Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I had an incredibly interesting conversation on the feasibility of raising a child in New York City. It’s a conversation that I have had many a times, and it’s a conversation that many people in their late 20’s tend to have because of the daunting decision of starting a family here in New York or eventually moving out to the suburbs. It was a very inspired debate, and I certainly have my mind set in stone as to how I feel about the situation.
Personally, I could not do it. I could not see myself raising my children in New York City without some sort of guilt. Certainly, I find the day when I have to pack my stuff up and leave New York City unfathomable, but I think that’s what I would have to do if I intend to start a family.
I have lived in the inner city, the ghetto, low-class suburbs and middle-class suburbs, and I certainly have experienced what it is like to live in all facets of the many different types of lifestyles available here in New York City. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, there is no place for a child like middle-class Suburbia.
I do not care if I was worth $10 billion, you could never get me to agree that living in Beverley Hills, the Hamptons, or the Upper East Side presents a better upbringing for a child than good, old-fashioned Suburbia. I actually have a hard time qualifying that belief with examples, which usually renders the best defense of my belief to saying that I lived in D.C., moved to Texas as a child, and was absolutely astounded by everything I was missing out on before I became a part of Suburbia. However, now that I am writing and not having this conversation with a cup of Dominican Rum in my hand, I think I can muster up a few examples of why Suburbia is a better place to raise children than New York City.
First and foremost: outdoor space! Kids need it. They need it to play, run around, to be with other kids, or to be away from other kids. Space breeds activity, which is important not just for physical health reasons, but for mental health reasons. Being cooped up in high-rises, office buildings, apartments, and subways can have a certain effect on a child. Heck, we as adults living in New York City experience that feeling of having been inside way too often, but that’s apart of New York City. We live, play and go through life indoors. Heck, we spend 9 months waiting for Summer, and when it finally comes around, we continue to spend countless moments in our offices, at the gym, at parties, in clubs, and doing various other indoor activities. Sure, we as adults try to play softball in the park on occasion, and we eat meals outdoors, but that is not enough for a child. A child needs to be free to do those things all the time, whether it’s walking home from school, playing football at the park, or just playing in the driveway, kids need to be able to experience the outdoors. Heck, can a child really play tag or hide-and-go-seek on a crowded Upper East Side sideway?
Secondly, New York City is a town for grownups. This city caters to people in their 30’s and 40’s. Even people in their 20’s still trying to come into their own career-wise cannot really experience everything New York has to offer. And I went to college here in the city, and you can’t do a damn thing before your 21st birthday—unless of course, you have a fake i.d. (which I would never have had because that’s illegal). So imagine what life is like for a child here. Sure, there are probably school events, some things here and there, for the few child programs there are here in the city, but that fails in comparison to what is going on out there in Suburbia. They are just making up things for kids to do in Suburbia. From the plethora of athletic opportunities (you can’t even play football or soccer here in most city schools), to the multitude of town fairs, barbeques, plays, circuses, water activities, clubs, and the overabundance of things I can’t even think of or don’t know about, Suburbia trumps New York City in all things having to do with the outdoors. Sure, we have some of the same things here in New York City, but to what degree? Hell, we get excited when there’s a street fair outside of our offices.
My last argument focuses on the community feel of living in New York City versus living in suburbs. Let’s face it, 99% of New Yorkers reading this don’t even know their neighbors’ names. Hell, I don’t. Don’t really care either, because that’s just how the city is. There is no community. God forbid you move to New York City and not know anybody, because that could easily result in several months (maybe even years) of solitude. You all know you have heard the stories about single people getting hurt or dying in their apartments only to be found days later. That doesn’t happen in the suburbs. Your neighbors are so far into your business that most of them could recite your daily schedule with 100% accuracy. There is no way you can live in Suburbia and not know your neighbors, or your neighbors’ neighbors. On top of that, living in Suburbia gives your kids the opportunity to grow up with familiar faces, whom they can visit at will, and you end up having the opportunity to truly let a village help raise your child.
I am not saying that raising a child in Suburbia does not come with a downside, nor that raising in a child in New York City doesn’t have things Suburbia doesn’t offer. Kids in New York City are surrounded by culture with all of NYC’s museums, plays and historical attractions, while Suburban kids are more likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol. However, at the end of the day, I think Suburban kids lack very little of what New York kids have, and for the most part, they can attain those things easily—especially if we are talking about living in New Jersey or Long Island.
Thus, I stand by my belief that raising a child in New York City is not fair to said child. Which is why I believe that parents only choose to raise their kids here because of their jobs (and I say that half-heartedly, because many of those parents could commute to the city), or more likely it is just their own unwillingness to give up a lifestyle that is hard to duplicate elsewhere. Listen, I understand the dilemma of city-parents, because it is hard for me to imagine living in another place anytime soon. However, the thing about parenting is that you have to make tough decisions, and you have to stop putting yourself first when you make those decisions. Perhaps, it is not until you can distance yourself from this debate that you should even think about having kids. Of course, that is just my opinion. Here are the opinions of other people who either agree or disagree with me:
P.S. I won’t feel sorry for any of you who disagree with me when you need help lifting your stroller up subway steps!
What I love about raising kids in New York City
Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone
Pros/Cons of raising a family in NYC
Raising Kids in NY
Urban Environments Can Provide a Great Upbringing
10 Reasons Why Raising Kids in NYC City Rules
Raising Kids in the City or the Suburbs?
Schools Close, but Children Are Out and About