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A (New?) Place to Call Home

A (New?) Place to Call Home


Which is better for raising my family—New York City, or suburbs?

A designer I used to work with here in NYC, who hailed from Paris originally, travelled the world years ago with her new husband—partially as a honeymoon (so extravagant!) and partially to find a place they could settle down, create a family, and call home. Their minds were wide open to the possibilities, and their year-long trek took them across the globe. Each of them had lived in a variety of world cities over the years. I followed the blog they kept at the time, full of experiences and new people conveyed through her artwork and his writing. And I was surprised and somehow touched when they ultimately decided to put down roots in France, not someplace new or exotic. I was amazed at their seeming openness to possibilities. I, for one, am overwhelmed just by the notion of deciding between city or suburbs.

 

Is the grass always greener?

I was raised about an hour outside of the city in Putnam County. We had a large yard in front and back, and for most of our childhood lived on a cul-de-sac street with just four houses, with woods and winding rivers out back. We drove places, and took a yellow bus to school. We played kickball in the front yard, rode Big Wheels up and down our streets. It is what I knew. My husband grew up in Staten Island—a borough of NYC, but to my mind, more suburban in many ways: trees, a reliance on cars, and a long commute for anyone who worked in “the city.”

Each of us has lived in Brooklyn for many years, and it suited our single lives to perfection. Now, I am not so sure. There are days I would never want to leave. And there are days I hate having a child in the city. I love it when I can walk to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a picnic, or stroll a few blocks to the library. I hate it when I arrive back from what should be a quick errand only to waste gas and time driving up and down the streets of my crowded neighborhhood trying to win the parking lottery, to then park 10 blocks away and be laden down with bags and a toddler who suddenly wants to be carried. I love it when we can see Dan Zanes perform live right near our home. I hate it when the elevator in our building breaks and I have a stroller and child to cart up six flights.

 

Going with the Flow

I change my mind daily about where I prefer to raise a family. I decide with conviction that we must move out of the city, then do nothing about it and find myself in a love affair with its culture and diversity all over again. I am laidback and like to go with the flow as a general rule. But in this case I think I’m just being lazy—not making a decision and sticking with the city by default is the easiest thing to do. If I stay here, I want it to be by design. And if I leave, same deal. Is anyone else out there stuck in the same roundabout conversation with yourself, city vs. suburbs?

I decided to make a list of pros and cons to see where that gets me.  

Top 10 Reasons to Stay in the City

1. Access to culture. The American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway, the NY Historical Society’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum—all these things are just a subway ride away. When my child is older, I want him to have the world at his fingertips, as it is here more than anywhere.

2. The commute. Both my husband and I very often get to kiss our son goodnight and even spend a little time with him before bed on weeknights.

3. The schools. World-class schools such as Regis High School and Twin Parks Montessori are hard to walk away from.

4. Diversity. I want my son to be openminded and tolerant, and to be exposed to people from all over the world.

5. No shoveling snow. Well, for the most part. Our building’s super shovels the sidewalks, and we rely primarily on public transportation to get to work. When officials fail to realize that alternate-side-of-the-street rules should still be suspended due to 4-foot high snow drifts and our car is plowed in, well, we borrow a shovel from a neighbor who only wears two pairs of jeans and hence has the closet space to store a shovel.

6. Pride of place. I must admit to feeling a swelling sensation in my chest when folks in Hawaii or Alaska or Italy have realized I’m from NY, the city not the state. Seinfeld, Sex & The City, Law & Order, Saturday Night Live. Robert DeNiro, Edward Burns, Woody Allen. Mary Tyler Moore, Liz Lemon. Jay-Z, Billy Joel. Edith Wharton, J.D. Salinger, Margaret Wise Brown, Neil Simon.

7. Convenience. There isn’t much you can’t get within walking distance at midnight. There isn’t much you can’t get, period.

8. Real bagels.

9. The pizza.

10. The energy. 

 

Top 10 Reasons to Move to the Suburbs

1. Access to culture. The American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Opera, the NY Historical Society’s Dimenna Children’s History Museum are all just a drive away. And it’s not like we generally go on the spur of the moment. We should, perhaps, but we don’t.

2. The parking in the city sucks.

3. The schools. World-class schools such as Regis High School and Twin Parks Montessori are hard to get into to, and a 2-inch thick guide to applying to middle schools does not appeal AT ALL.

4. There are plenty of other city transplants out there. Many NYC suburbs are as liberal and worldly as the city, with residents who’ve moved for quality of life but still desire diversity and culture…so it can be found beyond city limits, despite what our New York City pride bellows.

5. Space. Closets, plural. I’m sold.

6. Malls. Okay, I admit I prefer mom-and-pop shops and many independent stores that are hard to come by outside the city. But the fact remains, those small proprietorships are closing at an alarming rate, and I often can’t afford designer labels in smaller boutiques. And carrying shopping bags home in a car trunk is way preferable to carting them home on a crowded subway.

7. Easier getaways. Going to the beach on summer weekends from Brooklyn isn’t the end of the world, but the trip home in traffic is a drag. The prospect of getting home without going through a tunnel or over a bridge is appealing.

8. The Internet. Suburban residents might not be able to walk to the corner bodega for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at midnight, but it’s probably safer to hop in a car to Seven Eleven. Anything else that we used to think could only be gotten in a city, with forethought, can be gotten on the web, no?

9. Tranquility. The only time I really get quiet in the city is if my headphones are on.

10. Did I mention space? Like closets. And a backyard. Maybe even a guestroom?!

My nephew Matteo loves playing in his backyard—and when we visit, I find myself imagining my own son playing in a yard, too.


Help me out, please! What other reasons can you think of that family life is better in the city? Suburbs?

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Dawn M. Roode

Author:

Dawn M. Roode was formerly editorial director of NYMetroParents, where she launched the award-winning semi-annual magazine Special Parent. She was managing editor at Parenting, BabyTalk, Child, Harper's Bazaar, and Latina magazines. She is a strategic content specialist and currently writes and edits parenting, health, travel, and special needs features for various media outlets. Roode is mom to one son and recently relocated from Brooklyn to the suburbs of New York City. Follow her on Twitter @DawnRoode.

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