Big cities don’t like families with kids…a vent of sorts

Despite spending the last 11 years in Maine, I am still very much a big city girl. While I have come to appreciate the simple joys of living in a rural state and the exquisite beauty of nature, at the end of the day, my heart and soul lies in the big city. It doesn’t even have to be my beloved and currently challenged Chicago; just give me a city. The sights, the sounds, the energy and even the often putrid smells that make up the rich tapestry of life in the big city are the fuel my soul craves to stay healthy.

Upon being offered my new position at CCI, my mind was spinning with hope and possibility as I started to ponder what our lives would look like in a city. The girl child was born in Maine and is very much a Mainer, she is a child of the woods and the sea; city living will be an adjustment for her. Yet for the man unit and me, we are more than ready to get back to city living after accepting that for us Maine is a place where we can take a break but it will never be our home.

However after starting our research on neighborhoods and schools, we have both come to the unpleasant realization, that city living and raising a family are almost damn near impossible to do in 2013. I was born and raised in Chicago, a child of the 70s and 80s; my parents never had two nickel’s to rub together yet managed to raise two kids in the nation’s 3rd largest city without living in a hellhole. But it seems that way of life is gone like the wind.

Let me just say, I am not sure anymore how anyone manages to raise a family living in any large city especially in NYC, Boston or San Francisco which have the pleasure of being the three priciest cities in the United States. Rental prices in these 3 cities are beyond stunning and home ownership? What bank or armored car will I need to knock off to achieve that??

A few nights ago, an old friend was lamenting how expensive Chicago had become and how once the babies started to arrive, she was forced to make the hard decision to live in a suburb of Chicago rather than in the city proper. Chicago public schools as a whole are marginal and getting your child into one of the city’s better schools requires a lot of a luck and prayer. While Boston schools aren’t as bad as Chicago schools, the application process from what I have learned sounds eerily similar to the process we went through years ago when the now grown kid applied to college. Even the old fallback of just moving to a good neighborhood from what I have gleaned is no guarantee that your kid will get into a good school.

At first, I thought maybe this was just my bad luck until I read a few pieces about more and more families opting out of city living because increasingly city living is no longer compatible with raising kids. The prices alone of housing is bad enough but add in the stress of public schools or the cost of private schools and not even a decent family income will save you.

Cities are amazing, they offer a great deal but increasingly cities seem to be off-limits for average families, instead we must live in suburbs and far flung locations which is great if you are up for it but if not, what do you do?

So despite wanting to say goodbye to Maine sooner rather than later, it seems it will be a while before that actually happens. In the meantime, here is hoping I can find a cozy crash pad for a few days a week and that I learn to sleep on the two hour train ride to work.



3 thoughts on “Big cities don’t like families with kids…a vent of sorts”

  1. I’m a black woman who moved from Boston to Burlington, VT almost 5 years ago. I’ve lived in New England all of my life, and agree that Northern New England is different. Burlington is Vermont’s biggest city, and it’s surprisingly diverse, but I’m starting to wonder if it will even feel like home.

    If you’re working in Boston, have you considered living in Worcester, MA? It’s New England’s second-largest city, with diversity, culture, some nightlife, and 13 colleges. Boston is a 1-hour drive or 90 minute train ride, and housing is relatively affordable. I have no clue about schools. Hubby and I have kids on the way, and we’ve considered returning to Massachusetts. Hubby loves Boston, but it’s just too expensive. I grew up north of Worcester, and if i were to return to Massachusetts, I’d push hard for Worcester.

  2. I was going to comment that “I hear you,” having grown up a city girl and now living in the inner suburbs of Toronto with my kids for a couple of reasons – married an American boy who lived in the country who works in a different city so he needs to be close to the highways to commute, but mostly because of all the reasons you wrote about.

    My heart pines for city living – just got back from a trip to NYC where I took a course and spent a couple of days by myself dreaming of finding a way to return regularly for business and pleasure because I couldn’t imagine a way of moving my family there.

    Then I read Liz’s post. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I’m so impressed by her resourcefulness and deterrmination to make it work.

  3. I live in Boston as a single mom on a non-profit salary, and while it is definitely tough financially, it is possible. The public school assignment process is tricky and stressful because you have little control over it, but the flip side of your observation that just buying your way into a good neighborhood is not enough to guarantee that your kid gets into a good school means that you CAN live in a less expensive neighborhood and still have your kid go to a good school. It also means that families with more resources are distributed throughout the school system, not all concentrated in a few schools in a few wealthy neighborhoods, and many schools have seen big improvements for all kids because of this. If you want to chat about neighborhoods, schools, etc., please feel free to get in touch!

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