Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Urban vs. Suburban Living

I'm a city girl.  I was born in Toronto and have lived within a 2.5 mile radius my entire life.  As a young child I dreamed about living in the country.  More specifically, I wanted to live on a farm in the country breathing fresh country air and riding my own horse everyday after school.  But by the time I was a teenager I couldn't imagine living outside the city though.  That only amplified when I was in my twenties.  And though I still love all the city has to offer, I can see advantages to suburban living.

So, even though it's nearly 300 miles away, I feel like our kids are fortunate to have a second home in what I joke is the country but Jen adamantly argues is the suburbs.  Jen's parents still live in her childhood home and several times a year we're able to go back there and visit.  Extended visits, like the one we had last week, are particularly nice.

As soon as the kids wake up they're begging to go outside.  We try to distract them indoors until the sun has warmed up the air a little bit and the grass isn't quite so wet with dew.

They're happy to play in the yard, but the country-loving girl in me always tries to encourage them to walk down to the nearby park to visit the pond and "forest."  The promise of being able to feed the geese and ducks the heels of our bread usually gets the sometimes obstinate toddler to comply with my requests.  Once the crusts have all been gobbled up or dissolved into the water we make our way through the woods on the far side of the pond.  The Bean likes picking up pine cones along the way.  Sprout still gets carried most of the time to speed things along but also so that she doesn't trip over roots or get poked by the twigs on low branches.

I sometimes imagine how different their lives would be if they had this open access to the outdoors all the time.  I think they would love it.  But then we drive to WalMart and I see man + woman = marriage bumper stickers and people dressed in head-to-toe camo and I know that someplace like this wouldn't be the best home for us.  We need the acceptance/indifference of other city-dwelling folks.  The balance we have of a home in the city and a home-away-from-home in the country seems to be a pretty good one for our family.

I'm curious to know where other people live and how you decided on settling there.  Feel free to comment, if you're so inclined.


  1. I think there are bumper stickers like that (and the people that stick them on their cars) anywhere you go. I don't think you just get that in the country and not the city. I grew up in the country and the people I grew up with there are very supportive of me and my family.

    We live in a small but growing town. We are surrounded by country, though. We're about an hour from Toronto but we're not in Toronto. We like having easy access to the city without having to live there.

    Despite the fact that we live in a small town, we have encountered almost no problem with being a two-mom family. We are surrounded by supportive people. Our kids' daycares and schools have been nothing but wonderful and welcoming. Same with our neighbours and people in our community. I wouldn't necessarily count on the city being better in this regard, although of course there may be places that aren't as welcoming to families like ours and there will be a few nasty folks everywhere.

    1. Well said. I have actually experienced more homophobia in Toronto than out in Ajax. I had homophobic doctors twice in Toronto. The thing about the big city is that there is a variety of people in it. People from small places that moved in, people from other countries with different's a mixing pot of everything. I found that I experienced a more welcoming attitude when we moved to Ajax compared to everywhere else we had lived.

    2. I wasn't trying to say that all people who live in more rural places have homophobic views, we have quite a number of very supportive friends and family in Jen's hometown. It does seem that people who have those views are more likely to share them there than what we've noticed here. That could be a suburban vs. urban thing, or it could be an American vs. Canadian thing, or it could be something else or some combination of factors. It certainly wasn't meant to be a generalization about all surburban/rural-living folks!

  2. Looks like a beautiful place. Now, suburban or smaller city living doesn't mean people don't accept families like ours. It really depends on the place.

    Angele's from Ottawa (mid sized city) and I'm from St. Catharines (small city) and we both moved to Toronto for school/work. Our jobs kept us here. We lived in the city and then slowly inched out to the burbs. We now live in Ajax, the suburbs of Toronto but also a small city of its own. Personally, I'm glad we did. We lucked out and both of our jobs are not downtown but when mine was, I simply took the train. It didn't take me longer than it did taking the subway from our old place in Toronto to a job downtown.

    What I like about living out here:
    - close enough to the city when I feel like being in the city or want to attend special events
    - more house for less money
    - I feel like there is less traffic and more space. I always feel cramped/rushed in Toronto.
    - In Ajax the diversity is amazing so I don't lose out on that by being out of the city. In some small places, I hate that it's mostly white.
    - Living by the lake and some amazing parks. I love the ability to be outdoors and enjoy nature.
    - Kids playing outdoors on our street. Neighbours borrowing sugar from each other. Of course these things were present in North York/Scarborough too but not when I lived downtown...I felt isolated.

    Things I miss:
    - Not having to take the car for most outings. I sometimes enjoyed being able to walk to the store/shop.
    - Sometimes I miss the hustle and bustle. Sometimes.
    - easily hoping on the TTC to go places

    1. I can definitely see advantages to living outside the city, and you outlined some of the ones Jen and I have discussed (in conversation, not because we've planned on moving at this point).

      Where Jen is from is 98% white, and I'd really miss the diversity if we moved somewhere so ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

  3. Forgot to add that Sprout's hair looks so red! And I love the picture of the Bean in that gorgeous tree.

  4. As you know, I'm from the same area as Jen, and I've had the very same thoughts you've had re: the people there. I love the beautiful scenery - the woods, the river, the creeks for kids to play in. It's magical for children and I loved growing up there. But I couldn't handle the back-woods folks and their frame of mine for more than a week at a time, nowadays.

    I choose city living because I love having everything we could possibly want or need in our own back yard. Diversity and opportunity is so abundant here.

    As for true suburbs? Most depressing place for me. Big box stores, driving everywhere, cookie cutter homes...not for me.

    1. I hate cookie cutter homes too. I have to admit that I only fall for the older homes. Our neighbourhood is from the 60's and our house was expanded in a unique layout. I like unique homes, space and big trees.

  5. I grew up in a place with those sorts of bumper stickers. I yearned for a city my whole life and have lived in a city since graduating from college. It's startling for me to go to my childhood town and see conservative messages and worse screaming from lawn signs! If I knew of a liberal, diverse rural place maybe I'd *think* about relocating...

  6. I too, am a city girls through and through. I've lived in cities all of my life. I LOVE the country though…for visits. And while I can see the appeal of moving to the suburbs, I don't think I could give up everything Toronto has to offer; the diversity, the culture, restaurants, activities. It might sound silly but food is extremely important to me. There are many places I would not be able to get Toronto's world class restaurants and shopping options. I also absolutely love the acceptance/indifference of the gay community. Most people see my family and immediately assume that that is what we are, a family. At every restaurant we went to on our recent trip to Florida, we were asked if we wanted separate bills or servers took the liberty of bringing separate bills without even asking. In a preschool class of 14 children, the girls are not the only ones with two moms.

    Sure, the burbs has space on its side and nothing can compare to the serenity of sitting in nature beside a quiet lake, but the city offers those things too in their own way. Riverdale Farm gets me every time -- I can take the girls to a farm, albeit a small one, by driving 10 minutes down the road and I live in the heart of the city!

    Our former cottage in Muskoka reminds me a bit of your description of Jen's parents' area. I desperately miss it because it was my magical place as a child. As an adult, it became my escape. I always thought that the girls would experience that too, which makes me miss it even more. I'm sure we will get it again one day though.

    I think its a tough call and everyone makes the best choices for their families. The city just happens to be the best place for us :)

  7. I'm surprised you see those bumper stickers in a country that entirely allows same sex marriage. But I guess when it happens in the US, it'll be the same. Anyway, I prefer to live in the burbs next to a city. I used to live in a much more urban area than we do now, but that was our choice. And sometimes it's hard, but there are pros and cons to every choice. It just makes you appreciate visits to those other places more I think. There's no wrong choice unless you're miserable ;)

  8. We're in the beach in toronto-- we love it since it kind of gives us the best of both worlds! We are a block and a half from the lake, and parks and yet I am 6 km from the downtown core (where I work). I too sometimes have thoughts about how nice it would be to have more space, but we have been so lucky with schools etc here. We also live in such a wonderful community and it is so gay positive that its been wonderful for both us and the kids. There are 4 other queer-led households on our tiny little street alone, and 2 of us have toddlers! and my son has 4 other queer families in his grade... I have happily foresaken more space for less commute... I think what's important though is that you find a little corner of the world that works for you and build a life within it, suburb, city or otherwise! There are definitely pros and cons to both :)