Taryn Shappell, a San Franciscan mother of three, helps her oldest son, Benton, 3, put on his shirt to get ready for preschool while her 21-month-old twins, Ezra and Eve, play on the iPad. San Francisco has one of the lowest child per capita percentages of any major city in the United States. Less than 14 percent of the city’s population is under the age of 18. The real estate prices continue to rise as new tech businesses move into the area, which puts pressure on families to move away from the city because of the high costs for limited space. The “middle class” San Franciscan family has become a scarcity.
“It feels like there’s a divide of people who come in for the short term to make money, but they never plan to stay,” said Taryn Shappell, a San Francisco resident. “And then there’s folks like us, who hope to be here for the long haul.” Shappell and her husband, Jarrod Shappell, moved to the Bay area in 2009 for their work. Four years ago, the couple settled into their current two bedroom apartment in San Francisco after finding out they were expecting their first child. About two years later, the couple found out they were having twins. “Figuring out how to raise a family, especially with more than one kid, it’s like a secret club,” Shappell said. Shappell said that it’s fairly easy to find a family with one child, two is rare, but having three children is practically unheard of in the city.
Shappell carries her twin 21-month olds, Eve and Ezra, down the stairs of their home in San Francisco to take her oldest son, Benton to preschool. “I love San Francisco,” Shappell said. “I can’t imagine moving.”Shappell said that the only reason she and her husband would consider moving their family were for their children’s education. The public schools work from a lottery system while the private schools are incredibly expensive. “It could cost us nearly $60,000 to send our kids to a private school for kindergarten,” Shappell said. “That’s more than what it cost for me to get my master’s degree.”
“One of the biggest challenges is that there aren’t many families here, [so] there’s not a lot of empathy for what it’s like to go to the grocery story with three kids and there’s not ramp places for strollers, there’s not doorways that are wide enough for strollers, there’s not grocery carts with more than one seat in it for a kid…and there’s rude looks from strangers like if my kids get to close to them on a bike or something,” Shappell said. “People don’t get it.”
Taryn encourages Ezra to grab a bell during music class with the other children while Eve lies on her lap. “For my kids…they are going to lean more about conflict resolution, and setting boundaries, and privacy, and living in a community, and what they do is important and matters, and they have a contribution to make,” Shappell said. “They’re going to learn that way more in our house and this town than they would living in a giant room with a walk in closet all to themselves. They wouldn’t learn those lessons the same way.”
Every Wednesday, Taryn meets up with other moms in the city for a play date. “It was a little slow going at first,” Shappell said about finding her network of friends. “I didn’t know this at the time, but there are really two San Francisco’s; there’s the tourist San Francisco and there’s the local’s San Francisco. People that live here don’t hangout at the places the tourist’s go…so once I figured that out and realized I was in the wrong places to make friends…that helped.”
Taryn plays with the twins, Eve and Ezra, on a playground in the city. “San Francisco’s is a big city, but…everyday I run into people I know,” Shappell said. “It’s a really fun way to live, and it feels very safe and very small.”
Taryn's husband, Jarrod Shappell, FaceTimes his family while he is working in L.A. for business.
Taryn asks her oldest son, Benton, and daughter, Eve, if they want to come outside to help her water the plants and pick blueberries from their little garden on the back deck.
Eve dumps "mud potion" on her twin brother, Ezra, while playing on the back deck of their home in the city.
Barb Feiereise, Taryn's mother-in-law, plays with Benton while she babysits, so that Taryn could meet up with friends that evening. Feiereise took a job in San Francisco shortly after the couple moved out there. Taryn said she feels incredibly fortunate to have them so close and to help with the kids. "They have been such a blessing to us," Shappell said. "The cost to hire a babysitter is outrageously expensive."
Taryn gives Eve a kiss as she wakes up from her nap. “The high schoolers that I’ve met and have lived here their whole lives, they’re the first ones to say I will never touch a drug because I see what drugs do to people, and I’ve seen that my whole life. Maybe it’s a loss of innocence, but I also think, for me the trade-off is a positive one for a more sophisticated view of the world and how to live in the world,” Shappell said. “It’s different, but I think it’s a good different.”