When we first moved to the city, well-meaning people would invariably start humming a similar tune. “Wow, what a great experience! I wish I had done that when I was young,” or, “That’s a wonderful thing to do before you settle down and have kids.” It seems to be a well-known understanding that once you have kids, you obviously move out of the city and buy a home in the ‘burbs (or at least rent an apartment there. Just get out of the city. Get out.)
Actually, that was the original plan. I grew up in the East Bay, and after meeting my husband and living down south for several years, hopping from apartment to apartment as circumstances changed, we moved to the Bay with one goal in mind. Finally set down some roots. Buy a house. Paint the walls. Decorate it with furniture that actually matched. Have a backyard and a loyal canine. (Side note: Let’s be clear. I grew up in the suburbs and I had a fantastic childhood. No amount of city living will convince me otherwise).
Pat wanted to live in SF for a few months before we started looking for a house. Just for fun. As a teacher I was on summer break, so, “Okay,” I said, “But only for three or four months. I want it to feel like study-abroad. A vacation.” I wasn’t a city girl. (Turns out, you can’t get a three-month lease in this city. Or probably any city). It took about two weeks before my whole perspective on life began to change. Everything I thought I wanted out of life was being called into question. It’s now two years and a baby later and here we are. Doing something socially irresponsible and loving (most) every minute of it.
Here’s why raising a baby in the city is actually really awesome:
1. The Moms Network– Before I had Reagan, I expected it would probably be more difficult to meet other moms while living here. And at first, that seemed to be true. Until I tapped into the motherload (ha). I joined Golden Gate Mother’s Group and got out of my comfort zone a little bit. And I met a ton of other moms! I got involved in classes and meet-ups, I joined playgroups, I went to Baby Rhyme Time at our local library branch, I made conversation at indoor play spaces. Introvert that I am, it was a bit unnatural for me to just throw myself into situations like that, but once I did, I began wondering if in reality it may be more difficult to meet other moms in the suburbs, at least before the preschool years.
2. The city is your backyard– The outdoor space in my much-loved apartment consists of a screenless window and a fire escape. But step outside, and options abound. I LOVE that I can take Reagan to the aquarium between naps, pop over to the SF Zoo (at discounted rates) or even the beach for an hour or two, and that hiking along a cliff with a view of Golden Gate Bridge at Lands End is a normal occurrence. I love that I can use my Golden Gate Mother’s Group membership to get free access to indoor play spaces like Recess and Peekadoodle, that I can just decide on a whim to walk to the Ferry Building for a coffee and a beautiful view or take her to one of dozens of outdoor playgrounds. I could technically do many of those things living elsewhere, but knowing me, it most certainly wouldn’t happen on a daily basis.
To grab these ideas for yourself for later when you’re going stir-crazy, click “Consider this collection” (and feel free to comment and give me more! I’m always looking!).
3. Cultural Awareness– I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if our time in the city is coming to an end or if we’ll be here forever. But our daughter was born here and has now spent at least the first year of her life surrounded by a diverse culture. For some, the homeless begging on the street corners or the random assortment of odd birds on the bus may put a parent off, but I see it as an opportunity. My daughter is growing up with the ability to realize that not everyone is like her (or her parents). That people look differently, act differently (sometimes in very strange fashions), and that the world is not an orderly place, but a rich and chaotic canvas. I hope she grows up, not only with a tolerance for diversity, but a love and appreciation for it. I hope she learns that the world can be a place of struggle and has a hunger to right the wrongs she has witnessed.
4. Mommy Camaraderie– Let’s face it. There aren’t many of us in this city. In fact, I recently read that San Francisco has the lowest number of children per capita of any big U.S. city. When I walk down the street or take her to the park, other moms give me knowing smiles as they walk by. For some reason I feel a sense that I belong to a secret club that was here all along.