Transitioning From the City to the Suburbs

The day has come and gone already–we moved.  It was not a decision we took lightly, either.  How do you leave the city for the suburbs?  We hemmed, we hawed, we thought about moving to another state completely (didn’t work out), but ultimately, we decided to move to the Chicago suburbs.  “Moving to the suburbs” didn’t become part of my vernacular until I lived in Chicago (I know it’s also common in NYC, but I lived there when I was 23 so it didn’t resonate back then).  Where I grew up, it was just one, big, sprawling suburb–most people I knew lived in one of the surrounding suburbs and that was that.  I’ve lived in Chicago now for a decade and after I had our first baby, I thought to myself, ‘nope, never leaving the city.  My kids are going to be city kids, I love this, I don’t even need a car because I have this Uppababy Vista!”  Well, my baby turned into a toddler and started running and then we had another baby and the stuff accumulated and before we knew it, our spacious 3 bedroom/2 bath condo was overrun.  We lived on the second floor and if you have kids, you know how hard it is to get 2 year old to walk or use light feet–or even use an inside voice.

The city is amazing for children: the classes, parks, diversity, museums, restaurants–we really loved it.  What we didn’t love was the lack of space and storage (strollers take up a lot of room in your shared garage), uncertainty about schooling (I really tried to navigate CPS and was excited about Harry starting preschool there but he wasn’t accepted to any of the several pre-schools I applied to and it was lottery-based…I tried to talk to several people about it and their retort was, “it’ll work out.”  It didn’t.) and crime; I can handle myself but it’s another thing to be worried about your kids safety during the day and to have to deal with something like your stroller being stolen in broad daylight behind a locked fence (they must have really wanted it) . And of course money was a huge factor in this; we knew that in the city, we wanted to live in a certain area (for schools) and also knew we wanted a single-family home (for reasons listed above)–we also knew we didn’t want to overextend ourselves there.

I’ll admit, I’m a little disappointed we didn’t stay in the city; I can’t help but to think I gave up–that I didn’t try hard enough.  Growing up in a rural area (we had horses at our house!), I was determined to live in a big city.  And I knew as a little girl that when the day came, I’d want to have ‘city kids.’  At the time, they (they being people on TV and even those I met in high school) seemed so cool and so much savvier than someone like me–their little bumpkin counterpart.  But now, looking back at my childhood, I think I can say that no matter where you choose to raise your kids, their childhood will be special.  You’ll look back fondly (hopefully, anyway) and feel pangs of nostalgia for a simpler time when people were nicer and the time went by more slowly.  I didn’t give up, I just opened up a different chapter–that I hope our family benefits from.  And if my kids were like me growing up, they, too, can dream about raising their kids in the city some day and I can fill them in on stories of what it was like when they were babies in Chicago.

  • Thanks for sharing Anna! My husband and I have been having this discussion frequently about moving to the suburbs or not. And I find it so hard to picture myself there. I grew up as a city kid and my parents decided to move to ‘burbs later in life it was an odd transition for me. But you are right, there are so many other factors to consider and so excited for you and your family. Plus, I love how your house is turning out!

    • That’s so interesting about how you grew up in the city and your parents are in the burbs now! Did you grow up in Chicago? (and luckily, there’s no wrong decision here 🙂

  • I’m so happy to see this post! My fiancé and I often talk about moving to the suburbs when we’re ready to have children, which suddenly feels so soon. I was raised bumpkin-style (in a town of 2300!), and cherish the memories of small town childhood. I’m sure your kiddos are loving the extra room!

    • It’s crazy how it sneaks up on you! Enjoy the time in the city while you have it! 🙂 . (The kiddos are loving the suburbs so far, though, as I knew they would.)

  • This made me tear up! We’re closing on a house in the suburbs tomorrow after 6 years in our west loop condo. I never thought we’d leave the city either (also wanted to raise city kids), but having our baby (now almost 10 mo) plus 2 dogs in a 2bed condo really changes ones perspective. Plus the crime and cost of getting more space in the city. Thanks for this post, glad to hear that your move has gone well!

    • Good luck with the move! I’m still adjusting (it’s QUIET here) but do really miss the city–but love the space here. Where are you moving?

  • This…we also moved from the city to the suburbs this month for the same exact scenario and reasons as you. My son is now four and it was so heart breaking to see him want to spend some extra time in bed with tears in his yes because he knew it was his last day to sleep in his city bed. He’s 4 and he misses the city as much as we do but it’s worth it when I see him playing in the backyard looking for bugs without our fear of city danger.

    • My 4 year old is loving the space and outdoors but like your son, misses the city and talks about his friends who still live there. Tough balance but I do hope he remembers some things about living in the city! 🙂

  • I just made a similar move for our family. My husband was the one pushing out of the city and I dragged my feet getting out here. But now, I am so excited for our kids to be raised in the suburbs. We live in a neighborhood half a mile from the business of our town, but our house is so quiet. The absolute peace I have letting my kids play outside, expanding their own imagination, learning about the natural world is phenomenal. I don’t have to entertain my children when I’m with them and I don’t feel guilty telling my nanny that the kids will get no screen time when they’re with her. There are endless things to do outdoors! There is space in the house to play. We don’t have to spend money on entertainment. The benefits of taking kids out of the city (as a parent) are sooo good. You’re going to love it!

    • Totally agree! We’ve only been here a few weeks but I love that they can be outside so much. Walking through the woods is a real treat for them 🙂

  • I lived in NYC for 7 years, and have been in Chicago for the past 2 years. We’re thinking about starting a family soon, and I also always saw myself having ‘city kids.’ 🙂 Thanks for your honest look at parenting in Chicago, I know I will be in this boat in a few years and making this tough decision myself. I grew up in a small city and loved my childhood, so staying in a city would be more for me than my future kid(s). Tough adulting decisions! Really appreciative of all these insights, and de-stigmatizing suburb life.

    • So tough! Good luck with your decision and just know, your kids will be fine no matter what because they’ll be in a loving home 🙂

  • I’m in the same transition in San Francisco. Struggling as we are currently packing up and still don’t know exactly where we will be as we’re waiting to sell before making any offers. We know the cities we’re targeting but that’s it. My sons are 7 and 11 and the decision was largely school based. We also have the lottery system and we didn’t “win” for middle school. My oldest is so excited. He hates city life. I’m nervous about losing that culture, restaurant life. But so excited for what’s to come.

    • I definitely miss the restaurants and it’s only been two weeks! But knowing your son is excited for the suburbs gives me a little hope that I made the right choice for the kids.

  • I moved from Washington, DC to the (very close-in) suburbs so that we could afford a single-family home with decent public schools for our kids. I still miss living in D.C. and being able to walk to everything right outside my door, but I LOVE having a yard, being surrounded by trees, a creek, and an awesome bike path, and not having to worry anymore about having my barbecue grill stolen off my porch (which happened in the city in the 5 minutes when I went inside to get the food!) And we can still walk to the train and be downtown in under 20 minutes. It was a good decision! Sending good vibes as you settle in.

    (And we’re bringing our kids to Chicago for a week this summer for their first visit–soooooo excited!)

    • That sounds like the perfect suburb! We’re only 12 miles from the loop but it seems like it’s a world away. And yes, we had a stroller stolen from our fenced in condo BACK yard -_-

  • This resonates with me so much. I moved out of the city a year ago (NYC) not just because of kids, which I am only having my first this year but by being fed up by it all! Not enough space, too much noise, etc. I felt like it wasn’t right for me, but I also definitely felt like I “gave up” in a way. However, it’s been a good transition and ultimately I think the right decision. It’s nice to hear your own reflection on it!

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  • My husband and I are currently living in Lincoln Park with our 18 month old and are JUST starting to look at places in the north shore! It’s super scary- I truly can’t imagine leaving! It’s nice to hear so many other people have similar reservations. Thank you!

    • You’re definitely not alone! It’s been an adjustment for sure but I am ultimately liking it. The kids love it and it’s a great community to raise a family…and I still get my city fix a couple times a week (was just there today with Teddy!).

  • What did you do when your son didn’t get into the lottery schools? Applying now and not sure my plan if we don’t get into one.

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