no debate here

April 24, 2012 |  Category:   life nyc parenting

I think one of the great pastimes of being a New Yorker is debating on whether or not to stay in the city or move. You can pretty much overhear or give your 2 cents on this conversation anywhere you are – at a dinner party, a playdate, the playground, online. I think the answer is clear cut for people who make the decision early on that they don’t want to raise their kids in this city, but for the rest of us, the debate can be endless. Usually the argument for moving out is more space, better schools, not having to navigate the ridiculous NYC school system, cheaper housing stock, the desire for a backyard, a quieter life, or not putting up with some of the more tiresome crap of city living.

 

The pros are generally what you’d expect, but the cons are little more slippery and subjective: less diversity, less culture, possible feelings of isolation, starting over, a big lifestyle change, no takeout options (we rarely takeout, but seriously, this is a huge loss for some people). Even if you were to make the decision to move, the question of WHERE is a big enough deterrent that might make you stay put for years.

 

But for us? There’s never really been a debate. We’re staying (unless we win the lottery. Then we’d be bi-coastal in Seattle, the only other US city that truly has my heart, with a vacation house in Hawaii). I’ve never been lured by the suburbs and while I sometimes fantasize about small town living (something like what you’d see on the Gilmore Girls), I’m not confident that I’d be very happy living somewhere so quiet. I’m also one of the few people I know who doesn’t pine for a house and yard (is that weird?). It’s not because I grew up in this city. I did, in fact, grow up in the latter part of my childhood in a house with a yard in a relatively suburban-like setting in Queens (you will see later this week!) and I’ve lived in plenty of houses during my time in the Northwest. It’s just that I think I prefer the lower maintenance and “security”, false or not, of living in a higher floor apartment. Aside from wanting maybe another room or a bigger closet, I don’t crave more space. I’d like to think that we have all the space that we need, and the coziness of a one floor layout, apartment living is just fine for us. Besides, the thought of having that much more house to clean makes my head spin.
 
Just out of curiosity, however, I did punch in some numbers one day to see how a life in the NYC suburbs would stack up against our life in the city, and surprisingly it didn’t come out cheaper because of property taxes. We’d get more room for sure, and a driveway to park our car (if you’re not familiar with the rather ridiculous urban ritual of alternate side of the street parking for street cleaning, then you might not understand how huge a perk a driveway is), but that’s about it. For whatever reason, we lucked out with the universe and made some right decisions in the mid 2000s when we bought our apartment with a long term tax abatement in a good public school district. There is now an awesome park and playground right across the street that has been fully renovated since we first moved in, and we have a network of close-knit neighbors who have each other’s back. I realize that all these things are huge and have made our decision to stay much easier. It may not even sound fair to those who are still on the fence and struggling with their decisions as sometimes luck and timing is everything in NY, but the reasons for staying is more than all this stuff. It’s recognizing that I need the energy of the city to motivate me. That the diversity here is important to our family. It’s a commitment to raising our kids in the city and making it work, realizing that there will be some sacrifices, but knowing that we are giving them certain experiences that they may not get anywhere else. Plus, I hate to drive.
 
I sometimes bristle at comments from people who say (to my face, even) that they would never raise their kids in the city. As if the rest of us who are, are torturing our kids and neglecting their needs just so that we can indulge in some fantasy idea of city living. But in the end, it’s whatever you’re comfortable with. City, suburb, small town, country…we make the choice to live where we live. I don’t buy into the notion that our kids are missing out on somebody’s picture of an ideal childhood just because they aren’t digging in dirt and making mud pies in the backyard. They’re making their own memories playing in the sidewalk sprinklers with our neighbors, going on field trips to museums and making friends at any of the half dozen playgrounds in the neighborhood. But most of all, they’re just being kids, like any other kids living anywhere else in this country.

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  • Belle April 24, 2012 at 1:26 am

    No debate here either. NYC has my heart and I see raising kids here as an immensely beautiful thing. The culture, the art, the people, the history, the opportunity- it just doesn’t get any better! And a walk through Prospect Park gives us all the nature we need.

  • silke April 24, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I like the view on the first picture. so urban and so new york-like, almost as we germans think how it is.

  • Katie April 24, 2012 at 2:44 am

    i’m definitely in agreement with the staying in the city argument here. I moved to london for university, but i can’t imagine leaving (unless it was for new york or san francisco maybe) – even when i’m an OAP, free bus pass & museum trips & city book groups sound perfect to me!

    katie x

  • bronwyn April 24, 2012 at 2:48 am

    When I first had my daughter, I started to wonder if I was going to want to leave the city. But those thoughts didn’t last long. I’d have to work here to make any kind of money so why leave and spend so much of my already busy days commuting? I actually think cities are great places to grow up. And while they may not seem family friendly on the surface, I think they are. I don’t drive and i’ll never have to here. A friend of mine was visiting a few weekends ago. She lives in the suburbs and has almost 2 year old twins. We were at the academy of sciences which is only a few blocks from my apartment and mentioned that i was so lucky to have all these places to go so close to home. She has to drive to get to any playground and mentioned that her only option to get out of the house most days is popeye’s chicken. I would die. I have a library, several parks, beaches and museums within walking distance or a short bus ride. I live in a lively neighborhood and I have always been able to just step out my front door and go for a walk when i can’t think of anything to do. we may end up at a cafe or book store or toy store. There are only 3 of us, so we don’t need much space. I ABSOLUTELY agree with you – more space = more cleaning. And because of the cozy size of our home, we spend a lot of time together. The suburbs just seem really complicated to me. But I know lots of people who would never dream of raising a family in the city. To each their own. All I know is that my daughter is really proud of living in here and whenever we leave she always says with just a touch of disdain, “Mama, what is this place? It’s not san francisco. It’s different.” I love that you mentioned gilmore girls! I have a fantasy about living in a place like that too! or in the woods somewhere. i call it my country fantasy. but i know i’d be over it in like a week. Wow! longest comment ever. i guess i feel strongly. 🙂

  • janine April 24, 2012 at 4:59 am

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I think you’ve managed to encapsulate the “dilemma” perfectly.

    We’ve struggled with some similar issues. While all our friends moved to big houses with gardens and garages we stayed put in our little house with a tiny grassless back yard because it’s in a great location for schools parks and amenities and it allowed me to stay at home with the kids and not work but still have nice holidays. On the very very (very) few sunny summer days we have in England I envy my friend’s big gardens and struggle with the fact that my children won’t have the memories I have of swimsuits and paddling pools. Generally though, I have been happy with our decision, except now we are moving to a very expensive town where we won’t be able to afford a house even as big as ours!

    I have to say that the vibrancy of city life more than makes up for the lack of a garden and the ‘safety’ of suburban living for children, but I can also see that living in rural area would be special too.

  • Pink Ronnie April 24, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Great post, Jenna. It definitely is every family’s own choice/decision where they live. Funny you should mention the takeout thing – after living for 2 years in the inner city of Sydney, I suffered major Thai takeout withdrawal symptoms when we moved back into suburbia. It’s one of the things I love about Hong Kong, where I’m from. Shops and eateries open 24/7. Hungry? No worries – there’s congee or fried rice just down the road… okay, now I’m just making myself hungry.
    Stunning shots too.
    Ronnie xo

  • tina April 24, 2012 at 7:40 am

    love this post Jenna. I myself have had that debate for years in my mind and with my husband. Actually we talk about that pretty much every day. I am with you 100%, I don’t need backyards, front yards, etc… they’re cool but can be substitute by great parks, the outdoors around the city if you live in very urban places. I wouldn’t go anywhere if I lived in NYC. I have lived in 2 cities in the west coast and now I’m happy in Madison, WI but I would move to NYC in a heart beat if I could do it. I was raised in a huge Latinamerican city and I know by fact that you can raise great, normal, perfect kids in the city. I consider myself an urban creature and probably that’s why I totally understand what you are talking about, urban creatures need the energy of the city. Good decision, there’s not city like NYC. Happy belated birthday!!!

  • Jennelle April 24, 2012 at 7:54 am

    This post definitely resonates with me. Before kids, my Husband and I would always say that we didn’t want to raise kids in the city (we’re New Yorkers too), but had no clue where the ‘best’ place for us would be. It took us uprooting our little family and moving to Holland to realize that we were much happier in NY and had everything we needed there (though we didn’t realize it at the time.)

    I remember reading an article a year ago about types of New Yorkers: The one’s who will never leave, and the one’s who want to move as far away from it as possible. Once we return, I cannot see myself leaving again…even with the prospects of the schooling system! As you said, it totally boils down to where we’re the most comfortable.

  • Katie April 24, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I love this! So many good reasons to raise a family here in New York. My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but I always get slightly depressed when people my age leave the city to start a family. The only thing at this point that makes it hard to imagine staying is that we are quite far from our families. But I love the idea or raising children here and experiencing all that NY has to offer together.

  • Annie From Seattle April 24, 2012 at 9:27 am

    On a mostly unrelated note, Seattle will be happy to have you when you win the lottery 🙂 Bring cookies!

  • Mary April 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

    It’s not a question everyone faces, and for those who do, it’s a no-brainer for some, especially those who know they want the house and the yard, but I do understand it very well. My sister recently had to make the choice to stay or leave (different city same debate…she’s in Barcelona). She will soon have 3 kids, and she ultimately decided to stay in the city. The answer is different for everyone.

  • Cecilia Madden April 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

    It’s what you make of it too, don’t you think? Wanting what you don’t have can be a drain. You guys seem so comfortable in and well-suited for the city, but also you seem to truly make the most of it and not dwell on wanderlust-y thoughts of backyards and parking spaces. I love that.

  • Jessica April 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I have two daughters–ages 9 and 11–and we’ve always lived in Brooklyn. When people say to me that they would never raise their kids in the city, I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t raise them anywhere else. My 11-yo is able to go out on her own with friends now–they get pizza, go to the coffee shop, shop a little, etc. They do this in neighborhoods that feel like small villages and wouldn’t have this amount of freedom if we lived someplace where they couldn’t get anywhere without a car. I love that.

    I also think kids who live in the city are exposed to so many different types of people–not just racially and economically, but also interests, hobbies and careers. I love that “what’s possible” to them can hardly be defined–as they see so much and there’s almost no limit to the variety. We spend a fair amount of time on Long Island and the kids from the suburbs there listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, do the same things. Any kid who’s not into those same “approved” things is an outsider. That does not happen in NYC anywhere close to the same degree–as there’s a community here for just about everybody.

    I want my kids to grow into adults who aren’t weirded out by people who dress a little differently than they do or have a job that’s not “normal”. I was in the airport in Minneapolis a little while ago and was walking near a man wearing an orange Buddhist robe. Two very average-looking middle-aged, white women–who I’m guessing pride themselves on being “Minnesota nice”–walked by and made some very stupid, ignorant jokes about the “Dalai Lama”. My young children wouldn’t have even noticed the man. And I think that’s good.

  • Theresa April 24, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Great post. I still struggle with the decision we made to move out of the NYC. We are still in a big city, Stockholm, but it’s not the same! Ultimately, I think it was right for us as a family for many reasons but sometimes I feel like my soul is lacking as corny as that sounds. Luckily I never gave up my apartment so NYC is pretty much always our vacation destination. When we arrive I feel like I am home! We’re already talking about retiring there (at least 50%). A house is still a dream for us but I would trade my Swedish house dream for a 4 bedroom Brooklyn brownstone in a second if I won the lottery!  Anyway, i agree… I don’t think it’s the big backyard or such makes the greater memories…  I think wherever mom and dad are happy the kids will be happy. It’s the happy childhood wherever that may be that creates great memories!

  • diamondkelt April 24, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I see alot of City opinions so I must be one of the few country/suburban/rural opinion to post up on this. The perks of city living are great depending on the city.
    For city peeps it seems like it’s a house and yard decision, but suburban/rural life is more than that. Sure it could be considered “boring” if you’re used to the constant go-go-go of any large city, but we have block parties and cookouts like city folk. We have parks nearby as well as HUGE woodland and lake parks well suited for camping, hiking, mt. biking and other outdoor rec stuff.

    It’s nice to have your own private space and not have to worry about offending neighbors if you live in an apartment/condo or in really close proximity to people. I like having pets and being able to raise my own food because I have the space to do it in (though I love alot of the apt. gardens I’ve seen lately).
    Then there’s the cost of living. Sure we gripe about property taxes even here but I know they are nowhere NEAR the crazy prices that some NJ cities place on their residents for example.
    We still have neighbors who have our backs and watch out for each other. We still can go out to dinner and sporting events and visit tons of museums. We can have swing sets, gardens, garages, awesome outdoor kitchens, and we get to see the changes of the seasons from a different perspective.

    Suburban living is just a scaled down version of city living.

    I believe we care about more passionately about different things here. In my area there’s been several state parks and cities that have had to hold big meetings on hydraulic fracturing. You guys in the city don’t have to worry about big companies invading your space or trying to buy out your property. I’m sure you hear about it on the news but for the people living it, it’s so different. We can see first hand how food goes from seed to table. How bad/poor farming and animal husbandry practices impact everyone from our area to the big cities and know when you’ll be paying more for that gallon of milk before it even gets to your shelf. We see the impact of urban sprawl eating up farmland and rally behind the organic farms and co-ops springing up all around us.

    To me the only difference between the city and the ‘burbs or rural living depends on what you want to enjoy and care about the most. Each setting will offer inspiration of many, many kinds and no one place is better than the other.

  • Atsuko April 24, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I agree. Each family has different reasons when it comes down to where to live. I would like to raise my child in a city where he or she can be exposed to cultural diversity and museums. My mother-in-law does not think an apartment living is good for child because of space, but it is not a problem. There are nice parks! I am just a person who does not think living a big house with yard equals to happiness. Of all, each has his or her opinion, so one should not push his or her opinion to others. I love this post so much. I enjoyed it. I cannot wait to see pictures of Queens.

  • Kiana April 24, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’m from Miami but I currently live in Barcelona and am expecting my first child in July. My husband and I live in a two bedroom apartment on the third floor with no elevator. A lot of American couples we know think it’s weird that we chose to live in the city as opposed to a suburb of Barcelona but honestly it never occurred to us to even look for an apartment not centrally located. We love being able to walk to most major plazas, parks, cultural districts, museums etc. And maybe it’s because I’m from a big city, but I never pined for a house with white shutters and a huge tree in the yard either.

  • Liz April 24, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I can relate to so much of this, although most of it doesn’t directly relate to me. I live in London (not the same as NYC but not without its own challenges) and don’t have kids. But still I encounter so many people who think I’ve settled for something undesirable and that, as soon as I can, I’ll up sticks to live in some suburban or rural idyll. But it is their idyll not mine. My idyll is a life right here in the heart of a noisy city. It’s expensive and frustrating but also thrilling, stimulating and rich with culture and cultures.

    I get that others don’t get my preference for urban life. I guess I don’t really get their preferences. I just hope I don’t tell them with quite so much gusto why their decisions are wrong. (The last bit is quite easy as I don’t think they are; they’d just be wrong for me.)

    It is lovely to read little bits of your family’s life in New York. Thank you so much for sharing. (And very belated happy birthday. The cake did indeed look amazing but it was sight of the sushi that made me change my plans for dinner.)

  • Nancy April 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Ha. Yes. I just had this discussion yesterday… at a playdate. 🙂 My friend was weighing the pros and cons of buying an apartment next door to hers and combining the two units, versus a fixer-upper in Westchester. Combining two units sounds infinitely more convenient and practical. Me, on the other hand, we are living in a 700 square foot studio with two kids, so we HAVE to sell and move at some point. My husband, having grown up in the South Bronx, would prefer to leave the city but I don’t want the hassle of maintaining a whole house, however big or little. I grew up in the suburbs, so I’ve experience first-hand the amount of work and expense that goes into home ownership. No thanks!

  • Christina April 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I loved this. I think NY is awesome. We live in the suburbs of San Jose, CA and I love it here too. I grew up in a small town so in a weird way my new area feels like “city” living. SF, which is about a half hour north of here feels crazy to me, but I grew up around garlic and tomato fields in a town of less than 30,000 (back then, it’s much more now). Your post brings up something else for me, it’s the idea of why when we become parents do we become so judgemental. I’m in my early 30s and have 2 boys, 3yo and 1yo. It seems to me at every turn from how you decide to birth to where you raise your kids or send them to school there is judgement from other parents as to how you “should” do things or why you “should not” do them. It’s pretty exhausting and infuriating at times. I think that your family’s decision to stay in the city is amazing, and should be done with no one else in mind but what what works for your family.

  • bari April 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    This is a great post. I grew up here in Brooklyn and can’t imagine raising my 3yo anywhere else. Now that he’s getting older so many friends are moving to the suburbs and actually saying things like “I would never raise my kid here” which is insulting on so many levels. Nevermind that its my choice, I really take it personally because I WAS RAISED HERE and I turned out ok. Its so ridiculous because as much as some people can’t imagine having their kids share a room, I can’t imagine getting into my car to buy milk. Now I just need to find some friends that plan on staying, anyone interested in a “bklynforlife” club?

  • Sandra April 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Last summer we moved west to Vancouver from Toronto and have our version of this debate constantly! We moved back to care for his again mother. Our longterm friends are here but we miss the big city sooo much. So much in fact that I go to NYC twice a year and Toronto once a year to get my big city fix of theatre and museums and galleries and live music.

    Through my husband’s work we could make a move to NYC happen. We only have one child so it would be less complicated that way as well. Tempted!

    Gah….back and forth, back and forth…

  • mays k. April 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    i love this post!! so many people in my life are questioning me on what I will do when i have kids one day… and they laugh or roll their eyes when i tell them that “my husband and i are staying put, and raising our future kids in the city!!!” i love all the opportunities a city has for kids, and grown ups 🙂 well written post, definitely no debate here!

    cheers.
    mays.

  • Lisa April 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I contacted you about a year ago to tell you that your posts about raising your girls in the city played a part in showing me that upping and settling in the city can actually be a GOOD thing for kids. Last summer we sold our 3000 sq ft. post-modern home situated on a huge lake (yes, we had a dock out our back yard), quiet environs for a house about half the size, with a small yard, in the (still removed) Beaches area of Toronto. There’s still a lake, now a 5 minute walk), but it looks more like an ocean. And we have a bustling main street right down the block. And museums. And excellent childhood/preschool city programming. And alternative schools. And diversity, culture, farms, zoos, boating, shopping. Kids are everywhere, parks are packed, unlike the often isolated playgrounds in smaller towns. It was hands-down the best decision we made for us, for our family, for our little guy.

  • gia April 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Love it. I think your kids could potentially be so dynamic with that upbringing. All the culture, arts, sights, people… I grew up in Anchorage AK and I’m still a little sheltered.. a little scared (or a lot) of moving and all that. It’s a big deal, it’s a real struggle for me. I bet your kids are learning a lot, and I would never put that down.

  • Jenna April 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    @Annie, you have no idea how much I miss Seattle! Will you adopt us?

  • Jenna April 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    @Christina – you are right about the judgmental thing. Parents can be the most judgmental group! WHY IS THAT? Everybody seems to have an opinion about everything

  • Jenna April 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    @diamondkelt Thanks for your perspective on suburban/rural living. This was definitely not a post to bash that lifestyle, just commentary on how this is an ongoing debate for so many people and so many of our friends and neighbors. It really is what you’re comfortable with, and YOU make your home – it’s not all location and environment. I think I would disagree with your comment that suburban life is like city life scaled down. And we absolutely do have to worry about things like big corporations buying out property. It happens all the time here and in fact, very close to us. A big sports arena is being built and it was very controversial and it forced many residents out. It even took 8 years for Whole Foods to FINALLY get approved to build a store right down our block. People absolutely care about issues here and community gets involved. As far as farm to table – you’d be amazed at how many programs and initiatives there are in educating people in locally sourced foods. A new urban rooftop garden will open up in Brooklyn – the largest of its kind in the country, and one of the stipulations in getting Whole Foods passed is that the community requested that the roof of the store be used as a garden to grow produce.

  • chloe April 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Ahh Jenna how I relate! I grew up in queens too and that is where my family is now…but I relocated to the suburbs of Maryland because my then-fiance and now husband has a job here. How I miss the city so much! I’ve been here for almost 2 years now and still have not gotten used to it…we are about 1/2 an hr from baltimore and 50 minutes from D.C….I am thankful to be close to two other cities…but it is not the same… Like you, I don’t pine for a backyard or more space and think an apartment-sized house is just right for me…I was also very content taking the metro…everything you said about the city rings so true for me..My husband knows I gave up a LOT to come live in the suburbs. He grew up in this area and doesn’t like cities but because he knows I am feeling home-sick for the city, we are thinking of moving soon to Northern Bethesda, next to the metro line! yay! At least I will be close to D.C. now 🙂

  • sarah April 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Hi, I think raising kids in the city is the way to go for sure. I grew up in Park Slope (a 321 alumn’!). An example of one of the sacrifices you mentioned, I shared a closet sized bedroom with my little sister for years and since then, have always been satisfied with living in small spaces. Although at 33 I still don’t know how to drive (since I rode the subways most of my life), I wouldn’t trade my upbringing in NYC for the world. It was a little different in Park Slope during the late ’80s (even a little more diverse than it is now) and it was great. Coincidentally, I live in Seattle now, and wish we could afford to move back to NYC to raise our kids too. If only they could experience the diversity, energy and fun of living in my hometown.

  • Sara April 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Totally with you, Jenna. Thanks for this—been having this conversation a lot lately, and the consensus is for people to want to move outside the city. Reading this made me feel less strange for loving our dense neighborhood and all it offers.

  • carrie April 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Jenna, you have an ideal Brooklyn situation….we were not so fortunate. Sketchy neighborhood with crazy cat lady neighbors and subway commutes to school made us consider a move out of the city.
    We are happy here in Maplewood, NJ – fairly diverse and walkable (don’t have to drive much at all). There is a lot of home maintenance, you are right about that!
    I did think of you guys once during the holiday season when you mentioned the long lines at the post office….and there was no line here….might be worth a move just for that, right?

  • chai ling April 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    no debate here, indeed. i like this post and could relate it so so much. thank you, Jenna for sharing it.

  • Jen April 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Jenna, even though I don’t have kids yet, this post could have been written by me in so many ways. I grew up in a small town, so for me I’ve always craved large cities and I’ve always had an aversion to the suburbs, which works for some people (I have good friends who love their beautiful large homes and it’s their idea of happiness and success) but I’ve always preferred lower maintenance apartments in good locations (I hate yard work, I’m not fond of driving, and I too feel safer in an apartment setting). It’s funny you mentioned the Seattle, Hawaii thing because I live in Seattle now but want to live in New York bi-coastly as well since I fell in love with the city when we lived there years ago (and I too would like some time in Hawaii because that’s where my family is). So that geographic triangle which I thought was strangely me is shared by you. The energy of New York is incomparable and I’d love to raise kids there one day if finances weren’t such a problem. Thanks for this post!

  • Jenna April 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    @Jen Yeah, Mark’s mom and her family grew up in Hawaii so we have a family connection there. WHY are all these places so far apart? Frustrating!

  • gracie April 25, 2012 at 4:19 am

    To me you can’t beat the pulse of the city, it makes me feel alive, as corny as that sounds, it puts a spring in my step and if I have children and they’re anything like me they will value the diversity and constant motion the city brings too. (I live in Dublin city, Ireland).

  • Diane April 25, 2012 at 8:53 am

    a beautiful, thoughtful post….thanks for sharing.

  • Sharon @ Currently Coveting April 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for posting this Jenna. I’m getting married in 6 months and my fiance and I have been discussing where we want to be when we start our family. All of our family is in Ohio but I do not want to leave Brooklyn. Our discussions about living here versus in the Midwest include the same pros and cons that you mentioned. Diversity is very, very important to us. Our children would be mixed (half Korean, half Caucasian) and moving back to the Midwest we know it would be less common to meet families that look like ours. Growing up I was often the only minority in the room. I’m thankful that my parents actively participated in the Korean-American community in Cleveland because without that I would have had very little exposure to people of my ethnicity. I never want my children to feel out of place or different. When I moved to New York I felt relieved – relieved that I could actually be anonymous. Relieved that there are so many other faces that look like mine around me.

  • Sandy April 25, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I loved growing up in San Francisco. New York would be such an exciting place to grow up. There are many, many positives to raising kids in the city. I love your strong connection. I would love a vacation home in Hawaii too!

  • susan April 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

    oh my your photos kill me
    (and words too) xos

  • Jen April 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Jenna, I know, it’s pretty hard being dispersed throughout the states with people you love. As our parents (in Hawaii) get older we see this need to be close to them, and I know geography will be an issue if/when we have kids. Hey, if we win the lottery and somehow buy properties in all three places – you’re more than welcome to switch off stays with us.

  • Lauren S April 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Jenna, do you find any underlying, non-spoken issues to the burb/city debate? And, what I mean by that is, in my city (much smaller), when people ask, “How can you live with the crime? And, what about the schools? Surely, you will leave when you have kids?”, they are truly asking, “How do you live around all those black people?”

    So, in NYC, are the quality of life choices simply preferential choices, or are there underlying stereotypes (whether real or imagined) about life in the city v burbs?

  • Jackie April 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Yes, yes. Great post.

    I grew up in the “suburbs”..err…almost a rural area.

    Now I live in an actual subURBAN neighborhood. The taxes here are CRAZY here, good thing I currently rent my space. I LOVE the city, after this chapter of my life, I want to be a city girl…for pretty much EVER 😉

  • Allegra April 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Hi there – delurking to add my 2 cents to this…I’m going through this dilemma myself. I’m a former Brooklynite (Sheepshead Bay and Park Slope) who moved overseas and lived in a wonderful, small, very walkable city, Dusseldorf, for the past 6.5 years. Our 3 yr old was born there, and we’ve now relocated to northwest Philadelphia (where you really do need a car to get anywhere). We are currently debating whether we move to the suburbs or move closer to Center City (I loathe driving as well, and find being here pretty isolating). The major issue is schools – the public school system here leaves a lot to be desired, and I can’t see spending the money on private school. Oh how I wish we were back in Park Slope, though I know it would be difficult to afford it now…sigh.

  • Eva @ Sycamore Street Press April 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I love this post, Jenna! So interesting to me. I wrote a really similar one to it a while back, only on our decision to live out in the country instead of the city. (And like you, it’s always been one or the other for me… no desire to live in the suburbs.) I, too, LOVE the town in Gilmore Girls and their life there, and I think I’m about as close to that as I can get in real life and out west, if that makes sense.

    For a long time, Kirk and I said we would live in the city: either NY or SF. Even after we made the decision to move back here to be near family, we still wondered now and then. But then we spent a month in Brooklyn in May 2010 (after having been there on vacation many times), and decided it wasn’t for us.

    A lot of it probably was the circumstances… I was pregnant and tired. We were staying in a small studio apartment along with all of our merch and working, shipping, eating, sleeping, EVERYTHING in that one room. No car, so we had to schlep everything everywhere — to the post office, to the trade show at the Javits in Manhattan, to Fort Greene for the Flea.

    We were so exhausted after that month… I think I’ve been that person saying “I would never raise my kids here… at least not unless I had a LOT of money.” But it wasn’t because I think it’s wrong or bad for the kids or anything like that. I love the culture and diversity and the food and all the city has to offer. But I just don’t have the energy required.

    Maybe if we’d spent that month under different circumstances, I would have felt completely different. Even so, I’m so happy with our decision and where we are. I love the wide open spaces, the wildlife, the safety, the community, and the fact that so many family members are near.

    I think the important thing is to love where you live, no matter where that is. Which is why I love this post. It makes me even more excited to be back visiting NYC next month. Thanks for sharing.

  • Annie April 25, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Each to their own I say – everyone has different wants, beliefs etc. I do know I would jump at the chance to live in NYC with our kids – life is about experiences and whether you’re downtown Manhattan or rural some-where – it’s all about what you make of it. Mind you I don’t think I (or my husband for that matter) could ever settle in a suburban suburb – too claustrophobic 🙂

  • El April 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

    We live in Brooklyn with our young son and sometimes wonder about moving. Property tax (we’d want to move somewhere nice with good schools if we were going to move to the burbs) plus having to pay for and maintain 2 cars (we are carless now), plus commute time for my husband’s already long workdays… It just doesn’t add up to a better lifestyle for us. Plus we’d have to make new friends since it would be hard to get city friends (esp those without cars) to visit us. There’s also just this feeling of isolation I don’t like in the suburbs (I grew up in practically rural suburbia and the big houses at night in the woods just creep me out!). I can barely maintain a 2-bedroom rental so keeping a house and a yard in nice condition sounds like it would suck up every weekend, which I say no thanks to. If I’m ever craving space anda trip to the mall I can always go visit relatives or friends who live in the suburbs. For now the city is great for us. We will see if that changes when we have school-aged kids.

  • Camels & Chocolate April 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I think NYC would be an excellent place to grow up. Even though I’m from the South, I spent a couple years on the island and always envied my friends who actually got to claim Manhattan as their true “home” (whereas the rest of us just wished that were the case).

  • Kelly C April 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t think it really matters where you live, as long as you and your family are happy. I’m a suburbs kinda gal. I lived in the country as a child, and the city as a young adult. And now I live in the burbs with my kids. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I think it’s a very big misconception that there is no diversity outside of the city. It’s just ridiculous actually. Also, there are playgrounds within walking distance, a few parks, a lake with boating area, the library and several museums..all within about 10 minutes of my house. So to say that we wouldn’t have access to these things are also ridiculous. Not to mention the amount of takeout and delivery we have access too. All common misconceptions of suburban life.

    And if you live in the country….you don’t WANT traffic, smog, tourists, takeout, fast food, etc in your backyard. Simple as that.

    Everyone has their reasons for living where they do. One is not better than the other. It goes both ways. You might feel “looked down upon” because you raise your daughters in the city. But those of us in the country or suburbs are also often made fun of and ridiculed for not raising our children in an area abundant with “diversity and options”. More than likely because those doing the ridiculing are often wrong and misinformed. It’s a two way street, my friend.

  • Jenna April 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    @Lauren interesting question. I’m sure that stereotyping from outside influences may exist for some, however, for us and most people I know..no, I have not personally experienced it.

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