City Slicker or Suburban Soccer Mom?

by Samantha on June 30, 2011

“Urban life cannot be replicated” state those who have a penchant for fresh lattes from the corner Starbucks on a lazy Sunday morning. A five minute walk will cure last night’s hangover with that first sip of java, tasted just a few minutes after rolling out of bed. Parents who plead more mundane reasons for fatigue such as interrupted sleep due to a feverish and demanding child still need their daily hit of Joe as well. No worries, their double mocha latte is waiting for them as well, just a hop, skip and a jump from home. It’ll be ready, just as soon as they saunter a couple of steps down the street to their favorite coffee shop. Such is life in the big city.


Image courtesy of http://brownstonecambridge.wordpress.com
There’s no place like home, especially when home includes a sprawling square footage of property that includes three or four bathrooms (the kids have their own), a family room, finished basement that includes a full recreation area, wet bar and pool table, and a master bedroom that is evocative of the palaces at Versailles. The sprawling expanse that is the backyard of such residences can easily accommodate the neighbors, their friends and their families. Barbecues or pool parties are the name of the game because space is not a problem, so hey – why not? Said home’s walk-in closet is the size of some city homes’ bedrooms. No joke.

Image courtesy of www.praisehouston.com
City vs suburbs. Urban vs. suburban.To move or not to move. That is the question.

Is it any wonder that we all get our backs up about this topic, regardless of which side of the city limits we live on? People can get downright nasty when they talk about the merits of each location.

More recently, the topic has become top of mind as (in my case) two “terrible twos” makes one crave for more space – if only to provide a sanctuary to run away from the noise and chaos for a fleeting moment.Having 5,000 kids makes one think long and hard about one’s living arrangements, that’s for sure.

In speaking with various parents, it has become very clear that there are definitely two camps of home devotees out there, and they are very passionate about their choices.The city lovers love their way of life, and cite the following as reasons for their refusal to leave their respective urban enclaves:

  • The ability to walk to their favorite restaurant, coffee shop or movie theater
  • The ability to get by without a car
  • The sense of community resulting from living in close proximity to your neighbors
  • The “cool” factor

Those living in their suburban paradises wouldn’t dream of life in the big city and embrace the space provided by the nether regions of the city limits. While space is clearly one of the key reasons that many families decide to move to the suburbs, there are other factors as well:

  • More affordable housing costs
  • The perception of a more “safe” living environment for the family, particularly children
  • The opportunity to have a newer and in some people’s estimation, a “nicer” home
  • Peace and quiet – all night raves are less common beyond the city limits
The Urbanites vs. the Suburbanites may sound like a “B” movie from the ’50′s but the two camps are very real. And camps they are. Ask any dweller in either area how they feel about their choice of residence and you will likely get a passionate discourse on the merits of their particular area code. Similarly, they often slip in a not-so-subtle “dig” at those who don’t live in their chosen part of town. Hence, comments such as “I can’t imagine living in such a small place with all of my kids,” or “It’s a great house, lots of space, but boy is it ugly!” (I’ve heard both of these comments regarding choice of residence). What gives?

We all make choice that we feel are best for us and our families, but despite this truism, people still get their backs up about those who choose to make a decision that does not jive with our own. I know I’ve been guilty of this at times, in spite of myself. Is it human nature to do this? Is it a subconscious way of making peace with ourselves about a decision that we have made that we are, perhaps, not altogether completely comfortable with?
Many urban dwellers would give up their tiny digs for a bigger living area, but just can’t for a variety of reasons, including proximity to work, lack of a vehicle and/or resources to purchase a new one,  financial considerations or other reasons.

I know of many friends who have moved to the suburbs purely due to the need for more space, a limited pool of financial resources and perhaps, a new baby on the way. Many did so begrudgingly, not wanting to cross what they saw as that defining line that labeled them as a Soccer Mom, Suburbanite, or (in their eyes) worse.

Why are we so sensitive about the three digits that precede our phone number? It’s as if something as simple as this defines our very being. Ditto for someone’s zip code or postal code. What gives?
Perhaps it’s human nature to want to define and label those we encounter and heck – determining someone’s worth based on their proximity to the downtown core makes a lot of sense doesn’t it (insert sarcasm here)?
Furthermore, there is often a faint odor of superiority when those who want to convey their seemingly correct choice of residence discusses the poor folks in the _____ (insert the word “city” or “suburbs” here).
Each location is valid. We all make choices that we feel are best for our families. Yet when others do the same, e.g. deciding where to live, we feel that we can denigrate their decision with no consideration to the factors that led to their choice. And so the war between the city and the suburbs continues. Unnecessarily.
City or suburbs? Urban or suburban? What’s your choice and why? 
How do you feel about those who live in the City or the Suburbs? 

Not exactly “City vs Suburbs,” more like “City vs Country” but I used to love this show. Food for thought, anyway…




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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawnnita's Inner Alfalfa July 1, 2011 at 12:53 am

Very interesting post. I've always wanted to live in the city but I've always been a rural resider. I do think about what life would be like being able to have my "first sip of java, tasted just a few minutes after rolling out of bed."

I even think that when my kids are grown and gone from home that I will take one year and live in the deep inner city just to see what it was like.

Maybe my husband will welcome the vacation! ;) Great post

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Shawnnita's Inner Alfalfa July 1, 2011 at 12:53 am

Very interesting post. I've always wanted to live in the city but I've always been a rural resider. I do think about what life would be like being able to have my “first sip of java, tasted just a few minutes after rolling out of bed.”

I even think that when my kids are grown and gone from home that I will take one year and live in the deep inner city just to see what it was like.

Maybe my husband will welcome the vacation! ;) Great post

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Holly Ann July 1, 2011 at 3:13 am

I live in the Suburbs of Vegas. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I have the "typical" suburban family life most of the time, but I can enjoy the city life for a night or two if I'd like to pretty easily. The bigger argument I always hear is city vs. country. My husband grew up in a tiny blink-you-miss-it town in the deep south. His family loved it there, but I couldn't stand it. I'm just a city girl at heart I guess. But I understand that they are not and that's ok. :)

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Samantha July 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm

@Shawnnita's Inner Alfalfa Hi Shawnnita, there is something to be said about the convenience of living close to amenities such as coffee shops and the like, but I suspect that there are as many negative aspects about living in a particular location as there are positive. That's what makes it so difficult when making that choice. As well, it depends on where one is in their life, their family needs, etc. These change over time and people who say they would never move often do, in spite of themselves.
Glad you liked the post and thanks for commenting :)

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Samantha July 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm

@Holly Ann Hi Holly, sounds like you really do have the best of both worlds – Vegas by day, peace by night :) I have friends as well from smaller towns who can't stand the din of the big city but I guess it's what you're used to. I like the convenience of being able to get whatever I need whenever I need it, but there is definitely an allure to small towns.
Thanks for your comment!

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championm2000 July 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I have always been a suburban/country girl, and I love the space, fresh air, and trees. I won't say it's better than city life, but it's what I know.

I have always wanted to be wealthy enough to have a place in both. A city apartment for when I am craving a bit more excitement, convenience, and entertainment and a country abode for lazy summer afternoon cook-outs, kids riding their bikes in the cul-de-sac, and the smell of fresh cut grass.

I want to raise my children to appreciate both. Of course, then I want them to live right down the street so I can see them all the time :-)

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Samantha July 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

@championm2000 Hi Melissa,
I'm of the same mind and I think it's fairly common to want it all. There are definitely merits to each location – I guess one just needs to determine what works best for their family situation at any given point in time. That's where the conflict comes in, I guess – as well as the snide remarks, in some instances. I guess we can't really "have it all" when it comes to where we live. Oh, and I'd like my kids close by as well. Not sure that they'd agree, though ;)
Thanks for your comment!

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Audrey's mom July 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I am torn. The space to run and play for the girls while allowing me room to garden sounds nice. At the same time I would love to be able to walk to a local grocery, restaurant, store and be very much in the middle of everything. The girls have recently expressed a desire to take the city bus. Problem is that in our city the buses are difficult on our side of town. I think we will end up staying (sort of) suburban.

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Audrey's mom July 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I am torn. The space to run and play for the girls while allowing me room to garden sounds nice. At the same time I would love to be able to walk to a local grocery, restaurant, store and be very much in the middle of everything. The girls have recently expressed a desire to take the city bus. Problem is that in our city the buses are difficult on our side of town. I think we will end up staying (sort of) suburban.

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Melanie July 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I'm a City girl all the way. Although I do get space envy when I visit my friends' places in the 'burbs. I just can't handle long commutes or the feeling of isolation in the suburbs. I like feeling the breath and life of the city.

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Samantha July 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm

@Audrey's mom Hi Kris,

It's always a struggle, isn't it? I guess that's part and parcel of parenting – feeling torn about the decisions that we have to make. Follow your gut instincts and make the change when and if you are comfortable. We all have to do what's best for our families.
Thanks for commenting :)

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Samantha July 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

@Melanie Hi Melanie,
I envy the space of the suburbs as well – what I wouldn't give for that main floor powder room – but have been spoiled by the city life. I love walking down to the corner coffee shop and seeing my neighbors and friends. Thought it's a double-edged sword as you don't always want to see people every time you step out the front door – which happens often when you live in the city.
Thanks for your comment!

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Carrie Fairy Thoughts July 2, 2011 at 9:27 pm

I just wanted to say that I see pros and cons in both….I guess its up to the eye of the beholder, what they can afford, how many children they have, school systems….

I don't think anything bad or good of someone because of where they live…

So, I can't vote on this one. But I did want to reply! :)

Carolyn

I was wondering if people here would be willing to pass around the information I posted on my blog yesterday??

Its about my niece Emma Joy. She turned 3 years old yesterday. She was born with HLHS. Basically a half of a heart. She has gone through 2 open heart surgeries already. And one more to go in August. Its coming up fast.

What we really want is prayer and good thoughts sent her way. But if people could find it in the heart to send letters, care packages, or even donations. That would be great. Just to help ease the stress on my sister Liz and her family.

I am calling it the Emma Joy Project and I hope it will get spread around like wildfire!!! :)

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Sorry I haven't been around for a while. I have been in a hospital in CA.

Hope to re-connect with some of you…and meet some more people! I haven't been blogging much lately either. I need to start again!

Thank you all so much for your time!

Carolyn Sella Johnson "Carrie"

http://carriefairythoughts.blogspot.com/2011/07/emma-joy-project.html

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Samantha July 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm

@Carrie Fairy Thoughts Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for your reply.
I'm sending positive thoughts to your niece – hope everything works out well.
Thanks for commenting.

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Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) July 7, 2011 at 4:45 am

I live in a city which is basically in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC Canad. But it's still a city and very expensive so I only have a townhouse and it costs far too much.

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Samantha July 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm

@Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) Hi Susan,
Sounds like you have the best of both worlds re: city and suburbs. It would be great that the cost wasn't a factor, though. Thanks for your comment!

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Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

You didn't happen to mention one of the main things we love about having our kid in the city: the museums, parks, and trains and ferries. The museums usually have at least one free day a month, and the parks and train and ferry watching are always free. We have 3 parks within four blocks and for a few dollars we can take a vintage streetcar to watch the ferries.

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Samantha March 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm

There is definitely a wealth of entertainment – both paid and free – in the city. We too enjoy the free museum days as well as visits to local parks and very inexpensive ferry rides. There's nothing like city living, that's for sure, in terms of the variety of things to do with the family. There are things for kids in the suburbs as well; it's just a lot more difficult to walk there or take transit on the spur of the moment, as it is downtown. Thanks for commenting :)

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Kelly October 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm

How timely. We just moved this week from the city to the country after 14 years of urban living. I loved the city and all it had to offer. As the kids got older, though, I craved more space, less hassle (oy with the fighting for a parking spot) and I feared my kids were growing up way too quickly (they saw and heard a lot of grown up stuff in the city). I get the whole “wanting it all” thing – I’m that way, too. But it’s impossible to have everything. I think you just have to figure out what matters most to you at the moment and then trust your gut. (For the record, my husband and I plan to move back to an apartment in the city when the kids go off to college.)

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Samantha October 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

It’s never a perfect scenario, is it? The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. As well, what is best for you at one point in your life might not necessarily be best for you at another point. There are so many factors at play. The good news is that we’re not bound by any one location (hopefully) and like you, there is always the option to change our minds and move to where our hearts guide us. Thanks for commenting :)

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