If you are a parent raising a child in Chicago, a soon-to-be parent or even considering having children, you have probably gotten a lot of advice from family and friends about parenting in the city. Some may suggest that you get a different, likely larger, place to live, move to a new location, potentially outside of the city, purchase a new vehicle, etc. Their advice is valid, as some have been through the process and they have made a thoughtful decision that fits their needs and lifestyle. Their choices might not be in line with yours, though.
Like all major decisions in life, having children and deciding where to raise them is extremely important and requires a lot of thoughtful contemplation. For some families, what is important is to have a lot of living space with modern features and amenities, a yard, easy parking, a certain sense of community, a good neighborhood school, etc. Driving to work, nearby shops, restaurants, and other services is not a concern. Interior space, a yard, a place to grow and spread out takes priority. These families want the most for their money and feel that moving outside of the city is the best way to get it.
Space is often a feature that is not easily come by in the city of Chicago, unless it is at a premium price. For other families, the convenience of city living - easy access to work, shops, restaurants, museums, resources, and a wealth of activities - takes priority over space. Perhaps the value of being close to work, not having to worry about driving, being within walking distance of all the resources you need, and having so many choices in terms of food, shopping, cultural events, activities, etc. outweighs the need for space. Some expenses may even be less (e.g., no need for a car or using less gas when public transportation or walking are options; sometimes utilities or other services - cable/internet - are included in rent or mortgage payments in the city and, given the smaller size of living spaces, basic utilities can be inexpensive). The price for location and city perks outweighs the need for space and some of the other amenities that go along with suburban living. Families can make it work; if they want to live in the city and do not mind the small spaces but worry about, say, good schools, they find a way to save money for schooling options, do research to locate the best neighborhood schools in their preferred living area, etc.
Both living options are valid; both have their good points and less than ideal features; both can feel safe, comfortable, and accommodating. It just depends on the families' priorities.
There is no rule about what one must do as a parent or where a family must live. Some families have stronger opinions about it than others and some feel pressured to follow a status quo but there are no hard and fast rules. For families to thrive, they need to be where they are comfortable and have a lifestyle that fits their personalities and needs. Otherwise, there is the potential for resentment and frustration, which can have a harmful effect on one's sense of self, relationships, and the family as a whole.
Think about what is important for you and your family. Respect and appreciate the advice of others but make the decision that works for you.
Denise Duval Tsioles, PhD, LCSW
Child Therapy Chicago