Last week a lovely graduate student from Virginia Commonwealth University contacted me in regards to her research project on the topic of city moms. I know! She wanted to know why we chose to raise our kids in the city and what a typical day might be like (do I dare tell this young woman that for a mom, any mom, no day is typical?). As I was answering her questions, I thought the back and forth might make a nice post. Then, I heard on BBC that for the first time in history the urban population has surpassed the rural population and that cinched it. Now the discussion is timely. A City Mom just hopes you’ll find it entertaining and maybe a little informative.
1. Why did you choose to raise your kids in the city? I grew up in the suburbs and felt they didn’t have much to offer in terms of things to do or diversity or really good sushi. Living in the city, we can go to a museum for an hour and then leave. It doesn’t become an all day, we’re-not-leaving-until-everyone’s-in-tears ordeal because we didn’t drive an hour to get there. If we want, we can go back the next day. But mostly, I just plain love city life. And if Mom’s happy…
2. Do you think city moms have it harder than suburban moms? Why or why not? Oh yes we do. One word: Parking.
No suburban mom taking her kids to a birthday party or lesson or anywhere, has to worry too much about where she’s going to park her car and how she’s going to get her three year-old inside. Suburbs are geared toward driving and let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to drive your kids places then to walk or take the bus. And if you’re driving, you’re parking.
3. What is the biggest challenge that comes with raising kids in the city?
See question 2.
And defending your choice. Some people who have chosen the suburbs will give you the stink eye when you tell them you’re raising your kids in the city. It’s like they can’t wrap their minds around it. I had one guy tell me, “Kids need the suburbs.” They need them? Right. The same way I need chocolate, maybe.
In the city, schools can be an issue, too, at least in the City of Chicago. There are many great public and private schools here, but it’s the parents who need to educate themselves. The private schools can get very expensive and the selective-enrollment schools are becoming harder and harder to get into. Same with the good magnet schools. As a parent, if selective-enrollment isn’t an option, you need to know where the great neighborhood schools are and then live in those neighborhoods, and sometimes, that can be very expensive, too.
4. As a mom in the city where many "non moms" reside, do you always feel welcomed? Do you ever feel like you don't belong in the city as a mom?
Never. There are so many families in the city now, I think we may take over! (In fact, we’re plotting the over-throw of the hipsters right now—please don’t tell anyone.)
5. What is the most rewarding aspect of being a city mom?
The most rewarding aspect of being a city mom is seeing my kids as city teenagers. They can walk by themselves to the grocery store, a coffee shop, the bank, the hardware store, etc., which is really handy if I’m cooking and we’re out of onions. They know their way around the CTA and can get to and from friends’ houses on their own (see question 2!!) After school, the boys and their friends will sometimes go to Grant Park for a game of touch football before grabbing the Brown Line home. How cool is that? My sons just turned 16 and have no interest in getting their drivers licenses. They don’t need them to get to the places they want to go. And the older they are when they start driving, the less the insurance premium is going to be. Hurray for me.
My kids are pretty street smart too—they’ve learned to “smell” trouble and avoid it if they can. And they’ve been surrounded by so much diversity growing up. I’m not saying the suburbs can’t be diverse, but the socio-economic differences in the city can be stunning: the kid in your class who can’t afford a reduced rate lunch, to the other kid whose family flies a private jet to their second home in Aspen.
And they, all three of my kids, really know their way around a sushi menu.
6. When do you feel defeated as a mom in the city?
I can honestly say I’ve never felt defeated as a mom in the city. Now, as a Cubs fan…
7. Is the city mom friendly? Baby friendly?
Yes. And yes. There are plenty of kid friendly cafes and restaurants. And we, of course, have parks. There’s Gymboree, and Wiggleworms at the Old Town School of Folk music, the Children’s Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium. One of the best Childrens Hospitals in the world, Lurie, is fifteen minutes away. I could go on and on.
I asked my lovely graduate student if she would send me the results of her research project when it's finished, because I'd be interested to hear what other city moms have to say. If she does, I'll be sure to pass it along!
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