I’m a city girl. Always have been, always will be. Perhaps it has something to do with my obsession with architecture and dislike of driving, but I found so much to love living in an urban setting. So when we started our family in a bustling metropolis in walking distance from skyscrapers, blocks of endless restaurant, parks, multiple grocery stores and various public transportation options, I did not flinch. We were also lucky to be sharing the experience as first time parents with many other younger families that made the same decision. For some, the real estate market was prolonging their move to the suburbs, but within our group of friends there was a consensus that we enjoyed strolling our city streets with our babies and enjoying a different lifestyle than our parents did when they started their families decades ago.
So why was I happy and not afraid to raise our kids in the city their first few years of life?
…because I enjoyed the fast pace, fulfilling our errands by foot, and fond of the proximity and enjoying regularly our neighborhood parks, libraries and festivals
…and because I loved our sense of community and knowing so many of our neighbors well
Instead of driving to “make groceries,” going out to eat or family outings, we would walk every where. I relished finding a new detail I had not seen before by foot or from behind the wheel of my car. I was in constant interaction with our children, and I would savor having them in the baby carrier during our errands and watching the world from their perspective as they grew into their stroller. We would point at birds flying above, colorful flags and stop to chat with our neighborhood friends. I also believe having so much interaction within our community taught our kids simple social interaction and gestures, from making eye contact and acknowledging people as we crossed paths, to learning courteous greetings. I also like to think that from a young age I was teaching them street smart skills they would carry with them through the rest of their lives. I was rarely distracted by my phone, technology and the car radio. And, when the witching hour hit, we had neighborhood options along with other parents trying to escape the same fury. Even more so, getting out and about by foot was a great means of exercise and helped us keep an active and healthy life style with many physical and mental benefits.
It was not difficult to get to know our neighbors from our constant interaction from the elevator lobby to the grocery line or while they walked their dog while I strolled our babies. I felt more so part of a community and aware of the world and the changes occurring around me. Our particular neighborhood was a melting pot filled with residents representing various parts of the USA, countries, cultures and experiences. I also met many parents teaching their children multiple languages. And in the process, I grew fonder of our native New Orleans’ history and lingo, especially when I heard the term kitty-corner for the first time! Also, being surrounded by people from so many walks of life gave me more conviction in my beliefs and goals as a parents.
For the first years as a young family, we lived in less than 1,000 square feet. Our layout was ideal, and we maximized our square footage while making smart purchasing decisions. Of course, toys would end up every where but, for example, we did not see a living table as only a table, but also as storage. I can honestly say it was a “less is more” lifestyle that we still follow today. And a bonus with “smaller” living, especially for a mom of two under two, was less time cleaning! We also lived with -GASP- one car and relied on being by foot and using public transportation. And, having my husband home shortly after work was a gift; his commutes were under half an hour and in lieu of spending more time on the road and less with our growing family. Surprisingly too, in retrospect, we experienced lower living expenses and what I considered a simpler lifestyle.
So why did the ‘burbs start knocking for us?
As for most families, it was being closer to our families, church community, the quest to find the “best” school for our children, having our own yard, living independently from our neighbor and being in a safer and quieter environment that lead the big move. Our experience as a couple, and then with a growing family, in a city was priceless and memorable, but as anyone who has experienced the same knows, you know when you hear the ‘burbs knocking. Now all we need is a minivan…nahh!