What It's Really Like to Raise a Family in a City

And how we now see the cons as pros.
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Annenberg Community Beach House, one of our favorite spots to take Kaia for outdoor fun. 

Annenberg Community Beach House, one of our favorite spots to take Kaia for outdoor fun. 

My husband Nick and I are true L.A. devotees. We fell in love with the city upon first visit, and with each subsequent year (we're now at 10!), found more reasons to love it as we decided to grow even deeper roots here. But that decision—to live in and love a city—was much easier to make pre-baby. As a family of three we have gone through the telltale signs of doubt and questioning whether or not LA is worth the effort for a family of three. The short answer is a resounding yes. In fact, after tirelessly going through the "cons" of living in L.A. we've found that all the initial drawbacks of parenting here are actually huge pros. Read on to see what "cons" we believe will only make our family stronger:

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We would definitely prefer to have family nearby (our closest family members live in San Diego) to help us take care of Kaia, especially on those emergency days when she's sick and needs to be picked up from daycare early, or we both have work deadlines that are nearly impossible to push. But given that that is not an option, we've found that there are actually very few instances where we feel like we need family because we've been forced to create an amazing circle of friends that are like family. When I first had Kaia, our friends created a meal train and paid house visits to make sure Nick and I were well-fed and taken care of. Whenever we need a date night, those same friends come over to babysit her. Now, I can't imagine life without our L.A. family but I'm not so sure I would have created such deeply forged relationships if I had blood relatives to rely on. It was definitely the silver lining that I didn't expect and am so grateful for. 

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A friend who recently moved to L.A. was talking about how trips to Target used to be fun and easy, but now require the strategy and foresight of navigating parking, long checkout lines, traffic, etc. And it's true: L.A. is over-crowded, which means simple errands are often frustrating. Over time, I've created hacks like shopping for Trader Joe's during my lunch break to avoid the after-work rush and making sure I always meal plan so I don't have to make unnecessary trips to the store each day. They're not genius tricks but they've established a comfortable flow for our everyday life, and make me feel like a master ninja at the game of L.A. living. And this may be personal to me, but I like having to strategize in order to optimize my experience, and I feel like I've grown a thicker skin for when life doesn't go my way (because it often doesn't)—both of which are life skills and characteristics that I want Kaia to have! 

Nick (with Kaia in tow) headed to climb that rock face in the distance (!).

Nick (with Kaia in tow) headed to climb that rock face in the distance (!).

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Nick and I are probably the least likely people to buy a house in our lifetime. We're such minimalists that the thought of having a property we need to take care of feels more like a fetter than a luxury. Even so, we recognize that a house has many perks, one of the biggest being outdoor space to host parties and let kids and pets roam free. Since we live in an apartment building without any shared outdoor space, we end up going to the beach or park quite often. In fact, we view the beach as our free and endlessly gorgeous backyard and at this point in our lives, appreciate that not having our own house and yard (and not spending the time and money required to maintain it) frees us up to pursue other opportunities—like trips to inspiring outdoor places (see more below)! 

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Whenever I visit my hometown (Tempe, AZ), I am shocked at how affordable everything is. From a dim sum meal for four to a family outing to the movie theater, it's sometimes as little as half the cost of the same activity in L.A. On top of that, there's plentiful, free parking, no traffic along the route, and nice service when you arrive (not that those are nonexistent in L.A. but they're definitely not as commonplace). However, this forces us to be creative when planning activities with Kaia. Instead of eating at a restaurant, we like to pack a picnic meal with friends (fresh air is a bonus). Instead of going to an indoor jump park or arcade (like I did growing up), we'll likely take her to an outdoor park or the pier instead. The upside of living in such a dense city means there's also a myriad of museums for her to explore, most of which have free admission days (my favorites are The Hammer Museum and The Broad).  

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To me, this is a 'pro' turned even more of a 'pro,' though I know how some new parents can oftentimes find comfort in living in a community where people are more or less in the same stage of life (swapping diaper horror stories or sleepless night complaints are a new parent bonding ritual that doesn't translate well with non-parents). L.A.'s diversity, and the sheer number of people who Kaia will meet, is an indisputable pro. As a linguaphile, I love that she will grow up hearing different languages (her daycare speaks Spanish, I try to speak Vietnamese to her at home, and our friends and their babies speak Korean, French, etc.). As she grows older, she'll meet different types of people with unique passions and pursuits, and various heritages and life experiences. Plus, she'll hopefully have a very developed palette from eating so many different cuisines—one can only hope! 

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Whenever I fly into LAX airport, I can see why the sprawling city can be overwhelming. On the flip side, many adventures stem from this city, since it truly does act as the starting point of so many paths. We have extreme wanderlust and live about 10 minutes from the airport, so we feel fortunate and conveniently poised to travel with Kaia (who's already gone on 10 round-trip flights in her year of existence!). On top of that, we are driving distance (less than 6 hours driving time) from so many beautiful places like Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Big Sur, Ensenada, Catalina Island, and more. I'm a strong believer that new outdoor experiences expand our minds and transform our spirits, and I look forward to taking full advantage of all that California and its neighboring states (and Mexico) have to offer.