Tuesday, 7 April 2015

In Defense of Urban Parenting

Before we started a family, we very seriously considered moving to the country. We were thisclose to buying a house WAY out of town, with a lot of outdoor space (and upkeep), but instead changed tac suddenly and stayed in our same neighbourhood in South East London. We were sort-of thinking, before, that we needed to move out and have more space for kids. All our friends had moved out. It just seemed like the 'next step'. But, we stayed, and I've come to the opinion that raising a family in a city can be wonderful! Some of the many things we love about urban parenting include having a...

Shorter Commute:
My commute is currently nil, and my husbands is about 45 minutes door to door, unless he cycles in which case it's about an hour. Mine used to be roughly the same. That's not too bad, by London standards, and we were considering a daily commute of 1 and a half to 2 hours. That's 3 to 4 hours per day, 15 to 20 hours per week. I started thinking about it in terms of the what we would be missing out on. That's 5 hours of sleep, and 5 hours of dinnertime. That's a good long dog walk. That's bedtime stories. You can do a lot of living in 10 hours. Especially when you have...

Less (or No) Yardwork:
Speaking of freeing up time, we don't have to spend out weekends weeding, or mowing, or otherwise tending a garden. I'd love a little garden to grow some greens in (and I'm on a waiting list for an allotment around the corner), but I don't envy anyone who has to mow a front lawn that they don't even use. Why don't we miss the outside space? Well, there's plenty to do in our local...

Sure, you can be surrounded my picturesque farmland in every direction (though you most likely wouldn't be...), but does that mean you actually get to run around in it? Not necessarily. Parkland may not be the untamed wilderness of my pregnancy fever-dreams for my kids' idyllic, sepia-tinged childhood, but they are pretty damn good. Our local parks have playgrounds, wild areas with long grass, flower gardens, deer, water fowl, daffodils, tennis courts, picnic tables - just loads. What's more, they have a sense of community. It's not every family divided up on their own little patch; we're sharing a space together. They host the start of the London marathon, a huge fireworks display on Bonfire Night, carnivals, outdoor cinemas in the summer - during the Olympics, there was a big screen set up so we could watch events and ceremonies together with our neighbours. London is wonderful for green spaces, as are many other big cities, and you know I like...

Free Stuff: 
I was chatting to a friend who lives outside London about soft-play areas (indoor playgrounds, basically. They are great in winter!), and was surprised to hear them lament the expense. Really? All the ones we go to are free! Many London museums are free to enter, and some of those have soft-play areas or interactive learning galleries for kids. As I mentioned a while back, there are a few urban 'farms' that are free to visit, my local park has free sports mornings, libraries host free song and story times - the list goes on and on. A friend of mine is exceptionally good at finding kids activities locally - it's all out there, you just have to find it. And when you extend your search to include paid activities, you genuinely have...

Endless Choice:
If my kid wants to take capoeira instead of ballet, or develops a mad pash for the cello, or rock-climbing, or Mandarin, you can bet your bottom dollar that we will be able to find resources in London. In Charlton, there's a circus school. A circus school!! I'm not one to over-schedule her, especially at this age, and I don't want to schlep across town every day, but it's nice to know that we won't be limited by a lack of options. And of course there are options, because in a city you've obviously got...

It's pretty much a given that cities are more diverse culturally, right? I hope that growing up alongside kids whose parents might come from somewhere else in the world (like their mom), who might eat different food, have different holidays, etc, will give her a sort-of 'whatever' attitude to cultural differences. I'd actually love it if she wasn't surprised or intimidated or even cared much about whether or not her friend has two dads, or goes to a Mosque, or speaks Polish at home. Not only do urban children grow up knowing that people are different-yet-the-same, but they have the opportunity to learn so much about the world we live in. I grew up in a small-ish town, and sometimes I still feel like I'm catching up.

Not to mention proximity to international airports, world-class art, theatre, sporting events, beautiful architecture, and any type of food you can think of. I know that living in the countryside can be great too, as can a small town, or indeed, a mid-size town, but this is our choice, and for now, we're sticking to it!


  1. London is great in many ways for kids and you sell it well! It's great to be so certain of your choice. I'm a prime vacillator.

    1. Oh, I totally fantasise about a little place in the woods sometimes, don't get me wrong! But my own assumptions about what you need for a family have been upturned - know what I mean?