Why I Left the City for the Suburbs to Raise My Family
By Jayani Perera
Photo by @fallingawake1000 via Twenty20
Jun 5, 2018
Looking around me, surrounded by greenery and the squealing laughter of children while sitting in one of four parks a short walk or bike ride from our home, I never would have imagined I’d be here. Not specifically ‘here’ as in this phase of life with kids, but literally here, living in suburbia, with a mega supermarket and Walmart less than a five-minute drive away. In fact, I recall relishing in the ease of working close to home in the city, a breezy 15 minutes away — 20, if I met my hubby halfway for ice cream. The beautiful sun would beam down on my long evening ahead without worries of commuter train times or late Montessori fees taking up any precious space in my thoughts. Instead, I had room to wonder about which burger joint on King Street East really did have the best patties. Such was life when I lived in the “core” — as I often referred to downtown Toronto — pre-kids.
When we lived in the city, my husband and I built a lifestyle centred around the things that mattered most to us — an active social network, our gym and yoga studio, cool restaurants, innovative bars, never-ending weekend events, late-night coffee shops, galleries and even our workplaces. Everything was just a walk or short ride away on public transit.
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But then we decided to start a family. I knew our lifestyle would change, but I was completely unaware of the multitude of ways it would be impacted and how our priorities would shift. With baby came a world of all-encompassing concerns that boggled my mind — sleep-training, daytime routines, which solids foods to introduce first, etc. Add to the list childcare.
I soon learned, post baby’s birth, that I was about six months too late to the waiting-list game for daycares, and while adding my daughter to waiting lists in the city, I was baffled to learn the cost of childcare mimicked that of a second mortgage. Even if we did get a spot, I started to wonder how we could swallow that cost. And not just financially but also theoretically: think of all the things we could do for that very same money! The alternate option? The 'burbs. Closer to childcare that was almost half the cost, but at what price?
If it takes a village, it doesn’t hurt being closer to said village.
The idea of moving to the suburbs away from the bustling life we’d come to know and love was a hard one to swallow. Would we go from walking everywhere to endless driving? Would we have to plan our outings rather than just discovering events at every turn? Would we want to choke on the cookie-cutter chain restaurants available for a night out? Yes, yes and yes.
Having grown up in the 'burbs, where my parents and much of my extended family still live, I had no misgivings that our lifestyle would change dramatically. I knew what to expect and I figured that it was better to head down the highway to the suburbs with my eyes wide open.
After our move, we were relieved to find childcare was a lot more affordable and that waiting lists were less than a year long at some of our prime picks. But as our family has grown, we have found other surprising perks as well. Those megamalls (which I once detested) are actually quite convenient for grabbing stuff that is so useful to our growing family (think diapers, mum mums, craft supplies, etc.). Also, there are many parks, paths for biking and even farms for seasonal fruit-picking either a walk or very short drive away! While the adventures are different than those we would have in the city, for our little discovering wanderers, they’re exciting adventures nevertheless, and it feels good to get outside and see stretches of greenery all around. As predicted, though, there are predominantly chain restaurants in my particular area when we want to go out for dinner, but on the other hand, there are also endless options of really good takeout no matter what kind of food we’re in the mood for, and for right now, takeout works better for us more often than eating out does anyways.
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But the biggest advantage to being in the 'burbs? That turned out to be one that, while considered, I hadn’t weighted properly: the support of family. If it takes a village, it doesn’t hurt being closer to said village. For us, the extra hands for babysitting, the meals dropped off here and there, the family gatherings where the kids get to know their cousins and extended family, and just a network to share love with our kids while exposing them to our culture, has been a very valuable advantage to suburban life.
The city versus suburbs question is not a new one and while there are some common reasons most list for either side of the argument, at the end of the day, it’s a personal choice. And for me, that was related to how my “core” changed with a shift in my own lifestyle and priorities. This is not to say that I don’t feel pangs of FOMO when reading up on the city’s latest exciting events or hearing about them from friends who still live downtown, but I make an effort to get into the city with the family every so often. On those visits, I relish in the spontaneity of discovering a diverse event around the corner, checking out a nice restaurant that I read about, or getting to every destination for an entire day by walking. And I love it every time. Sometimes I even wonder if we would ever move back; perhaps as time passes, and the kids grow, and our priorities and lifestyle change again, I’ll be taking the subway to get home once more. But for now, after a Saturday in the city with my kids, hearing their excitement of picking a seat and riding the train back home to the suburbs, I feel like, for us, we’re going in the right direction.