Kids are big business in America. Marketers often target families with children because they are a large segment of the consumer economy. Raising a child could cost parents nearly a quarter of a million dollars over the life of the child.

It costs about $244,610 to raise a child in America, which breaks down to somewhere between $12,000 and $14,000 per year, according to a report released by the Department of Agriculture this year.

And a lot of children call Bakersfield home. In our city, 46 percent of households have children, which is far higher than the national average of 32 percent, according to the most recent American Community Survey from 2015.

Bombarded by clever marketing tactics, having a child awakens one to an entire new universe of supplies, necessary or not. I remember feeling overwhelmed at times while pregnant, silently strolling through aisles and aisles of baby products.

One Saturday afternoon I sat for hours staring blankly at my computer screen with multiple pages open, all full of the latest gear. I felt confused about which items to add to our baby registry and worried that our home and life would soon be overtaken by it all. So we carefully researched and purchased only those things we thought we’d need.

This was only the beginning of many firsts as new parents and the list soon grew to include the usual hazing rituals, including all-night cry-fests, blowouts, vaccines, and plenty of rocking and soothing. But not all firsts have been hard. There’s also been our son’s first coo, smile and laugh, the first time he reached for our finger and curled his around to grasp.

Even with what we thought was careful planning, our home is now crammed full of so many new things for such a tiny human — from baby clothes and diapers to all manner of soothing devices. We feel sufficiently prepared to manage any baby emergency. But the one thing we may have neglected in all of this is ourselves.

Parents of new babies find that their routines, goals and emotions shift. Life suddenly feels strangely foreign. The gadgets and gear have been helpful, but my husband and I have realized the need less for “stuff” and more for support. As new parents who own our own business, we crave a specific type of social interaction — encouragement and advice from others about how to navigate this new life as parents while caring for a fresh little human.

A list of books that I recently ordered on Amazon might be telling:

• "Operating Instructions, a Journal of my Son’s First Year" by Anne Lamott

• "Mothers Who Think" by Camille Peri

• "A New Mom’s Survival Guide" by Jennifer Wider, M.D.

• "Going Beyond Mom: How to Activate Your Mind, Body & Business After Baby" by Randi Zinn

And we have it good. We feel so lucky to have such a strong community of friends and family that gathered around us as we embark on this new journey. They’ve provide much-needed adult social interaction, meals, helpful words of advice, listening ears, child care, and grocery runs. They have been our emotional buoy when we felt lost or had questions.

In other cities, this need has been identified, and businesses that cater specifically to parents have popped up. These spaces provide a community of support in ways today’s parents crave with gatherings during the day and in the evenings. They offer prenatal and new parent support, mindfulness workshops, breastfeeding tips, parent and baby playgroups, and music and movement classes, to name a few. This type of gathering place would fill a void in our community, especially for parents who work during the day.

Locally, the need for interactive parent-child meetups (beyond the traditional pre-arranged playdate) appears to be catching on. I have been inspired by the children’s yoga classes at Inner Bodyworks and Samsara Wellness Center.

Café Smitten hosted a wildly popular “Smitten Kids” event last Tuesday with Ms. Pyper from Yellow House Music Together that included songs, stories and puppets. The back patio was jam-packed full of chatting parents with coffees in hand and their playful children.

Families here seem to crave authentic connections with other parents. There’s a real need for more businesses that could help provide this. I know the community would rally around spaces dedicated to this idea. It turns out that owning every parenting gadget in the world can’t do much to help ease the emotional roller coaster of parenting like a shared experience with other moms and dads going through the same thing.

Autumn hits downtown

Looking for a delicious taste of fall? Try these seasonal specials at area restaurants:

Tiki-Ko is serving up three Halloween specials. They’re digging through the graveyard of long departed tiki bars and serving up some of their signature cocktails to thrill and chill.

Aku Gold Cup, $9: This one is haunting us all the way from 1960s Las Vegas. Once served at the legendary Aku Aku restaurant at the Stardust Hotel, dark Jamaican rum, silver Puerto Rican rum, falernum, fresh lemon juice and house made simple syrup are shaken up for an eerily refreshing cocktail.

Don’s Beach Planter, $10: Brought to you by the ghosts of 1937 Hollywood, this tiki classic (Martinique Agricole Rhum, dark Jamaican rum, cognac, Pernod, passion fruit syrup, fresh lime juice and pineapple juice) was served at Don the Beachcomber’s original outpost.

Lady of Singapore, $10: Clawing its way from the grave of Stephen Crane’s sadly departed Kon Tiki chain of restaurants, this mix of gold Puerto Rican rum, coconut cream, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice and house made grenadine is blended up for a spookily delicious treat.

Café Smitten is offering two delicious fall lattes — ginger turmeric and maple spice. Both are perfect seasonal drinks. They also always offer a chai latte, which feels so fall to me as well. If it’s soup you crave, try the tasty butternut squash!

Día De Las Muertos

Stop by Mama Roomba, 1814 Eye St., and say hi to La Calavera Catrina (look for the spooky skeleton with a cape)! She's got your invitation to Día De Los Muertos happening from 2 to 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Kern County Museum, presented by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Bakersfield Marathon

Start making your plans to watch the Bakersfield Marathon on Nov. 12. Some of the best spots to watch include throughout the leafy streets of Westchester. But it’s also fun to see runners cross the finish line. This year, half and full marathoners will complete the course on the campus of Cal State Bakersfield.

Readers respond

Readers have responded about my previous column on the “Amazon Criteria."

Downtown Councilman Andrae Gonzales praised the tone in this piece, saying it was “right on the money!” A few weeks ago, Gonzales mentioned that he talked to the city manager about using the criteria from Amazon as a framework for next year's City Council goal-setting workshop.

Others in the community took note as well. Jimmy Phillips, executive director of marketing and communications at Adventist Health Bakersfield, and Amanda Klawitter, owner of House of Flowers, also mentioned that it was a great read. 

Klawitter commented that Bakersfield, being one of the last affordable places in California, has a lot going for us, but we have much more work to do to compete for thriving industries like tech. She said she appreciates when residents shy away from that age old "Bakersfield sucks" narrative and applauds the forward-thinking narrative, mapping out a way to diversfy our economy into the future.

Anna Smith writes a weekly column about downtown Bakersfield. She can be reached at