For many city parents, particularly those who hail from a suburb, theres question that hangs over them the moment they find out they're expecting: do you stay in the city, or move to the suburbs? Whether or not the parents themselves have any interest in this question is beside the point, and the answer is, depending on the parent in question, either agonizing or easy. Because there are things suburban parents do that horrify city parents... and that horror cuts both ways. It's a horror that leads some to say, "OMFG, how do you even live like that?" and a horror that makes others think, "WTF am I doing here when I could be in the suburbs?"
The relationship between city parents and suburban parents cannot be summed up in a single dynamic. On the one hand, you have city parents who love city-living but understand the pull of suburban living, so much so that it's a regular source of inner torment. They envy, at least sometimes, the suburbanites. On the other, you have city parents who have never, not once, ever dreamed of moving themselves or their offspring out of the comforting and chaotic borders of their big little town. They pity suburban parents (the snobbier ones look down on them), or at the very least just can't wrap their heads around why they do what they do.
I've had it both ways.
My son was born in New York City, which just so happens to be a fact of which he is inordinately proud and drops into conversation with enthusiastic gracelessness.
"Hey, little boy! What's you're name?"
"I'm William and I was born in New York City right next to Central Park!"
My partner and I loved city living. We loved our neighborhood, easy access to a vast and dynamic number of cultures, public transportation, and all the rest. I loved the idea of raising a city kid, too. I'd spent some time working with New York public high school students and found that they had a certain spark and intelligence to them that suburban kids just... well... didn't have.
But here's the thing with cities: they're expensive. Crazy expensive. And when I looked at what continuing to live in a city looked like for my family, I couldn't see providing my child with so many of the wonderful childhood experiences I'd had as a kid... like eating. (OK, it wasn't that dire, but still.) This, coupled with the undisputed perks of life outside of New York City, ultimately landed my little family in the suburbs and, in time, "the country."
Five years later, I still desperately miss New York in particular and city-living in general. But, five yeas later, I love where I'm living in a way that makes me look out my window and smile. So I can see the horror on both sides and in the following ways:
They Just Own Their Homes
This is a horror that makes you want to run barefoot over coals to get to the threshold of your very own front door, and a horror that makes you recoil in confused revulsion. Because on the one hand, city parents can see the appeal of owning a home. You've got a yard, you can do anything you want to your home and property, and you've got space. (Guys: for the first time my closet is dedicated just to my clothing, not my clothing, holiday ornaments, the vacuum, and a couple pots that didn't fit in the kitchen cabinets.)
On the other hand... why on Earth would you want to own a home? First of all, you don't even really own it anyway. The bank does, and they're the shittiest landlords ever. Hot water goes? Roof leaks? Shower doesn't work? You can't just go complain to your super and wait for them to fix it. That's on you, both time and effort. Just rent! It's so much easier!
They Drive Everywhere...
If I needed something in New York City, chances are I walked. Between the subway and my apartment building were innumerable restaurants, shops, bars, and a grocery store for each of the major ethnicities represented in the neighborhood (Greeks, Italians, Arabs, and Vegans... totes an ethnicity, you guys).
Out here in the suburbs? Not an option. Most places I need to go are not within walking distance, and even if they are I still probably drive because there are no damn sidewalks outside of the town center. I'm still horrified when I get in my car to drive three minutes into town. Like... what? Why don't I just walk? It seems so lazy and wasteful to use gas to get somewhere so close.
...In A Minivan
#NotAllSuburbanMoms (I, for one, do not drive a minivan) but it cannot be denied that "suburbs" and "minivan" are one inexorably linked and that the very idea of a minivan strikes fear into the hearts of city parents everywhere.
They Just Register Their Kids At A Local School & Go
This is another horror that cuts both ways. Because, on the one hand, "OMG, you mean you don't have to get your kid on a waiting list 45 years before you get pregnant to be considered for this highly competitive program? Are you serious? You just, like, register by a deadline and you're done? Are you f*cking kidding me? What am I doing here?!"
And on the other hand, "So... you just go to the school? What if you don't like the school? What do you mean your only other choice is private school? Are you serious? How is acceptable to anyone? How do you handle this pathetic dearth of options?"
They Live Somewhere With Very Little Diversity
OK, #NotAllSuburbs, but, like, a lot of suburbs. This is not an accident: discriminatory housing policies established at the dawn of the suburbs specifically aimed to keep people of color out. Many suburban communities in the US live with that legacy to this day. Moreover, just as a matter of practicality, there's just no way a suburb with a population the fraction of the size of a major city can rustle up the same sort of diversity that naturally exists somewhere like Queens, Los Angeles, or Jersey City.
They Don't Spend A Second Rent On Childcare
True story: when my son was born, the most no-frills childcare facilities my partner and I toured were $1,800 a month. That's for one baby. For one month.
When we moved to the suburbs the fancy(ish) daycare was under $1,200 a month... which is still quite spendy, people! But, coming from a city, I felt like we were getting a tremendous bargain. (Where I live now things are even less expensive.)
I do not discuss such matters with city parent friends. They just start crying and questioning the meaning of life.
They Live Without Cultural Attractions
City Friend: So what is there to do around here?
Suburban Friend: There's a playground.
CF: What's your museum situation?
SF: Ummm... there's a racist diorama depicting white people buying land from American Indians in Town Hall?
CF: Well what about your children's museum situation?
CF: Is there a street fair going on anywhere this weekend?
SF: I don't understand the words you are saying right now.
CF: You know what, never mind. Let's just take the kids to lunch.
SF: OK. We just got an Applebee's.
They Buy In Bulk
This is less horror and more "awe" which encompasses both fear and longing. Because buying in bulk is just not a particularly good option for many city dwellers. Where are you going to put a palate of toilet paper or 10, 60 gallon jugs of laundry detergent? Yes, buying in bulk is cheaper, but there's just no room for any of it.
There's nothing quite like the wide-eyed look a city parent gives a suburban parent walking out of a Costco.
They Have A Target Every Other Block
I mean, let's be honest here: y'all city parents are jealous of this one.
They Live Without Bodegas
But where do you walk to when you're kind of drunk and need Doritos? Where do you get your coffee in the morning? If you ran out of milk where do you pop out to? Who provides your breakfasts sandwiches? Who is your best friend if you don't have the option of deeply bonding with the bodega cat who hangs out on the stacks of newspaper?!
Bodegas are civilization itself!
They Don't Live In Studio Apartments
What. Do. You. Mean. You. Got. More. Than. One. Bedroom. For. Under. A. Million.
In my experience, as someone who has lived in New York City, nothing will send a New Yorker into a whirling spiral or depressed-rage quite like discussing real estate and what they could get elsewhere for what they spend in New York. Nothing. That's not to say the joys of living in a city aren't worth the cost, but looking at it strictly from a square footage perspective... yeah, it's unnerving.
They Don't Have To Worry About A Crying Baby Waking The Neighbors
"Is this not just a natural part of parenthood? Can there truly be such a magical place where I don't have to live in constant fear that not only will my baby cry uncontrollably, but of waking up my cranky, complainer of a next door neighbor as well? Is there actually a realm where you don't have to worry about your tantrum-throwing 3-year-old embarrassing you no matter where they are when they throw a tantrum? Why do we all not live in such a wonderful land?"
They Spend Time In Nature
What the f*ck?! You're just going to let your child run in the woods with all the spiders?! Who are you even? Have you ever heard of ticks?! Also what's with all this quiet? I need some noise, people! This silence is eerie. I've seen The Walking Dead. The woods is always really quiet before a zombie jumps out and bites your face off. You're just asking for your kid turn.
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