Is City Living Possible For Families?

This will be my fifth year living in the city of Chicago. It has its cons(high taxes, increased parking meters,crime,limited parking,and the highest gas prices in the US) but its pros outweigh them-wonderful parks, restaurants, museums,a variety of shops to choose from,a convenient public transportation system,and a very diverse ethnic scene.

Now comes the critical part-where to live once kids come into picture? This is something that even though I do not have children yet,I am looking down the road when I do have kids,what will our family lifestyle be like? City dwellers? Or Suburbanites? I recently had this conversation with a fellow colleague over lunch who is working in the city as well as living downtown with her husband and one year old.

I grew up in a typical suburban town where the most exciting thing to do is hit up the community mall,TGIF’s(or any of those big box restaurants,Olive Garden,etc,you get the pic)or a sports bar dive. Everyone for the most part had at least 2-4 cars in their driveway,garage,and a backyard. I had a pretty good childhood though,complete with backyard,swingset and sandbox.  As I got older however,it didn’t seem to appeal to me the suburban lifestyle so I went to Grad school in Chicago and loved it ever since. I did have to move back temporarily but hated it. Luck and persistence had enabled me to move back to the city where I wanted to be.

Now of course,the neverending advice pours in as I contemplate my next move. I live in the city but work right outside the city in the suburbs where most of my coworkers live. Numerous times have they advised me that the schools in the suburbs are better,and you get a backyard,a garage,etc. “The kids will have a backyard,you cannot raise a kid in the city without a backyard!”  they would say. 

My colleague with the one year old who lives in the city views it otherwise: she takes her child to the public library often and takes advantage of the wide variety of parks we have,especially along the lake. The Chicago Public School system,however,is one up for debate,as different parts of the city apparently are “better run” than others. As Mayor Daley steps down and Rahm Emanuel takes over,the CPS system will be closely looked at.

Part of me wonders if staying in the city is such a great idea,and there are times where I do have this inkling that I want to be in the suburbs,because my childhood was great and would want that for my future children too. But then I also think of the numerous things I can do with kids in the city too that I was unable to as a child with all the attractions it offers. And being able to walk to let’s say, to the dry cleaners,theatres,and shops is such a big bonus(and good for you healthwise).

Either way,I have to just ignore the noise that everyone tries to give me(including my parents who definitely want me back close to them in the burbs) and figure it all on my own with my husband. One thing we don’t want to happen is to live in the middle of nowhere just to afford a McMansion and an Escalade which so many people we know are doing,but I see no fun in that.

If you live in the city and are starting a family I would love to hear your advice on how you are doing it! So far I am hearing good things from the ones that do.

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