"Move to a ground floor!" is what I said to my pregnant friend who lived in the top floor apartment of a three story non-elevator building with those strange outside stairs we have here in Montreal (um, it gets cold and snowy here, hello!). But she preferred to stay put and appreciate all that great top-floor light. Here's how she dealt with it while going through first kid, pregnancy and second kid:
1. Keep the diaper bag very basic. A couple diapers, a ziplock with a few wipes, snacks or bottle, that's it. Baby doesn't need more, and most of the time, if you go out for longer periods of time, there are most likely other mommies there with supplies.
2. Use the baby carrier. When they are infants, it's what's easiest. But my friend used it for quite a while when she only had one kid, even if it was just to go up the stairs with her 18 month-old on her back (even while pregnant, so clearly, living on the last floor assumes you are in good health without pregnancy complications!) . Then, when she had a two year-old and an infant, she had her two year old walking up in front of her with her infant in the carrier.
3. Make it a game. I think her kids both learned to count while walking up the stairs! They also had time to sing their favorite songs from school since they would take their time. She did, however, really try not to make it competitive so it wouldn't be dangerous with pushing, etc. Being a photographer, she also used that time as inspiration to take typical Montreal photos. Many creative people can surely find inspiration (positive or negative) in this!
4. If you have to have a stroller, either only use the light umbrella kind, or try to negotiate with the first floor neighbor to lock it on their railing or porch. If this isn't an option, I've had friends bring up the kids and come back down for the stroller, the easiest being the kind of stroller that has a separate seat from the frame, since you can take the bassinet or seat with kid in it first. If you're lucky, your building's stairs are indoors and there is a storage space in the foyer. And of course, when there is snow, it's all about sleds, and those are pretty light to carry.
5. Have groceries delivered.
6. Never, EVER, forget to have the kids go to the bathroom before leaving the house!
7. Have landmarks for kids to stop on. When my friend's kids got a little older, they would run down the stairs a little too quickly, and she was scared they would run off in the street. She was able to establish that the round knob at the end of the railing of the stairs had to be touched with one hand until she was there. It got to be so routine that even their friends would do it before going up and when coming down.
(images: Art Prints by Sylviane Robini, available at Society 6)