A high-rise condo in the heart of the city with all the amenities and breathtaking views within walking distance of everything? A sprawling farmhouse in the country with acres of land and trees and a creek trickling by? A midtown century townhouse oozing character and charm and a stone's throw away from the office? A cozy suburban bungalow with a sprawling backyard and playgrounds and parks and kid-friendly streets?
Do you need to stay near your families, to the town where you were raised? How long of a commute to work can you handle, and how much traffic are you willing to deal with? How much living space do you need? How important is a yard? Do you need to be close to shops and restaurants? How close? What about schools, and parks, and community facilities? And what can you afford?
There are a million questions, a million factors, a million priorities to sift through in making a decision about where to put down roots, raise a family and build a life.
For our family, the decision was a no-brainer. For us, the suburbs is the only place to live and raise a family.
We both grew up in the suburbs - the same suburb, actually - a cozy little small town only a couple of kilometres from the biggest city in the country. It was perfect - safe, friendly, family-oriented. Community-minded. Lots of kids bike riding up and down the streets, neighbourhood barbeques, everyone meeting up on Main Street for ice cream, that sort of thing. I can't imagine a more idyllic childhood, and I want the same for my kids.
A rural lifestyle is completely out of the question for us. While I understand the appeal of living a life of quiet isolation in the country - for some, though definitely not for me - I couldn't imagine raising children there. No neighbourhood barbeques, no park full of kids, no sounds of splashing in the pool or children's laughter from nearby backyards, no get-togethers with the neighbours - because there aren't any neighbours. A bus ride to school instead of a short, familiar walk. Strapping everyone into the car for a trip "into town" every time you need to buy so much as a bag of milk. No neighbourhood kids knocking on the front door to ask if your son can come out to play, no security in the knowledge that if your boy falls off his bike down the street a half-dozen adults who know him will make sure he's ok and get him back to you. I'm sure a childhood out in the country has its benefits, but it's just so far removed from my mental image of what childhood should be, from what my own childhood was, from what I want for my kids' childhoods.
The city lifestyle is definitely something that appeals to me - restaurants, shopping, theatre and nightlife all at your doorstep, endless options for activities and entertainment, everything you could want and need within walking distance of your front door. It's exactly the kind of lifestyle I'd want - if I didn't have kids. The problem with raising children in the city, in my mind, is safety. No matter how good a neighbourhood you live in there's always a bad one within a few blocks.
A city is a big, crazy, congested place - too many people, too much traffic, too many distractions. Too easy to lose sight of a little pair of legs walking alongside you. Too much risk of a tiny hand slipping out of yours and stumbling in front of a speeding taxi. Too many people from all walks of life crowded in on top of one another, leading to too much crime, too much exposure, too much risk of something very bad happening. Too much anonymity, not enough sense of community. Though the idea of a shortened commute and access to everything is uber appealing for a young single or a couple without children it would never be my choice for where to raise my kids.
Suburbia is the ideal for us. This little slice of heaven we've found in Pleasantville couldn't be more perfect if we'd made it to order. Our home is small but perfect and sits in a beautiful yard, fronting a quiet tree-lined street and backing onto a park with a playground. Our neighbourhood is safe and friendly - neighbours visit from yard to yard, kids can bike ride up and down the streets or meet at the park to kick the ball around - everyone knows everyone else and keeps an eye on each other's kids. The school is one of the best in the region and is a five minute walk from our front door.
Our small town isn't really all that small but does an amazing job of keeping that small-town sense of community - organized activities and events for kids and families every holiday, special occasion and long weekend, concerts in the park and movie nights, fairs and festivals and barbeques. Though we have restaurants, shopping, theatres and community centres within walking distance of our home we are also surrounded by biking paths and hiking trails and rivers and trees - and we're still only a twenty minute drive into the city. It's the perfect balance of small-town community and city amenities.
This perfect little Pleasantville we've found is exactly the suburband paradise we want to raise our children in. I can't think of a better place to make our family's memories.