A Tale of Two Cities

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to take a two-week vacation from work with my husband and daughter.  Given our recent move and the cost associated with it, we had to make our holiday a ‘stay-cation’.  We enjoyed some wonderful family time.  We ventured out on a few day treks to the beach, enjoyed the city’s wonderful parks, pools and splash pads and spent a few days in Toronto.  It was my time spent in T.O. that prompted this week’s post and a spotlight on a former City Mom.

As I have mentioned before, my husband and I owned a condo in downtown Toronto.  This was pre parenthood, pre monthly diaper budget, pre supplementary clothing and food budget, pre RESP savings plan contributions and the list goes on.  When we learned of my  pregnancy we put the wheels in motion to move back to London despite loving our Toronto locale.  Our main reason was  to be closer to our families.  After all, it is said that it takes a village to raise a child and the extra support is always a good thing.  Financial reasons were a big factor as well.  We needed an extra bedroom and the price of a large three bedroom house in London was far less than a 2 bedroom condo in Toronto.  I toyed with the idea that this unknown baby, once she arrived,  could sleep in our + 1 (den) but reality set in and we made the move. 

From time to time I envision what it would be like for the three of us living in the big city and as we were driving into Toronto for our second time in two weeks I realized some things.  I could not and would not deal with the traffic in the big city.  Anyone who has been stuck in a car with a screaming child for any amount of time would be able to appreciate what I am talking about.    I don’t imagine that I would enjoy being a city mom in T-dot as much as I do in London.  I wonder why that is.  What are the differences between a city like London and a city like Toronto?  Is London a more family friendly city or does this come down to personal preference and specific location within the respective city?  I wanted to dig a little deeper on this topic so I looked within my social group to find the answer.  I decided to interview one of my nearest and dearest friends to gain an alternate perspective.

 Spotlight on a Former City Mom 

Erika is the mother of an adorable 18 month old girl.  Erika is originally from London but is an experienced urbanite;  living most recently in Toronto and Vancouver before that.

QYou were a city mom for almost a year before you moved away from the city for a more suburban location.  What were your reasons for this move?
A:  We lived in the heart of downtown Toronto.  Although it was a great location in terms of amenities, it was loud and I found it to be dangerous.  For example, we had prostitutes working at the corner of our place and a youth centre a block and a half from where we lived. The elementary schools and high schools in the area had a history of violence.  There have been shootings and stabbings in the area and I was not comfortable with little E growing up in a neighbourhood with the type of young people who hung around the area.  I was certainly not comfortable with the idea of little E walking around downtown Toronto by herself when she got older. 

 QCan you highlight the benefits of your new location in comparison to your city location?

  • Currently, we live in a beautiful neighbourhood.  It is quiet, there are lots of kids in the area and everyone is very friendly (people actually say hi when they walk by.  Unlike Toronto where everyone is in too much of a rush to notice anything).  There are parks, trails and all the amenities we could ever need all within walking distance.  I am much more comfortable walking around my new neighbourhood at night (by myself or with little E) than I ever was in Toronto
  • The schools in our new neighbourhood have a great reputation for education and safety.  This is very important for both myself and my husband.  We want little E to have the opportunity to have a good education and extra curricular activities within the area she lives.
  • I like that there are lots of parks and ponds were we live now.  In Toronto there were parks that I used to walk though but there were a lot of homeless people sleeping on the ground and on the benches.  I’m glad little E was too young to remember that.  The parks were nice looking (in terms of trees and flowers) but not nice for her to run around in.
  • I couldn’t find many programs for moms and tots in Toronto.  When we moved to our new location there were tons of programs.  Little E and I were busy everyday doing different things.  In Toronto, if I did not take little E for walks or go to the mall we were pretty much stuck in our apartment.
  • I enjoy having a backyard now.  Little E can play there while we are in the house cooking dinner and watching her from our kitchen.  In Toronto, we lived in an apartment.  It had a nice roof top but it was not child safe and I certainly would not let little E up there alone.  We did have a balcony but it was not the same as a nice quite backyard that we have now (with grass and toys for her to play with).  I am excited for little E’s first winter where we can build snowmen in the backyard.

 QCan you highlight the cons of your new location in comparison to the city?
A:  My daughter goes to school here in town, and both my husband and I work in Toronto so it is far from where we work.  We spend a total of three hours commuting each day and we are away from her for roughly ten hours a day.

QDo you miss anything about the city?
A:  I miss the convenience of getting to and from work and the easy access to all the amenities (shopping, theatre, restaurants, city events etc.) that Toronto has to offer.

QWhat were your views regarding living in Toronto pre-baby?
A:  I loved living in the city.  I loved being able to meet friends after work or on the weekend and go to bars, restaurants, etc. and all within walking distance from where we lived.  I loved the fast paced environment of Toronto as well.

QWould you have considered remaining in the city in a place like London had you lived in a similar building after having a child?
A:   I never really thought about it.  London has some great neighbourhoods that are very close to downtown London.  I would consider living in an area like Old North,  but not right on Talbot or Richmond Street (in the heart of London) for example.  I like the quiet.  I do not like living on busy streets anymore.  It is not only noisy but it is not safe for little E to run around.  I don’t have to worry about cars zipping through were we live now.  The only cars that come on our street are the ones that live on our street ( which is not that many).  I like looking outside my window and seeing old trees and lots of greenery as seen in suburbia.  Urban locations do not have the same richness.

QWould you move back to Toronto?
A:  No.  I really liked downtown Toronto but not to raise a family.

After reviewing Erika’s responses I am no better off than when I began my investigation.  The results are inconclusive due mainly to the fact that my sample group only had one person in it.  Her answers are subjective and based on the particular location she lived in and her personal preferences in general.  Not all areas of downtown would have the same drawbacks or benefits.

Toronto has a larger footprint than London and a much bigger population.  The more people you have the more occurrences of crime, homelessness, etc..   I have concluded that London’s core is set up to cater to  students, young professionals, retirees and families, alike.  There is a child-friendly park located every few blocks.  Many of which include swimming pools and/or splash pads.  Family programs exist in a variety of locations and most of the wonderful events that take place in Victoria Park are family friendly.  Downtown London is also bordered by  some very affluent neighbourhoods which helps to provide quality educational institutions and many extra-curricular activities. 

So I am left with the feeling that I am proud to be a Londoner.  I love this city and all it has to offer.  It’s interesting that after living in London for most of my life, it is only recently that I have come to see it in this light.  Am I finally growing up and learning to appreciate the less complicated things in life?

Thank you to Erika for candidly sharing her opinions.

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