Tuesday, 31 August 2010

In praise of family city living

Quite a few of the first mummy friends I made in my local area of London have recently moved out of the city and into the country, to live in small villages with more open space, bigger more affordable properties and gardens of their own. I can understand why they've made the move and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I had tinges of jealousy when I hear of their large houses with play rooms, utility rooms and a space for everything.

For people who don't live in London, it can be hard for them to imagine living with young children in a big city. The idea of not having a car and taking children on London buses or on the tube sounds like a struggle to them. Living in small apartments with no back garden and limited space and storage can seem very restrictive and challenging to those in spacious houses in suburbia. The crowds, the crime, the dirt and pollution associated with big cities can all be viewed as negative aspects to family life. The advantages of young families living out of the city are clear to us all but I'd like to highlight some of the advantages of city living:

Space saving: smaller living quarters is a great way to avoid hoarding unnecessary clutter. Toys are limited to what you have space to store, so you end up being more attentive to what you buy for your children and maybe also passing things on that don't get used or get grown out of, to ensure the inventory stays down.

Exercise: most people living in a city tend not to have cars and therefore walk a fair amount. It's good exercise and also a way to get to know your surroundings and appreciate what's around you.

Parks: London is lucky to have wonderful parks but even if your city doesn't have such choice, there are bound to be green spaces and playgrounds that are perfect for little ones to run around in and enjoy being out in nature. They also become a sociable place to gather with other families - something you don't get in your back garden. When you don't have a garden, it makes you more likely to get out of the house and go and do something.

Excitement: The buzz of the big city provides endless sources of adventure and entertainment for families all year round. From ice-skating in the winter, amazing museum with loads of kid-friendly activities to events like Notting Hill Carnival, there's always something happening.

Community: People don't often associate a sense of community with a big city but I think it definitely exists. Certainly where we live in London, there's a really nice community on our doorstep. We have wonderful free playgroups and drop-in sessions that are good for meeting other mums. Our local library and shops are well-used by residents. There's the group of mums I've mentioned before who regularly meet and arrange fun family events. I think having children helps you seek out your local community, or encourages you to enjoy it and maybe participate in it. Things like that become more important to you when you have a family.

Diversity: Whether it be people or places, diversity is part of living in a big city that you often miss out on in more rural areas. I think it's enriching to grow up around different people from different countries and backgrounds, to hear different languages and accents,  see old and new architecture,  rich and poor areas, and to be surprised by the unexpected.

Of course, there are pros and cons to living in the city and living in the country or in suburbia. I'm pretty confident we won't always live in London but I enjoy it while we do. What about you? Have you moved out of a city since having children? What aspects of city or country life do you find important or miss?


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  1. I live about 15 minutes from the middle of Manchester - out in the burbs, but easily close enough to get the advantages of city living. As you say there are pros and cons to living anywhere, but you obviously make the most of where you are. We've got loads of fantastic museums and art galleries on our doorstep as well as all the brilliant parks around Manchester. Alas, there is not a single playground in the centre of Manchester though. Luckily the same isn't true of London!

  2. Hi Parklover - thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's great to hear what you like about where you live. I'm surprised that there's not a playground in Manchester city centre!

    I had a look at your blog too, it's a really unique idea to explore and write about the parks in and around your local area.

  3. I love all the same things that you mentioned about living in the city. I am originally from suburbia USA and it blows my mind when we go back for visits and take the car everywhere! I really love the walking culture here (and have found my little ones are pretty good at keeping up because of it!).

    I also think there is so much culture and countless interesting activities for little ones... and for adults too.

    As for living in small space - I would be lying if I didn't say I wish for a extra room or two. :) But I do love that we rid our home of 'stuff' for more meaningful items that we truly love. I hope no matter where we live, I never lose sight of the quality vs quantity when it comes to filling our home!

  4. Hi Urban Mums - it's great to have your perspective on living in the city. You're right that we're also spoilt for choice when it comes to culture and activities for families. I can really relate to your point about living in a small space and the learning of quality over quantity that comes with that.


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!