We live happily in the city – Brooklyn, to be exact – but whenever we head out of town into the great expanse of lawns, big-ass grills, backyards and double garages connected to the house (!), my husband and I get disoriented by our attraction to suburban life.
We start doing calculations to justify our existence in the crowded and expensive place where we reside:
Urban lifestyle = ten options of capoeira lessons for kids + late night delivery of Vietnamese food +/- the possibility of witnessing crazy and beautiful moments constantly = having your own damn swing set and not having to negotiate the politics of one tire swing in the park with John and Jane Public and their kids Jade and Jude + good public school options for all – a certain soul = Suburbs.
It’s a special form of calculus we do.
We’ve tossed the city vs. suburbs debate around at home and on road trips to visit family and friends in their houses with more than four rooms. It’s not as bad a dilemma for us as its torturous sister discussion: private vs. public school, but you can definitely drive yourself mad trying to figure out if you’re doing the best by your kids rather than holding on to something because you’re selfish.
So why do we like it here in the city? The convenience of having small kids in a densely populated place keeps us sane, for one. We’re talking play dates with other kids in our building in the dead of winter, a 24-hour deli on the corner and a superintendant that saves us the convenience of calling for a repairperson every time something goes haywire. We have neighbors and friends just outside the door to watch the kids if we need them. There is always something cool to check out with the kids – a concert, a museum, even just a walk down the street can be entertaining.
However, as our kids get older, and certainly when summer arrives and the playgrounds are roasting and our city pools have intimidating rules, I see obvious benefits of living in the ’burbs – camping in the backyard, grilling on the patio and of being that much closer to hiking, biking and beaching. I get lifestyle envy for sure.
We often meet people who are happy they made the leap an hour or two out of town, but are almost uniformly wistful about missing the energy and the randomness of the city. Most seem to have a complex about leaving it behind. I understand how they must feel. Everything about having kids is a trade off and deciding what’s best for each family is absolutely dependent upon each one’s unique priorities.
I understand the convenience of having everything for your own family be your own. I get sparkling supermarkets with wide aisles. And I totally get wanting to be around grumpy and opinionated people breathing all over you on the street. I know you can expose your kids to many wonderful things when you live outside of a city.
But I think I’m kind of screwed because I am addicted to city life. I like feeling hyper-aware and on my toes. I love how the highest achievers co-exist here amongst the regular Joes, and the spirit that courses through the city’s veins. It’s grotesque, hilarious, inspiring and overwhelming all at once, and that vibration or energy, or whatever you want to call it, keeps me from being complacent. Not to mention the constant visual, aural and oral stimulation. (Though some of the smells I could do without.)
And I must be insane, but I want my kids to grow up with all that energy in their lives, and have the understanding that there is always something inspirational to look for every day. But also that there are problems and people who are helpless and lost, and that they exist right next to you on the train or in the next neighborhood over.
I do hope I still feel this energized about my home in five years when my kids are older and new challenges arise. We shall see. But, for now, I will enjoy simply visiting our friends and family in the ’burbs, trying to envision my very urban husband pushing a lawnmower or me driving a minivan to Costco. I’ve accepted that the grass is probably greener in the suburbs, but my heart – and family – belong to the city.
(Photo: Thinkstock Images)