I lived in New York City for 9 years, from 2002 to 2011. I’d wanted to live there for years before that, and it was a realization of a dream for me to pack up and move there when I was 23. So leaving was a bit tough, and going back is always a bit fraught. But a few things about this weekend reminded me that while I love New York, there are also reasons we left.
We did an overnight trip to the city this weekend, and packed a lot in. We drove from our home in Pennsylvania to the Bronx Zoo in less than 2 hours. The kids dressed up for Boo in the Zoo, and we collected candy in addition to seeing gorillas, tigers, elephants and the new Dinosaur safari exhibit. We got a drink with my brother and his girlfriend, then went to a birthday dinner for a good friend from college in the lovely downstairs tasting room of Philip Marie in the West Village. Sunday morning we ate in a diner, and visited the Central Park Zoo with one of my husband’s friends from high school.
The weather was beautiful, and even some unexpected things cooperated: we scored street parking one block from our hotel with minimal hunting. The city was its bustling and gorgeous self.
But hauling three children around New York is just incredibly stressful. So much of the city is not set up for families with lots of children. I like to walk, but walking with three kids means constantly carrying one who’s tired, or trying to get three to walk at the same speed, or keeping one from dashing across the street, or even crossing with the light, but being kind of invisible to people making right hand turns. (Yes, people use strollers, and we have too, but double strollers are a beast on city sidewalks — and even the double-decker ones are a pain getting into cabs, stores, and restaurants). Restaurants are small, so kid noisiness and squirminess is then inflicted on other patrons. Revolving doors are perilous yet tempting for little people. Small hotel rooms are a squeeze for five (and moreso when our hotel gave away our 2 double-bed room, and then claimed they were upgrading us with a king sized bed — which meant we wound up with 2 kids sleeping in a small roll-away bed crammed into the corner).
When I’m in New York by myself, I miss it terribly. When I’m there with the kids, I feel a bit on edge. Back at my suburban house, we let the kids run around in the backyard as the sun went down and my husband and I watched the football game he’d taped — something we wouldn’t be able to do at the parks and playgrounds in the city. Which are great. We had an amazing playground right across the street from us at our old apartment building — but these public spaces do require you to be right there if you have young children.
What I love about where we live now is that I feel I have some of both worlds. We wound up answering this question a few times at the birthday dinner — how we came to live outside of Philadelphia. Did we have family there? No. Did we move there for work? Not really. My husband I can both live just about anywhere (albeit close to an international airport). Some people in that situation might want to live in somewhere physically stunning, but those places are often expensive, and we’re kind of cheap. Where we live, we have the house with a basement and a yard, and decent public schools. We can drive 15 minutes into Philadelphia for the usual big city stuff, or we can drive 2 hours into New York for all that has to offer. And I take the train in often enough on my own that I feel somewhat still a part of the place.
Of course, I can’t get sushi delivered at my house now, which is a bit of an adjustment — and not a city experience (my friend’s daughter, at age 2, plays calling for sushi on her little toy phone). But I also like being able to drive to a cheap grocery store and load lots of groceries into my car — which I can park in my garage. I can go pick up the sushi if need be, or drive 20 minutes into Philly for Morimoto where, since it’s Philly, I can actually get a reservation.
Are you a city person, a suburb person, or perhaps a rural person, or something else?