City Kids vs. Suburb Kids: Who Has It Better?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

I saw two roaches this weekend in my bathroom scurrying across the floor off to their hiding places. My husband and I spent the next five hours bleaching the house, fighting over the species -- "It was a Waterbug! No! It was American!" -- and laying traps for the little buggers.

It's the first time in my 10 years of living in an urban area that I've encountered cockroaches, and I would be lying if I didn't say that experience made me question our decision to stay in the city with our children.

The city is where I'm most comfortable. It's where most of my friends live and less than a mile from our preschool. We have hundreds of restaurants of all different types of cuisine within walking distance. We can hop on the subway and head to the children's museum or the Boston Museum of Science or the aquarium without having to deal with parking at $25 an hour (and no, I'm not exaggerating).

So why do people constantly question our decision to stay here?

My husband and I both grew up in the same Midwestern town down the street from one another. It doesn't get more middle American suburban childhood than ours. There were pep rallies and cheerleaders and bonfires and parades. The biggest thrill of the year was who might make homecoming queen. I played on the tennis team and danced on the dance squad (for a couple years) and he lettered in basketball and track.

We were both bored senseless.

I used to visit my relatives in Los Angeles and New York City multiple times a year and die with envy. I promised myself I would raise the kids in the city.

It has its drawbacks. The other morning I came back from a run to see a rat (a jumbo rat, not a mouse as my husband insisted) scurry from our neighbor's stoop across ours. My children and dog have no backyard, so we have to walk Rocky three times a day for long periods of time and also take multiple trips to the park for the kids. We've also had things stolen (two bikes, chairs, and many other small items) from our porch even when they were locked up. We spend $1,000 a year on parking tickets and can't grill out unless we want to do it on our driveway. Our whole condo is 1,000 square feet and cost more to buy than a mansion in our hometown.

That Uma Thurman movie Motherhood is basically my life.

On the other hand, my children have multiple parks within a few blocks of our home. The parks are clean and huge (and urban) and every time we go, I marvel at the diversity. Our neighbors abutting our home are Haitian, Brazilian, Indian, and Chinese respectively and my older child has play dates in multiple languages.

We have access to constant activities, festivals every weekend within walking distance, and every day there are multiple things to do, much of it free. We could never drive if we wanted. There is yoga in the park for toddlers and singalongs at three different libraries. There is Spanish story hour and French story hour and the city sponsors free lunch in all the area parks the whole summer.

We're also very lucky because we leave our tiny condo almost every weekend and head to my family's lake house, which is in the woods, on a lake in a very remote space. There my children have free reign over the 2-acre wooded area and can play on the dock, take the boat, and chase the dog. If we didn't have this outdoor space escape, I might feel differently, but right now, I feel like we have the best of both worlds.

I've watched my friends leave for the suburbs, especially as they plan for second children, and I understand their desire. I will probably also be forced from my beloved city before my children start school since I would rather not have to pay for private school. But for now, I like my urban life and my children love it, too.

Is it cramped? Yes. But it's home. And best yet? The exterminator who came today said the roaches came from next door. Not our problem!

Do you raise your kids in the city?


Image via Sasha Brown-Worsham


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