Updated: Jan 25
We've all been subject to unsolicited questions and advice. If you are single it's when are you going to start settling down? When you start dating someone people want to know what's taking so long to get engaged. And the immediate question after you do get engaged is when is the wedding? It doesn't stop there. Once you are married people will ask about kids and before your first born is out of diapers they'll wonder if you're having more. As someone who dated their significant other for 10 years prior to getting married and then waiting an additional 6+ years to finally tie the knot I'm no stranger to these questions. If I had a dollar every time someone questioned our decision to have one kid and not grow our family I'd be very wealthy. One question I wasn't prepared for was "When are you moving to the suburbs".
It's no secret my husband and I love living in the city. When we are old and grey we hope to be living in Chicago's Gold Coast enjoying the people watching of the viagra triangle, shopping on Michigan and Oak Street, the onslaught of fabulous dining options and the hustle and bustle of downtown living. We both grew up in the Chicago 'burbs just a stones throw away from the city. Since 2013 the city has been our home. To both our surprise the second we announced our pregnancy people asked us when we were moving. I was so confused. Moving? Why would we be moving? Our first condo was barely 1,000 sq feet with lofted ceilings and a tiny balcony off the Lake Street L in Fulton Market so I would understand the question then. Two people and their stuff barely fit in that tiny condo (our second bathroom tub was all storage) BUT our current condo is more than adequate for a small family with substantial outdoor space. It never crossed either of our minds to move when I got pregnant. We had every intention of staying in the city with our baby.
I'm not stupid or naïve. I understand the desire for more living and outdoor space, easy parking, storage, child/family friendly activities, quiet streets, and (let's be honest in most cases) less crime and better school districts. Yes, in many ways the suburbs are the idealistic place to raise your children. With that being said I think people just naturally assume you'll move to the suburbs once you get pregnant or have kids because it is so common. I have very few mom friends left in the city and none of them stay at home. After baby #1 most of my friends (understandably) jumped ship for more space. Growing up and going to public school in the suburbs I didn't know anyone who lived in the city so maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised by the question at first. But 3+ years after announcing our pregnancy the question remains "when are you finally going to move to the suburbs".
Now I'm frustrated with being asked the same questions over and over. Especially since most the people who ask us have NEVER even lived in the city, let alone grew up or raised a tiny human there. How can people be so opinionated when they have no life experience to validate their stance. How many times must I tell people we are happy. In fact Sonny is very happy and he isn't being deprived by us raising him in the city (yes, we have parks too). In fact I believe we are doing the very opposite. Any obstacle we may have faced in living in an urban setting has easily been resolved and I'm confident that there are challenges in suburban living as well.
If I'm being honest we have toyed around with the idea of moving, but I genuinely think the pressure, nagging and questioning from others drove that curiosity. The few houses we have looked at wouldn't make us any happier at this time. We always said we were comfortable in Chicago raising a baby and then that turned into a toddler and then just until he starts school. Now Sonny is enrolled in a private pre-school next year proving you can't predict the future. I tell myself now we have a few more years until kindergarten or first grade until we have to contemplate moving but that may change too. Never did I ever think I'd be playing the CPS lottery yet it looks like it's in my near future. In the end it's up to us to decide what is best for our family. Not what society is comfortable with. Not what society deems normal. Definitely not what society wants us to do because that is what they did and is the only thing they know first hand. The constant question of "when are you moving" or my favorite "it's not fair to raise your kid in the city" looming over our heads it has had me second guessing even when I feel confident in our decision... are we doing the right thing?
Crime and school districts are the constant things that nag at me, but I honestly don't feel unsafe where I live. Again, not naïve. I know the crime rate is higher where I live than an affluent suburb but there seems to be crime and danger everywhere this day and age. Carjackings and mass shootings extend beyond the 606 zip code while Chicago Public Schools have some of the top rated schools in the nation. What "icks" me the most about when people question our living situation is they are quick to throw Chicago under the bus when they live in the 'burbs. They are happy to proclaim they "live in Chicago" when asked where they are from when they are on vacation or venture out to the city for a staycation, date and/or girls night out to our world class restaurants. I understand why! Chicago architecture is stunning. I put our skyline up against any other (yes, even NY). Our transportation system, riverwalk, museums, professional sports and cleanliness rival those of other major metropolitan cities. We have a freaking beautiful beach and river in the middle of our city! Have you ever looked at the lake from a high rise building? It looks like the Caribbean Sea it's so stunning. There's no question Chicago is full of culture, diversity and history! Listen, I know our city is not perfect. There are many things I am unhappy with as a resident. But spare me that I live in the most dangerous city in the world because it's (factually) not. Like everyone else I'm miserable and cold in January/February and long for warm temps and sunshine. But nothing compares to Spring, Summer and Fall in the city. Where many "vacation" is where I live and the most outspoken critics have probably never lived a day in Chicago or moved away long ago. There's so much to see and do and appreciate when it comes to this city.
I understand the curiosity people may have about raising a family in the city, but the truth is it's more common than you think! Katie and I have had the privilege of meeting an extraordinary young women, Sydney, who was born and raised in Chicago. Anytime I find myself second guessing my choices or feel discouraged by peoples (constant) questioning she's been an amazing advocate and support system. Sydney is a compassionate and accomplished women with a bustling career that graduated from one of CPS's top high schools. She was kind enough to share her experience with us about growing up in Chicago and its many benefits. I can only hope my son has the same experience growing up!
Even though I am not a parent, I could not help but give my two cents about why I think Amanda and Eddie all should stay in the city with Sonny! Despite what others may think about being raised in Chicago, I was born and raised in city and have always been incredibly grateful to my parents for choosing to do so for myself and my younger siblings. I was fortunate enough to grow up in house and in a neighborhood on the north side where we could run around the block, where we knew our neighbors and it was safe. I made best friends from my block and there were parks and ice cream shops within walking distance. I had friends from the south side, the west side and many other neighborhoods where I learned about families different from my own. If you can get into a good school it makes all the difference. I was able to get into one of the best magnet grade schools at the time Hawthorne from k-8 where I met friends from all neighborhoods, cultures, ethnicities and and backgrounds. This is where I made friends with people who I am still best friends with 20 years later. This experience prepared me for one of the most competitive academic and athletic high schools in the country that was a melting pot of students from Chicago. Not only did this prepare me for the real world, but looking back was one of the most unique and amazing experiences of my life. I believe it is a pretty incredible thing to be a part of different communities and mature in a way that gives you a well rounded perspective. There are certainly tips and tricks to successfully raising kids in the city... living in the right neighborhoods and going to the best schools play a major role. If you can make it work, I think it prepares you for experiences outside of your bubble and these interactions provided me with learned experiences that I would otherwise not have had growing up in the suburbs.
Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart even if we eventually move. You can't predict the future, but I know right now our family belongs in the city. If that ever changes it will be because we decided it was the right move; not because of other people's comfort level. I believe our choice to stay in Chicago with Sonny is just like any other parental decision we've had to make. Nothing is perfect and there's no right answer. We are all just doing the best we can.
XO - Amanda