Baby's on the way, gotta leave this cool city pad and head to the burbs

Occasionally I watch Househunters with the wife, on HGTV. More than once, the subject of the story has been a couple who live in a city apartment, possibly one they own, or a house, similarly situationed, but, as the wife is pregnant with their soon-to-be firstborn, they are raring to go out to the suburbs as soon as they find a suitable house.

The always do, because that’s the whole point of the show. :(. If it were me, I’d would try to find a way to make it work and stay in town, but then, I’m not a parent so maybe I shouldn’t really say.

My question is that, while this seems to be almost a given in American culture, is it the same anywhere else in the developed world? IN our case, is it because Americans demand roomier houses that would be impossible to find in the city?

I realize that the “suburban lifestyle” is peculiarly American, but major European cities have suburbs. Yet I don’t see any evidence of European couples instinctively feeling they have to move there, when they find out they’re expecting.

Just as a guess, might it have something to do with the fact that the American school system is so fragmentary? I suspect the massive differences between an urban public school and a wealthy suburban one are a lot less massive in other countries.

Doesn’t really explain why you’d move when you were expecting a baby rather than five years later, but it’s the best I can do.

Most of the Europeans I know with kids live in the burbs.

It is nice to have a house with a yard for the kids. Houses are generally bigger than apartments. When the family gets larger it makes sense to get a large place.

I agree. Also, suburbs are usually built around cars, which are often a lot more convenient to use when you have kids.

True. Convenience becomes a bigger priority when you are lugging kids around. In the big city I live near, one reason that I hear the population is dwindling the closer you get to downtown because there is not a major grocery store within a reasonable distance. Oh yeah, that and the fact that the houses are old, small, and the crime rate is much higher.

My husband and I lived in Manhattan until I got pregnant, then we moved to suburbia. We would have liked to stay in the city (I grew up in Queens, which feels more suburban than urban, but is still part of NYC), but there were serious drawbacks:

(1) Housing: We lived in a very small 1-bedroom apartment with no light. It was rent-stabilized, so it was relatively cheap (~$1500/mo). Finding a bigger place we could afford would have been nearly impossible. Manhattan is freakin’ expensive. Moving east to Brooklyn or Queens would have been difficult for me, because my job had just moved from Manhattan to NJ, making the commute much longer.

(2) Childcare: We needed childcare because we both work. Childcare in the city is very expensive, and not easy to find.

(3) Schools: I grew up in the NYC school system. I was lucky enough to be in one the best districts in the city. The public schools mostly suck in NYC; we know many people who have kids in private schools (very expensive, serious competition; it’s like trying to get into an ivy league university). We don’t have that kind of money, or energy. Our suburban school district is excellent, which is why we moved there.

All that being said, there are many many families with children in the city and they seem to get along just fine. There are many parks with playgrounds for the kids. I’m not sure how the hell their parents manage to pay rent, but they seem to do well. We just couldn’t find a place we could afford, near a decent school, without moving to the outer boroughs. I decided a shorter commute would be better for me, because it means I spend more time with my family and less time on the train.

Another researcher on American population movement here; that is, I watch HGTV, too. A couple had moved to a small house in an urban neighborhood “on its way up.” However, it still had a way to go. But they’d had a baby, apparently ahead of their schedule. So they were eager to sell the house & move to the 'burbs.

The appraiser said the quite pleasant little house needed a bit of work before selling. And the big back yard needed some large plants to provide privacy. Result: Putting the house on the market immediately would not allow them to flee to the sort of place the envisioned as their next step.

But she pointed out that one baby didn’t take up that much room. A good school district was not an immediate concern. So she recommended they enjoy their house, plant some shrubs & relax.

We moved to the 'burbs when QKid was 7 months. Important factors were acquiring more storage space and better schools, but perhaps the most immediate thing is that it’s not fun to be the only family with kids in the neighborhood. We moved to a close in suburb full of families that had made the same move. When the kids are out of high school I’d love to move back to a more urban neighborhood.

When we had our kids we lived in upper Astoria, Queens, NYC. The time between the arrival of our son and the arrival of our daughter marked a serious decline in street safety, an increase in random street violence of all kinds. This included car theft. One week after my daughter arrived ( and with her of course, the purchase of a second car seat ) my car was stolen. In 8 days we bought three new car seats. :mad:

Wife lost her job soon after in a political fight and when she looked, she looked outside of the city proper. I grew up in the burbs, she grew up in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. That’s city, but kinda roomy for city. Single family houses for the most part, etc.

A move to the Hudson Valley was the right choice for lots of good reasons- the biggest one being schools. We’re still there.

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