City or suburbs is a question every Chicago parent eventually comes to, but has it crossed your mind more as Coronavirus moved in and changed the way we live? While I’m not an expert at what’s right for your family, I can tell you that we’ve done both. We learned the hard way what wasn’t right for us! I can also tell you that we made the decision to move to the suburbs when under an extreme amount of stress- which is what we’re all currently experiencing. If you’re on the verge, read on before taking the leap.
Having your first baby in the city is exciting! You see everything with new eyes- as a parent! Museums hold family days and stroller walks, child programming within fitness clubs is amazing and there are more mommy and me classes that you can choose from. You can stroll the farmers markets and join in sing-a-longs at the Lincoln Park Zoo (Which is free, how lucky are we?). Brunching with a baby isn’t only acceptable, many of the best brunch spots host kids yoga or craft sessions for toddlers. Yes, having a baby in the city is kind of amazing… Then your child passes the toddler stage or maybe you add a second, and for lack of a better statement, shit gets real. In the age of Coronavirus, it gets REALLY REAL, REALLY FAST. Shelter in place without a yard, or in a condo can be rough!
I can’t tell you how many times over Zoom happy hours this month I’ve heard, “I’m so glad we moved before all of this!” or “I can’t imagine living in the city right now!”. I may have said the same thing a few years ago. Right now, I’m content in Chicago. This is how I got there and a few things to consider before making the move.
We reached our tipping point a few years ago. I‘d say the stress level was pretty close to shelter in place with the kids right now! I had a newborn, along with an energetic toddler, nobody was sleeping, we were busting at the seams and my husband was working nonstop. We snapped! It was time to move to a bigger home in the burbs. The checklist was- a big yard, a designated playroom, a guest room, and basement. We sold our condo in less than a day, and started building a home in the suburbs… a year later we were back in the city.
What I realized was that having more space didn’t solve our stressors at the time, it just replaced in different ways. Our new home was gorgeous, & having a big yard was great, but other times it was a hinder. Also, my husbands commute was long and took away from family time. I was home for much longer periods alone with the kids and doing most meals without him joining us at all. We missed the parks, walking everywhere, street festivals, the lake- and don’t get me started on the many conveniences that come with city life that I completely took for granted! It was all wrong- for us.
Would life be easier at home today if we had stayed in the suburbs as we endure Shelter in Place, no. Let me say that again, NO. Not at all! I would still be searching endlessly for crafts and activities to do inside with the kids. I would still be struggling with homeschooling while we’re working from home. I would still be frustrated with “I’m bored”, and I’d undoubtedly still be breaking them apart as they wrestle like they’re in the WWF! The biggest takeaway from our quick suburbs stint was that people and children are who they are. A bigger, beautiful house with a yard is not going to change your situation, abilities, or values.
I saw myself tending to gardens, cooking more and becoming a Pinterest mom “once I had the space”. Turns out, even with the yard, space, and fancy appliances, I don’t enjoy doing any of it! I’m more of a order pre-made kind of gal. My husband saw himself coaching the kids, golfing & grilling in his free time. Guess what- he works a lot. Add the hour commute each way and he isn’t home in time for coaching, or even much grilling. Rarely did he make it to once weekly golf league. Since he missed family time through the week, he didn’t want to spend the weekends working on projects in the yard or house. That extra time with the kids each day that his 15 minute commute offered when in the city was now looking much more valuable than our big home.
As we learned more about the realities of our personalities and situation, we also struggled with the changes that came with every day life in the suburbs. A big adjustment for me was grocery shopping. Like a typical city girl, I relied on same day grocery delivery, dining out or take out. If I wanted groceries within the next day in the suburbs, it was a whole process of car seats, and entertaining the kids, while becoming frustrated that our little store didn’t carry many of the foods we normally purchased in the city. Whole Foods was 20 miles away, Trader Joe’s, non-existent (and with Pea Pod delivery being over, delivery may not even be an option any longer where we were!). Restaurant delivery choices were pizza, pizza, and more pizza. Of course that sounds spoiled, but it’s the truth. I missed the conveniences the city had offered. It was so much easier to pop into a store with the baby in his stroller- or better yet, have practically anything we needed delivered. Speaking of stroller, I missed walking! Walking with a stroller wasn’t only my main mode of ”transportation”, but my workouts and meditation. We also spent more time outside when in the city. It was a necessity when living in a smaller space. Those were the biggies. We could still do a date night in the city occasionally for a little fix and take the kids in on a weekend for a museum day. It was the daily routines that were really hard to adjust to though, and what ultimately brought us back to Chicago.
With all of that said, I want to be clear that this is not a bash on suburban life! For many of my friends, it’s been absolutely the right move! Some have family in the area to help with their children (priceless!), some have acres of land that they love tending to and some are absolutely that Pinterest/baking/super mom that I saw myself being! There’s a perfect fit for everyone.
catching an impromptu musical performance in the park
If you were considering a move before Coronovirus took over your life, it’s probably a great option- this wan’t a breaking point for you! If the shelter in place orders have
pushed you to the brink and you think the suburbs are the answer, carefully weigh out your choices. I’ve come to the consensus that there are subdivision people, city people and “I don’t want to see my neighbors” people. More important than finding the perfect home, you have to figure out which group you fall into right now. Make a list of what you would and wouldn’t like about each category and go from there. I would also urge you to dig deep and think about what you enjoy doing. Not what you picture yourself doing, but what you enjoy doing. We love the city now, and it makes sense. Situations do change though! We know that as our children get older, they will become more involved in school and extracurricular activities. At some point we will want a home with a yard they can roam without full supervision, and more space for things like sleepovers. At this point though, it’s easier here. Honesty in your situation will lead you to the right move- or not.