Is it easier raising children in the suburbs?

Is it easier raising children in the suburbs?
My kids playing in their backyard

It has been just over three months since my family moved from Chicago’s northside to the northern suburbs.  I used to joke that as I aged, the farther north I would move.  From Lakeview  to Uptown to Lincoln Square, I now finding myself in the northern suburbs; that recent jump was much larger than the previous two.

I always knew we would make the move.  Unfortunately, it isn’t easy having children in the city of Chicago.  God bless parents who choose to do it; but having grown up in Elmhurst, the question for Amy and I was not if we’d move, but when and where.

The decision was really made in 1978.  That was when my parents, products of both Proviso high schools, decided to move our family to Elmhurst.  My parents made clear the move was made to get us a quality education.

Thirty-five years later we made our trek north for the same reason.  We settled on a school district and bought a home.  But, in making the move, we’re heartbroken that we felt like we couldn’t raise our family in Chicago.  Trust me, I get that we could raise a family in Chicago.  It just didn’t seem to be in their best interests to live in Chicago.

Education is the big reason.  And that’s the irony about Chicago.  You can’t have a “world class” city and not be able to provide the average student a good education.  Two years ago, we started looking for a pre-school for my then three year-old son.  There were open houses, checks to write and huge wait lists to get on.  To get into a “good school” the feeling was like playing the lotto.  Pay to put your name on a list and pray.  Getting a quality education in Chicago should not be a choice between private school and a Hail Mary.  My memory of choosing a school was putting on a backpack and walking to the nearest one.  Unfortunately, in Chicago, you can’t just send kids to the nearest school.

As significant is the safety of our children.  When our kids put on their backpacks and go to school, we’re confident they’ll get there.  Here, they don’t have to stay within marked “safe passage” area to get to school.  And that was the thing that bothered me most about Chicago: I don’t get why we can’t look in the mirror and say that shooting children is unacceptable.   I can’t wrap my head around the fact that a “safe passage” zone is necessary.

About one month after moving, I heard Mancow Muller rant about moving from Lincoln Park to the suburbs.  Although I would have articulated it differently, our reasons for leaving Chicago were very similar.  Mancow said:

The schools are awful. I guess I could have had (my daughters) go to public schools, but I don’t want them to be stupid.  I drove past Lincoln Park High School every day, and the kids are cursing and yelling and have their hands down each other’s pants.  And then, I was spending $45,000 a year for the (private) British School of Chicago. It was killing me.

*    *    *

I think they’ve done a good job of making the city unlivable for families.  I’m so sick of feeding the broken government in Chicago.

*    *    *

80 percent of my stress is gone.  You know what you have to deal with in Chicago, and get your kids away from that.  I was always on guard, honestly, and now, my quality of life is so much better.  I’m so much happier.

I get it.  To take your car to do anything in Chicago, requires the Richard M. Daley parking tax also known as overfeeding the meter.  Not to be outdone, Mayor Rahm Emanuel now has speed cameras up which will automatically send you a ticket for speeding down certain streets.  I don’t even live there anymore and I’ve received a ticket.  It’s not like I’m for speeding, but it used to feel like I was getting nickled and dimed living in the city.  Now, it feels like we’re getting dollared and fived.  And it gets to a point where enough is enough.

Mancow is also right about always being on guard.  When we first moved, I found myself standing outside a Jewel with my son; I was very conscious of the people near and next to me, which was second nature having lived in Chicago for 17 years.   As I stood there with my child, I realized that I didn’t have to constantly be at DEFCON 1 while running mundane errands.  And although I’ll always be more helicopter than hands off with my kids, that constant, ingrained stress of city living started to dissipate.

Mancow also called leaving Chicago heartbreaking; Amy and I completely agree.  We miss the great food.  We miss the diversity.  We miss the options. We miss having five Walgreens within five blocks (which seems terribly inefficient for Walgreens, but still somehow true).  I miss having cocktails after work and hailing a cab to get home.  What was a 50 minute commute in the morning (to get seven miles– which was ridiculous) is now much longer.  But these sacrifices we made for our kids.  I like the yard my children have to play in.  I like looking out my kitchen window and seeing that yard rather than my neighbor’s brick wall. I don’t miss street parking.  I don’t miss wiping Amy’s truck clean of snow.  I don’t miss watching the news and listening closely to reports of violence, wondering if something happened in my neighborhood.

So, as I sit here in our new home, there is certainly happiness in watching the kids play in the snow in the backyard.  But I miss that great two bedroom condo Amy and I lived in ten years ago.   That long third floor unit on Sheridan; the ability to walk to a major league baseball game, to dinner or just out for drinks.  I miss the noise.  The sirens.  Hearing people yell on the street below.  The vibrance.  The spontaneity.

But, knowing my kids are likely to have the same opportunities my parents gave me, makes it a no brainer.  So thank you mom and dad; your grandchildren thank you too.

Filed under: Change of Pace, Chicagoist

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  • It depends on the kids and who's raising them.

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    But Sometimes It Doesnt matter about that cus you can raise you kids like your supposed to and they still dogs, thin

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