Raising Children In New York City Isn’t a Terrible Idea, Raising Children At All Is Maybe a Terrible Idea

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I guess because the whole conversation about whether or not it’s a good idea to live in (or leave) New York City has gotten kind of played out at this point, a writer at the New York Post has taken it upon herself to tell those people who have decided to stick it out here in old En Why See that while it might be ok for adults to live here, it is a “terrible idea” to raise children here. Terrible! Ok.

Post writer Mackenzie Dawson describes how the difficulties of having a baby in Manhattan made her decamp for Westchester where the problems of city-living disappear as you go further up the winding roads of the Saw Mill Parkway. See the thing is, in places like Chappaqua and Irvington, there will be no hauling your kids on subways or pushing them in strollers on sidewalks crowded with New Yorkers walking faster than a parent can be reasonably expected to push her child. Also, apparently, there aren’t any Type A, master of the universe wannabes up in Scarsdale (yeah, sure), so the ultra-competitiveness of New York City won’t infect your baby, or lead to things like people giving you dirty looks in cafes or restaurants when you enter toting a squealing little one. Get it yet, everyone? Raising a baby in New York is a terrible idea, so you should just move to the suburbs or whatever and get on with your newly hassle-free life.

But wait! Perhaps this article was not intended to be taken seriously, and was rather just supposed to incite a flurry of responses, like this one at Gothamist, in which Jen Chung defends the act of raising a child in New York? Perhaps! Chung ably defends Manhattan as a place where a baby can not just grow, but thrive. Chung writes: “This is the point of living in New York City: You want to be constantly inspired and challenged to be better and smarter. Or to put it more simply, I want my daughter to have the edge.” It’s a solid response to a seemingly stupid assertion, but while reading Chung’s response, which I’d expected myself to whole-heartedly agree with, I realized something: It’s not just that raising children in New York City is a terrible idea, raising kids is a terrible idea, period. 

So, here’s the thing: I am raising two children in New York City. And, let me tell you, it’s fucking hard. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. It’s more stressful than anything else in my life. This year, one of my sons is applying to middle school, a specific-to-the-five-boroughs, byzantine process that involves interviews and auditions and early decision applications and which has led to me waking up out of a sound sleep some nights, panicked that I had forgotten to hand in some form or dot the i’s and cross the t’s on another. It’s terrible. And, you know, a bunch of the things that stress me out about raising my kids here (the public school system, the fact that I can never imagine a time when I will be able to afford a place where each child would have his own room, etc.) are related to living in New York City. I wouldn’t have to worry about a lot of this stuff in other places.

But guess what? There’d still be plenty of shit to worry about—drunk teenage driving, the isolation of new motherhood being compounded by having to drive everywhere, not being able to order food as easily on those nights when the kids are hungry and I’m too exhausted to cook. Because the truth about raising kids is that it’s an incredibly hard thing to do; you could even call it a universally “terrible idea,” because it kind of is! Parents put untold amount of energy and love into raising their children with no guarantee of getting it any or all of it back. It’s illogical as a purely transactional enterprise. But guess what else? I’m doing it anyway. I do it for the joy, not because it’s easy. I do it because it’s right for me, not because it’s right for everyone. I do it because I want to. And so it’s worth it.

Which, ultimately, is the truth of both being a parent and of living in New York. You don’t do either of those things because they make sense. Oh, sure, there might be more practical times in life than others to embark upon parenthood or life-in-New-York-hood, but there’s never going to be a “perfect” time. But you do it anyway. You do it because it brings you joy and because “practical” and “easy” are for people who move to Westchester the second things get a little bit complicated. There are reasons that raising a baby in New York is a bad idea, like, say, because you want to live the same life as the author of Bringing Up Bébé, but those kinds of stupid reasons are not the reason most New York parents choose to stay here, even when it barely makes sense for them financially. Most New York parents choose to stay because they know that whatever risks they’re taking are going to be worth the reward—which, come to think of it, is just what parenting is all about anyway.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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