stuff. Cribs, pack-and-plays, high chairs, strollers and rocking chairs—all these things can fill up your apartment before you have even moved in the kitchen table! But you don’t need all that many things to have a comfortable place to take the baby home from the hospital. You really only need five pieces of furniture to get started. Everything else can come later.
– Crib or bassinet for the baby. Crib that converts into a child’s bed is a smart choice
– Bed for you, with plenty of storage space underneath or a futon that converts into a couch
– Dresser/changing table to keep baby’s clothing and use the top as a changing table. A shelf above the table is handy for keeping diapers and other changing supplies
– Table and couple of chairs to use as a desk, dining table or a food prep counter. Or a place to sit for a cup of coffee when a friend comes to visit
– And last but not least, a comfy chair for feeding times or when you just want to relax and get to know your little roommate.
All of this furniture can be found at a low, or even no cost, from online (think freecycle.org, Craigslist, EBay) or thrift shops (some of our favorites are here) if you can’t score hand-me-downs from family and friends. Again, do the safety checks discussed above, before you bring anything home. And check everything for signs of bedbugs.
As you get settled and as your budget allows, you can add little things that will make the apartment a cozy home to you and your baby. And you are also likely to get all kinds of baby equipment as gifts, so the space fills in quickly.
Baby’s Sleeping Area. If you are lucky enough to have a 1BR, sometimes people give the bedroom for the baby and use the living room as a studio apartment. If you have only one room to share, you’ll need to plan for some way to separate the baby’s sleeping area, perhaps using a curtain or a tall dresser, otherwise nap times can become stressful.
We know that new single moms have a lot more love than money, so our assumption here was that the apartment where she’ll bring her new baby home, is a studio or a small 1BR. (We thank Ilana Jacqueline for contributing to this post.)