A Suburban Dad's Guest Blog: In Defense of the Suburbs

By Rick Kaempfer

I ran into an old friend the other day that I hadn't seen in a long time. He has been reading my contributions to Kim's City Mom blog for awhile, and while he enjoys the content, he said: "I still can't picture you as this suburban dad. How in the world did you end up in the suburbs?"

Well, it pretty much happened overnight.

I was dragged out to the suburbs kicking and screaming fifteen years ago. We had a baby at the time (Tommy), and we gave up our Gold Coast condo for a small house in the northwest suburbs. I went from a three minute cab ride to a thirty minute commute (and that was only because I worked at 4:00 a.m.). I went from a compact car suitable for parallel parking to a mini-van. In the blink of an eye, I went from being a 33-year-old man about town to a 48-year-old father of three growing boys.

And I’ve never regretted my decision to move out to the suburbs a single time. Why? Because I’m not young, I’m not childless, and I’m not wealthy.

When you’re young, you care about things like exotic restaurants and bars. When you go out three times a year, it couldn’t be lower on your priority list.

When you’re childless (like my old buddy), you don’t care about a postage stamp-sized backyard. In fact, it’s a plus. No muss, no fuss. When you have three boys, that’s a recipe for disaster.

When you’re young and childless, you don’t think about schools. When you have three kids and you see a headline like “Only 6% of Chicago Public School students graduate from college,” it suddenly matters very much. (I know Chicago schools have been improving since we moved out here 15 years ago, but you get my drift)

My friends that have kids and live in the city are all fairly well off, so I understand why they have chosen to remain. When you have money, you can send your children to private schools. When you don't, a yearly tuition of $15,000 is not an option. If you have three kids (and I do) you would essentially be paying college tuition for a total of 48 years. (Unless you can get into a magnet school, which is again, not the easiest thing to do)

I’ve heard several other reasons why the suburbs are supposedly so offensive. I actually had one friend tell me she couldn’t live with the “bland architecture.” That’s hilarious. Let me see where that comes up on my priority list...looking...looking...looking...oh there it is at #6,000,000.

Another person said with a straight face, “but there’s no culture in the suburbs.” When I asked how often she went to the theatre or a museum, I heard silence in return. Another person complained that the suburbs aren’t “diverse.” Really? I coached Johnny’s soccer team for three years and the team was like the Rainbow Coalition.

“But there’s nothing to do!”

To which I reply—like what? If there’s nothing to do, why is it that I’m busy every second of every day? I have three kids, a wife, a dog, a house, a company, a blog, a magazine, and a book that just came out.

“But you have to drive everywhere!”

Actually, the boys can walk to school because it’s only three blocks away. All of the activities the boys participate in are nearby. My mother and sister both live two miles away. I work in my basement. I put fewer miles on the car out here than I did in the city.

“But those strip malls are so depressing.”

You know what strip malls have? Free parking spaces. It's fairly refreshing not paying $20-30 for the privilege of putting your vehicle in a tiny concrete space for an afternoon, or $300 for a month, or $20,000 to own a space.

Don't get me wrong, I really loved living in the city (and I did for 15 years), but in my humble little suburban neighborhood, everyone is in the same boat as me. We have a lot in common. We aren’t young. We aren’t childless. We aren’t wealthy. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being young or childless or wealthy. I’ve been two of those three things—and enjoyed that time of my life very much.

I’m just not there anymore. I’m here. And it fits me like a glove.

No apologies. No regrets.

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