For the first four years of my daughter’s life, we lived in a tiny little bungalow in midtown Toronto. It was an old war home we rented in a neighbourhood filled with newly-built mansions, and to say we felt out of place was an understatement. I loved the proximity to a great school and fancy shops, but I felt limited by our income. I desperately wanted to stay in Toronto, though. I had always imagined raising my kids to be city kids.
One of the challenging things about living in a rental unit is the lack of control you have over what is supposed to be your home. We had a lovely backyard, but there was no easy access to it. There was no sliding door leading back there, and the fence didn’t fully enclose the yard. Not a problem when you have a baby you need to watch all the time anyway, but when you have a toddler? Well, the freedom of letting your kid play in the backyard while you prep dinner, keeping a watchful eye, is impossible.
I used to dread my daughter asking to go play in the backyard.
Then, a year ago, we moved. We moved deep into the suburbs of Toronto, into a community that had been planned and built less then 20 years ago. Into a town home where we could see every neighbour’s backyard from our second floor. There are no old growth trees towering over our streets, no gorgeous old century homes to lust after, no cute patisseries a block away.
I have never been happier.
We have traded in our beautiful lead-paned bay window and original crown molding for a backyard I can see my kids playing in, while I sit typing at our dining room table. For a house with absolutely no mould growing behind the drywall in a neighbourhood where many of our neighbours introduced themselves within the first week or two of us moving in. For a neighbourhood where my daughter’s classmates live next door, and down the street, and around the corner. For a five minute walk to the lake and a miles-long trail along the waterfront.
I used to look down on all those suburbanites who had moved out of the city to raise of a family. I thought there was no way I would ever choose suburban life and all of its big box stores for the beautiful boroughs in my beloved city. I was willing to sacrifice space for the easy accessibility to culture, the arts, the delicious food, the unique vendors. The truth is, though, there was simply nowhere in the city we could afford to move. Thank goodness.
Now, coming up to the one year anniversary of our departure from city life, I rarely miss what we had. The truth is, I wasn’t taking advantage of most of what the city had to offer anyway, having become a mother to young children. Extra-curricular activities are what most of my nights consist of, and we happily drive into the city for special events. And my kids happily play in the backyard, every day, while I sit at the dining room table watching them, and typing away.