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?