Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Country Mom vs. City Mom

The Brooklyn Baby Daddy during one of our trips to Kentucky. Stuff like this just doesn't happen in the city.

It's a lovely Spring day. You dress your 13 month old daughter in some play pants and a top, throw a little sunblock and a sunhat on her, take her out into your private back yard and sip some lemonade while she crawl/walks after your cats and dogs. Later, after she's pooped herself out, you throw some clothes in the washer and start up the dishwasher, then hang out on the front porch with the baby monitor, chatting on the phone with your mom while she naps. When she wakes up, you grab a snack for her and then drive to Target, where you get the stuff you need -- cheaply and quickly. Your daughter's in an easy-going mood, so you also hit the grocery store and pick up some supplies to make an extra special dinner. The aisles at the supermarket are spacious, filled with any and every product your heart could desire. There's no line at the checkout counter, and the friendly employee behind the register lets you use all your coupons without raising an eyebrow. You drive home and play out in the yard a little longer while you wait for the husband to come home from work. The sun is setting, the yard looks great, your daughter isn't afraid of grass or bugs, you have no ugly, psychotic neighbor living above you who'll wake you up at night, your car has its own parking spot -- all is right with the universe.

That's the scenario that's been running through my head a lot now that the weather is nicer. A yard. A simple yard. Something I was so used to as a kid has now become a personal Mecca for me. Not to mention a parking spot, my own personal washer/dryer and dishwasher, and the ease of living and lower cost of living that come with moving outside of the Big Apple.

However, I must constantly remind myself that the grass is always greener. It can be really easy to romanticize others' lives, making me constantly pine for what I don't have, never content with what I do.

So I've decided to use this blog as a very public pros/cons list of city living versus country living. You can feel free to weigh in with your own comments if you like, but just know that if you're my family, your comments don't count due to your ulterior motives. (I should show you the real estate ads for spacious homes, sometimes with swimming pools and the like, that my family sends to me from Kentucky. The tragic thing is these near-mansions cost the same if not less than the three bedroom apartments we're scoping out.)

Living in New York City:


*You get to say, "I live in New York City." Come on. Tell me that isn't cool.

*You are surrounded by the best art, music, theater, and dance our country has to offer.

*Life is not boring here. Ever.

*In Brooklyn in particular, you get to be a part of a community. I see the same folks at our library's storytime and at the playground, folks whose kids are becoming Stella's friends, and that's cool

*Piggybacking on that prior comment, you don't feel isolated. I actually feel safer living close to others than secluded in the country.

*You have a much smaller carbon footprint when you live in a city -- public transportation, smaller abodes, etc.

*We're close to the ocean!

*Bronx Zoo. Aquarium. Children's museums. Prospect Park Carousel. It's good to be a kid here.

*It's easier to be in shape here. I walk an average of 3 miles per day. Sure, I could probably do that anywhere, but it's much easier if you don't have a choice.

*The best food in the world is in NYC. Don't even try to argue with me about that one.

*I have an awesome job at an awesome school to go back to one day.

*Dave has a great job here currently.

*If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.


*Geez Louise, is it expensive here! Real estate prices are coming down, but I still can't find a decent 3 bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood for less than $400,000. That's still about $150,000 too much.

*It's crowded.
*Crime and pollution and the like abound.

*It can be dirty, depending on the neighborhood.

*It's almost impossible to find a place with a yard.

*It's hard to find a place with parking. We pay stupid money in parking tickets.

*Simple tasks -- like going to the store, buying clothes, going to the doctor -- are just insanely complicated here due to traffic, public transportation, overcrowding, etc.

*Damn, this place is LOUD. Constantly loud.

*We're REALLY far away from my family and not terrible close to Dave's.

*You live in really close quarters with folks who are sometimes insane.

Living in a more suburban/rural area (Such as the suburbs of Nashville for my family or Montclair, NJ for Dave's):


*Space -- lots of it -- inside and out.

*Yards are normal occurrences.

*Parking spots are normal occurrences.

*Washer/dryers and dishwashers are commonplace.

*People tend to be friendlier.

*It's not crowded and there's less traffic.

*Everything is cheaper.

*Life, in general, is easier and less stressful.
*There's usually less crime.


*I personally can feel very isolated and lonely very fast in the country.

*You usually can't walk to stores or restaurants, and I love walking around.

*I get bored very easily, and there's usually less stuff going on in the country.

*These areas tend to be less diverse, and I really want Stella to grow up around diversity in all its forms.

*You have to take care of that yard and that house that you own. No coop board is there to save you, no landlord will mow your yard for you.

*I get freaked out about people breaking into my place and nobody being around to hear me yell. (I've seen way too many horror movies, it's true.)

*You can't just wake up on a Saturday, flip through Time Out New York, and decide to catch the cheap "They Might Be Giants" concert at Prospect Park.

*You don't get to say, "I live in New York City" at your high school reunion.


Anonymous said...

*Geez Louise, is it expensive here! Real estate prices are coming down, but I still can't find a decent 3 bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood for less than $400,000. That's still about $150,000 too much.Why do you need 3 bedrooms when you have only 1 child? Are you pregnant with a boy? :) Also, I double dog dare you to find a 3 bedroom for $250K in Montclair. (Nashville, sure. But suburban NJ? Not so much.)

*It's crowded.The density of the outer boroughs just seems right to me. Both my neighborhood and yours seem to have a sufficient density to ensure frequent lively interaction, while not being claustrophobic like Manhattan.

*Crime and pollution and the like abound.Abound? New York is not only one of the safest big cities in America, it's also one of the cleanest, due to its far lower concentration of cars.

*It can be dirty, depending on the neighborhood.Sure can. Good thing that neither you nor me live in one of those dirty neighborhoods.

*It's almost impossible to find a place with a yard.Who needs a yard when you have huge, green parks at your disposal?

*It's hard to find a place with parking. We pay stupid money in parking tickets.Then sell your car and use Zipcar when you absolutely need wheels.

*Simple tasks -- like going to the store, buying clothes, going to the doctor -- are just insanely complicated here due to traffic, public transportation, overcrowding, etc.I know the feeling, but it gets better as they get older. In the not-too-distant future, you get to stop playing Sherpa and you're able to treat your kid like the functioning walker she will be.

*Damn, this place is LOUD. Constantly loud.*sigh* Yeah. You're right. Apparently, Paula and I live on the Astoria dragstrip and didn't know it.

*We're REALLY far away from my family and not terrible close to Dave's.Yeah, I know how that feels. I haven't seen my family in over a year now. But my brother, sister, and father are in South Florida, and my mother's in Virginia, so there's nowhere I could go to be near all of them.

*You live in really close quarters with folks who are sometimes insane.I just think you might have had bad luck in this regard. Besides, there are insane people in the suburbs, too. Instead of fighting over noise, you might be fighting over overhanging trees or a fence line or something.

Being a daddy myself, I truly understand the desire for the convenience of the 'burbs. But having grown up there, I can't imagine going back to that kind of stultifying, uncultured boredom. I certainly can't imagine exposing my kid to that. Call me a city dad any day.

gp193 said...

from a casual reader:

My partner and I just left cramped quarters in Manhattan for a huge space in Jersey City (Paulus Hook area, by the water) and it's an ideal combo of urban and suburban.

We're a quick hop to manhattan on the PATH. In our building we have a parking space and a gym, and in our apartment we've got 2 bedrooms, 2 huge baths, giant closets, big kitchen with dishwasher and full-size appliances, and a washer and dryer! No yard but we have a good-size patio and a park is right nearby. It's just great. Definitely quiet, which takes some getting used to, but the city is so close. Plus we can play suburban housewife and drive to target, grocery store, ikea, etc.

So, just telling you there are some decent options to combine country and city. Queens has reasonably-priced places like this too.

I've enjoyed reading about your new parenting adventures!

nbg said...

Seeing as my comment does not bare any weight, there's not much point... :) However, I must post.

I'll just say this. This is my afternoon: Daniel walked home from school, had a snack and we all played outside in the backyard. I came in, did some laundry, and let Bethany and the dog play outside, while I sit at the table with the window open letting the smell of sweet honeysuckles drift in. If I wanted, I could walk to my choice of two grocery stores, or several convenience type stores. In all honestly, we really could live with just one car as both the kid's schools, church, and grocery stores are within walking distance. I live in a modest 1800 square foot home with unfinished basement on about a 1/2 acre lot and our house cost $122,000.

Here's my question to you: How often do you make it to museums, ect? It's usually a special trip, right? I know you could just walk around and decide last minute you were going to pop in to an art museum or something, but with Stella, how often do you actually get to do that? I know the museums, children's museums, theatres, etc... here are not as great as NYC, but they are available... and actually, if you were really considering Nashville, I wouldn't be so quick to write it off as second class in comparison to NYC. Brian and I spent a Sunday afternoon at the art museum downtown (can't remember the name) when they had tons of Picassos... it was lovely!

My main advice would be this: Really look in to a place, before you judge it. Look up the jobs, houses, activities for kids, music, theatre, etc....

I love you and honestly, I just want happiness for you and Stella... no matter where you live :)))))

Randi Skaggs said...

I had a feeling this might become a bit heated. Notice I had pros and cons for both places, y'all. I like them both in different ways -- hence my internal debate.

Fortunately, the decision isn't merely mine, but ours as a family. But please, keep weighing in. You all make great points that I hadn't considered.

OK. We're going to play on the sidewalk for 30 minutes to escape the sounds of my upstairs neighbor dropping a piano on my head.

Kellygirlnyc said...

Good lists! Believe you me, we don't even have kids yet and we're already thinking about this. In semi-response to Jason, I see the need for 3 bedrooms. We have a 2 bedroom and the thought of having a child fit into our current space already makes me want to cry. I know people do it with less. For my sanity and my quality of life and my patience with my child and husband, I would need the extra space. Also, Jason makes a good point about the park, but having a yard means I could certainly keep random things like dog poop and dime bags from being in my private yard, unlike in the park.

I'm also nervous about the proximity of my family (not many of my loved ones loves to come to NYC...)once we have kids, but my parents live in an RV and I'm not going to the other side of the world, so I think it's really great to have such a great support system of friends. I know it's certainly not the same, but seeing you guys do it and etc...I see that it's possible.

One thing to also consider in your pros and cons: friends of ours (who used to live in Manhattan and then moved to San Fran and are now back in Manhattan) reminded me that there are not many places in the world where you can get paid as much for a job as you can in NYC directly because of the cost of living. Yeah, a house in rural America may cost $150,000, but it's being paid with on a salary that might be half as much as you or Dave might make here for the same job. That depresses me.

I would miss the museums and stuff, too, if we ever left. I love being able to spend afternoons there and walking around the city. Thought provoking, Randi. Very thought provoking.

Randi Skaggs said...

Good points, Kelly.

I should add that we're most interested in a 3BR because, someday, we'd like to expand the Brooklyn Baby Empire. And if we're buying, we should think about and plan for that. The exception would be a spacious 2BR with outdoor space. We could work with that.

The salary issue is a good one, but teachers are actually underpaid in NYC, so I might do better elsewhere. But still -- something to think about.

Arrgh. I need easy answers, people!

Kimberly said...

I live in East Tennessee, but lived in Nashville when I was younger. I spent most of my youth in a very small town with no culture whatsoever and it SUCKED. So, I understand the need to have some culture around. Nashville really has a lot of great areas that give you space in the country while being close to the city. Also, I think my favorite place so far to live has been Chattanooga, TN. It's not HUGE, it's nestled in the mountains and is VERY cultured and diversified for the area. They have great parks and public events, an opera/symphony, a theatre company, and lots of things for children. Plus, you can live in the "country" and be downtown in 10 minutes. It's a fabulous place.

Hope you aren't more confused after posting all the pros and cons and receiving so much feedback!! :)

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauren said...

I took out my original comment about Montclair being pricey (though it is) because I read this interesting article in the NYT today about Bloomfield, NJ:


The housing prices are pretty reasonable, though the taxes are really high. Even I'm thinking about it as an option, as my parents live only 1/2 hour away from there ...

rachel leah said...

I grew up in upstate New York, definitely the burbs and there are certainly things that I miss about it. I want a yard and I want a home that I can vacuum at 5am. I have had good luck with neighbors but owning a house with a yard and a swing set is something I want to do some day.

(We have a washer/dryer in our unit and parking right now and those things are invaluable.)

That said, I like where I am right now, too. Our place is not huge, but it is okay for now even with the baby.

One of the biggest benefits I have found in being a city mom is that there is a great support network and so many new moms and so many new mom services that I can take advantage of. The new moms' group at the hospital was really so great for me the first three months of my son's life. I felt like I had a network when things were especially tough. I am grateful to have such a community and still hang with the new moms that I met. In the burbs, without the concentration of people, I may not have found such a group.

It is not that I do not plan ahead, but I am more comfortable with five year plans. Too many factors can change that I cannot control otherwise. So, for now, the city (Hoboken/JC) is working for me. Some day, I may get myself that yard.