Many of you have asked about whether I like living in our apartment in the city or our house in the suburbs better. Obviously, I feel very fortunate that we get to experience both, but it’s an interesting question to explore. It’s something I ask Mazzy and Harlow to answer a lot as well. Kids are fickle; they might change their minds.
I used to worry that once the kids got a taste of suburban living, they’d question our decision to remain in an urban area for the majority of the year. Why would we cram ourselves into such a small space, if we had the option to spread out? Why would we plot out routes using public transportation when a car could get us directly there? Wasn’t playing hide and seek much better in a two story house than in a three room apartment? I mean— how many times can you hide in the shower before it stops being any fun????
All good questions.
I thought the only way to truly compare was with visual aides. Are you ready for some side-by-side comparisons?
While our city view is nothing short of spectacular (it’s the main selling point of our apartment), our view in the ‘burbs does not suck either. In fact, the view is why we fell in love with the house too. It’s got a creek with two swans that live in the tall grass across the way and drift by multiple times a day. There is a family of egrets that goes fishing right there too. It’s like watching the Nature Channel out there.
Yet…how do you compare any of that to the Empire State Building? Especially when it lights up like a rainbow during Pride Week? I’m calling this one a draw.
Our kitchen in the city is about the size of a closet. Not even a large closet. It’s not even large enough to put down tiles so that it has different flooring from the rest of our apartment. Two people can fit in there at once, but they cannot move around each other. You can’t wash dishes and open the fridge at the same time. You can’t cook on the stove and put dishes in the dishwasher at the same time. We have so few cabinets, we store all our pots and pans in the oven.
As for the house? The kitchen might be a relic from the ’80s with the first ever microwave and a cat door cut out of a cabinet, but it is bright and white with counter space galore and so many cabinets, we don’t even know what to put in all of them.
In the city, we do not have a pool. So. I guess that’s the end of that discussion.
Let’s see…wading in a public fountain in Washington Square Park trying not to think about who or what else has stepped in there in the past 24 hours? Or the actual ocean? Hmmmmmmmm…..
In the city, I go to an actual office a few blocks away from my apartment. In the burbs, I work from home at my kitchen table. That goes okay until I have to pick up the kids from camp at 4pm. Then I try to work while they are at home but, so far, that has proven impossible. Especially when they steal my computer to watch their videos on YouTube.
It might seem like driving in a car directly from Point A to Point B is preferable to walking and public transportation, but I have to disagree. I do not like driving. Carseat straps are the bane of my existence. Also, why are my kids always hungry the second they sit in a car? This is does not happen when we are walking in the city or riding the subway. I think it must be a sudden boredom thing.
Also, every summer at the house, I notice my weight creeps up and I believe it is because I am doing way less walking.
Okay. So, while we are able to play numerous games and activities in the house, in multiple rooms, the only real place to play in the apartment is in the living room. You have to be creative to find space to play. In the above left photo, Harlow is standing in what my kids call “the store.” It’s about a foot of space between our side table and the book shelf. Long ago, Mazzy put a wooden cash register on the table and when people are sitting on the couch, my girls will sell you items from the shelves behind them.
While playtime creativity can be interpreted as a plus for a small space, our house has an entire room for toys that has nothing to do with our main living space. That’s a fact. No interpretation necessary.
Having any sort of outdoor space in the city is considered a total coup in Manhattan. YOU HAVE A BALCONY???? Friends will ooooh and ahhhh when they see the glass doors off our living room. “Yes, it wraps around,” I get to say smugly. “So we have both Northern and Southern exposure.” Still, nothing really beats the ability to send your kids into the backyard on their own without the fear of them falling several stories to the ground. Also, a few square feet of balcony doesn’t take up nearly as much playtime as an entire yard with a pool, a dock and a swing set.
While their room at the summer house is a little more spacious and definitely has less stuff crammed in it, the apartment has bunk beds which accomplishes two major things. 1) Mazzy and Harlow don’t have the ability to climb all over each other when they should be trying to go to sleep and 2) You can drape a sheet down from Mazzy’s bed and have the easiest-to-build fort ever.
You can defrost frozen waffles and pour a bowl of cereal pretty much anywhere so rating breakfast has nothing to do with food. It’s more about the girls’ ability to fit their plate, their cup and their iPad (yes, they often watch their iPads during breakfast) without encroaching on their sister’s turf.
As I mentioned previously, in the city, pretty much everything happens in one room. Eating, TV watching, play time, etc. Sometimes all at once. In the house, someone can be drinking coffee in the kitchen and someone can be playing Barbies in the den and it’s like they are living two completely different lives. That my friends is heaven. And for everybody who asks how we keep our living room couches so white in the house, it’s because the kids don’t really use that room. They prefer the den which has the TV and the toys.
Yep. In the house, we have a den for TV watching and toys. It’s even around a corner so that you can’t see the chaos in that room when you enter the house, giving people the false impression that we keep a tidy home. Oh, to be able to hide a mess. We don’t have that option in our apartment unless we invited guests to hang out with us in our building lobby.
One of the issues about playdates in the city is that they usually need to happen out of the home. Apartments are too small for your own children, let alone someone else’s. So there’s coordination and safety issues and there usually needs to be more than one adult involved. Then there’s the summer house, where I can bring my kids over to Seri’s house and we just toss them into the basement or throw them outside to fend for themselves.
Fashion in the summer house leaves something to be desired. For one thing, during the week, the girls go to camp where they are supposed to wear shorts and sneakers. Mazzy is fine with this but Harlow is not. I don’t mind if she wears dresses except that everything they wear to camp gets destroyed because the ground is mostly dirt. Their clothes are so filthy after one day of camp that the dirt does not come fully out in the wash. So, I make Harlow wear the cheapest and oldest dresses we have, even if they are a few sizes too small.
Our neighborhood in the suburbs has lots of space to ride a bike, go for a jog or scoot around. It’s quiet and peaceful with lots of trees and pretty houses to wish were your own. On the other hand, the city is loud, crowded and kind of smelly sometimes. Plus, you have to be really vigilant with all the cars and bikes whizzing by, whereas you could walk for over a mile at the house without ever encountering a moving car.
Still, I love the action of the city. I love that the people you see and the things you hear are forever changing. You can pick so many different routes to walk from Point A to Point B that there is always an opportunity for a new adventure. You could explore our neighborhood in the city every day for a year and still discover something new. Plus, there are pizza shops, ice cream parlors, one-of-a-kind boutiques, dive bars, juice bars, coffee shops, 24 hour diners…should I go on?
This one is no contest.
On the one hand, grocery shopping in the city is a lot simpler. You pick up a few necessary items at a corner bodega on your way home from work. Only what you can carry. You order your staples for the week from Fresh Direct. There is no real time spent food shopping. After all, you’re ordering take-out most of the time.
But, there is something to be said for huge grocery stores. The options! The snack size bags! The bulk items! The carts with the cars on the front! Grocery shopping is an experience all on its own, and because you’ve got a much bigger kitchen and fridge, you can actually shop for more than a week at a time.
Well, seeing how the only time we use the stairs in the city is when the elevator is out and we have to walk up 12 flights to get home…
I think the entire reason we got the summer house was because we could not fit one more thing in our apartment. Our closets are a disaster. And not even the kind of disaster you can fix with an Elfa System. I know because we’ve tried. I think when I first opened up the empty closets in our house, a bright light appeared and angels sang inside.
You know my family. We love dessert. In the city, we’ve got Black Tap shakes, Big Gay Ice Cream, Dun-well Doughnuts, Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes and so many more. The best dessert option we’ve found at the house is the ice cream truck, who now knows I have interested children at my house and when they are most likely to be playing outside. I much prefer announcing that we’ll be going out for dessert (always met with an enthusiastic and satisfying “YAY!!!!!!”) than being told the ice cream is here; then sighing and saying “oh, fine.”
On the left, Harlow and I are walking on the rooftop terrace of the Whitney Museum, after seeing the Calder exhibit, creating a fabric project in their children’s art studio and walking through an interactive installation entitled Tropicalia by Brazilian artist Helio Oiticaca. On the right, we are at an outdoor concert in the local park listening to an Eagles Cover Band.
So there you have it. Counting it all up, the burbs win.
BURBS: 12, CITY: 8
Although to be fair, I didn’t do a take-out food comparison which would obviously move it from 12-9… You know what? It doesn’t matter, because this series of comparisons doesn’t take emotion or well-being into account. I don’t care how big my backyard is or how much closet space I have…
WINNER = CITY
I mean, it’s great to relax and have a change for two months of the year in the ‘burbs, but in the city, I’ve got more to do and I feel more alive. The city wins because I’m happier there. And you know what? The kids agree. They might be fickle but on this question they never waver— they pick the city every time.
In fact, when we drove into the city the other day for the weekend, Harlow started singing from the backseat.
“My home!!! My beaut-i-ful home!!!!”
We might have been passing graffiti and garbage and sitting in midtown traffic, but we like it there and that’s where we will stay.