5 Mothers On City Versus Suburb

Dan and I tacked on a little visit with friends I grew up with before I joined my parents on our holiday at the Cape.  Many of my Boston friends have settled in cute cul de sacs outside of the city and we loved waking up and opening the door to fresh air or walking to the neighborhood farm or putting Bodie in the jogging stroller and going for a run around (that was Dan, not me). 

I don't think we are ready to part with the city for our own set of reasons but it's always a hot topic for friends transitioning into parenthood or growing their families from one child to two.  It's certainly pertinent to the conversation about "creating space" for motherhood, so we asked a handful of women we love to talk about their experience and thought process.  

Lisa, Mother of 3 Kids (and Founder of Smitten Films), NYC

We talk about leaving the city all the time and have checked out every suburb of NYC possible.  We moved from London to NYC 5 years ago and have literally been talking about how to balance this crazy life ever since.  We also consider the city apt/country house option all the time too but haven’t pulled the trigger on that because it will be pointless to commit to if we decide to move to the suburbs.  

We’ve decided to stay for now almost exclusively because both my husband and I can walk 10 minutes to work.  This means he gets to see the kids every day (if we lived in the suburbs, he would mostly be a weekend dad) and for me, a short commute just cuts down on hassle.  The secondary reasons are: we love the energy of the city, the diversity of the cultures represented here, and the constant inspiration.  

We think/talk about this ALL THE TIME.  Our considerations are: a) relationship to nature b) access to really great sports and the camaraderie/confidence that comes with being part of a serious sports team c) how to keep them grounded in a city where so many people have so much d) how to ensure that they don’t grow up too quickly (I firmly believe that although life is short, happiness is a long-term game and if you live in NYC and get the ‘best of everything’ when you’re a kid, what will you have to look forward to when you’re older?).

 When our oldest started going to the local public school, I was surprised by how insanely close the community is.  We thought we had a lot of friends in the neighborhood before, but now we can’t walk down the street without running into another family we know every few steps.  It’s such a huge confidence builder for our kids to be surrounded by such a tight-knit community.  

I wouldn’t say it truly does work for us as a family.  I often think we are doing the wrong thing by staying in the city (hence the ongoing debate…) but at the same time, we just haven’t been able to pull the trigger on leaving.  I have no doubt that my oldest would be happier in SO many ways in the suburbs.  But he doesn’t realize how much less he’ll see his dad (and he is obsessed with his dad) and he’s also not the only person in our family we have to think about - we are a family of 5 so there are a lot of different interests to consider!  

Leigh, mother of 1 child, Suburb of MA

First and foremost, and the most obvious answer-- space. And not just actual living space, but a dedicated place for a car, stroller, etc.  More than that, we wanted to raise our son with a childhood reminiscent of our own. For my husband, that meant in a suburban neighborhood with lots of other kids around to play with. For me, that meant land to have a garden, and to be in close proximity to a farm and nature trails for walks. We totally lucked out and landed in a spot that has both. I also hate moving. I wanted a house that could work as both a first home, but also have the option of it being our forever home. I am amazed daily at how much I love our neighborhood community. We share toys, veggies from the garden, and hand me down clothes with our neighbors and often end up having impromptu glasses of wine at each others' houses. I also love the network of mom friends I've made in my surrounding area as well. It all worked out so much better than I could have imagined. We lucked out. 

Kelli, mother of 2 kids, Suburb of MA

Ultimately, we moved from the city to have more space, a better school system and a neighborhood feel.  The conversation went back and forth a lot when we were deciding to move (my pregnancy hormones might have had something to do with that!)  We ended up making a pros and cons list and that helped us organize our thoughts and dive into important long term conversations like public school vs private school and commute limits.  Our move was certainly an adjustment for all of us but our incredibly friendly neighbors made it much easier.  We live in a super family oriented neighborhood with kids all around the same age. Watching our kids become friends with the neighborhood kids has really solidified why we moved.  My husband and I were both raised in suburban family friendly neighborhoods and that is something we want our kids to have as well.  With that said, we really miss this city and are definitely not the type of people that moved and never looked back. We continue to go into the city often for dinners and friends and already talk about moving back when the girls go to college!

Lauren, mother of 2 kids, suburb of NY

We were motivated to move because we really want to be able to give our kids a lot of different experiences (i.e. travel, camps, nice dinners) and send them to the best school we can afford.  Because of that, we decided to make the jump to the 'burbs so that we could do all of the things we want and not stress about private school tuition.  We thought about the types of people we would be surrounded by both in the city and in the suburbs - diversity was major for us (both, in social economic status & culture), and quality of life.  we really want our kids to have everything, but moreover we really want them to be grounded, both, to have a strong sense-of-self, and understand the importance of our family unit as our foundation.  Those are our major goals for them and then everything else is icing on the cake:  good school, access to great classes, easy access to NYC & related culture, and overall less money stress.  We pretty much dissected every aspect of our lives and thought about the big picture down the road 6 years from now, and the kind of parents we want to be...and the suburbs were the best option for us. We also wavered about giving up our spot at the private school our daughter is currently in but after having an honest discussion with both the head of the nursery division and the head of the entire school, we felt like we were making a good decision for our kids.  We don't live in the community yet, but we think it's incredibly family oriented and we will feel like we can still be ourselves and find like-minded people.  It's still close to our family & friends in NYC, close to parents on LI and a lot of friends are moving to the same town which makes the transition a lot easier.  The commute will still be very manageable and ultimately we are hopeful that we will continue to be very happy in this home that we create.  As a couple, we've moved a lot together, so we feel like we can make a new space feel like ours, but this is a different one as we know this is our forever home...so it's exciting, scary, overwhelming, and awesome at the same time.

Me, Mother of 1, NYC

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and my husband grew up in Manhattan so we are definitely in touch with the pros and cons of both. Ironically, my husband is likely more open to making an eventual move outside of the city for more space and more "quiet" but I am more resistant to the idea. Recently, this debate (hence the panel topic) has been on our minds a lot.   Bodie has oodles of energy and we see the difference for him when he has endless amounts of space to run.  Watching him bike up and down our small hallway does make me feel incredibly guilty once in a while.  We've been taking a closer look at our finances off late and when we see how much goes into our building common charges and city taxes, we have the bout of doubt about our commitment to New York.  But ultimately, when we do the emotional and lifestyle math for this point in time, specifically when I am in this middle ground between staying at home and staying connected with creative work, the city offers that fluidity that keeps me a happier mother and wife.   Relatedly, Dan's time at home in the mornings is so precious to him, Bodie and I that I worry about the impact on our marriage if we were to lose that.  And finally, for me, diversity is something that I don't take lightly - being Indian and having grown up in a predominantly white population (albeit wonderful).  With Bodie being half Indian and half Jewish, I want him to grow up in a place where he sees differences everywhere and its celebrated.  For us, right now that's most important and very special to our community in Manhattan.   That said, we are constantly exploring other neighborhoods in the city that can offer more green space, larger living square footage and are generally regarded as family friendly.  And while we do that, I always have Zillow alerts in various suburbs just out of curiosity.... so you never know! 

Where do you fall on this decision?  Would love you to add your thoughts in the comments! xo


Featured Image via Of Hearth and Home