Parenting is amazing, difficult, and absolutely life changing no matter where you are living. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and could have never dreamed that I'd be parenting in a large city. Though my son's day-to-day looks very different from my childhood, our Boston neighborhood often feels like a small town with big city amenities. If you're moving to Boston with your family, I hope this information eases your transition. If you already live in Boston, but are a new parent -- there is information here for you too.
Our small neighborhood (Boston's North End) draws a lot of visitors because of the amazing Italian food and pastries it has to offer. Don't get me wrong -- great cuisine is a huge benefit to living in any food-centric neighborhood. However, when you look past the restaurants, bakeries & cafes, you may be surprised by the close-knit neighborhood you find. This is one of the many reasons that we've chosen to forego the backyard and ample living space for condo living in the city.
We have gotten to know our neighborhood barber, firefighters, UPS driver, mailman, librarian, bakery owner (we know her REALLY well), and various other small business owners. We see these people in passing on the street and we make it a priority to stop and say hello. My son experienced a medical emergency that required a 9-1-1 phone call and the first responders on-site were our neighborhood firefighters. It was so comforting, in an otherwise incredibly stressful moment in our lives, to know our son was under the care of people who know him.
We have gotten to know the other families in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood community center is also a hub of activity throughout the year offering after-school programs, toddler playgroups, and a space for new moms to meet. If you want to see a group of strangers become fast friends, go to your local new parent's group. There is something very humbling about meeting new people with a tiny human strapped to the front of your (likely) disheveled and sleep deprived self and discussing the most intimate details of your child's
poop defecation schedule. In the warmer months, our local parks become a daily meeting place for parents and kids alike. Pushing a swing ad nauseam becomes so much more appealing when you are surrounded by other adults, who have become friends, doing the same.
If your community is like mine, these are also the same people you can text at all hours of the day and night to celebrate parenting wins and laugh or cry about parenting fails. We've had meals (and wine -- lots of wine) spontaneously delivered during bouts of sickness and offers to cover last minute childcare needs when other plans fell through. Our community shows up. I believe this is because we are in one another's lives daily.
If you're getting ready to make the move to Boston (or have just done so), I would encourage you to meet your neighbors. Go to your local park (weather permitting!). Join a class being offered in your neighborhood. Join your neighborhood list-serv or FB page. My very humorous, fellow North End mom, Leslie Pearlson, writes a fantastic blog: B+ Parenting: A slightly above-average achiever's guide to parenting. Along with her witty stories and incredibly useful advice, she includes a great list of parenting groups and list-servs in Boston.
Living on top of, next to, and below your neighbors is not ideal for everyone, but it certainly has its benefits when it comes to home and property maintenance. When you're considering where to raise your family in Boston, make sure you're factoring in your time and lifestyle preferences. If you prefer a maintenance free home (or as close to maintenance free as possible), look into full-service buildings. You will likely pay more for the additional services, but your time will be freed up to do other things. If you enjoy being more hands-on in your home or building, you may want to seek a self-managed or smaller building that allows everyone to pitch in. When the snow falls, we can just go out and play (you know -- after spending 20 min. layering up our kid).
If you're like me, you may struggle with how to divide your time between your outside responsibilities (work, school, volunteer commitments etc.) vs. everything else. The time it takes to commute from one side of a neighborhood vs. another location within the same neighborhood may vastly change your commuting times especially when you're relying on public transportation. Keep this in mind and map out your commute via the MBTA trip planner from the address of the home you're considering.
My husband walks 20 min. to and from work. No traffic jams. Incliment weather from time to time? Absolutely. Additional commuting times due to incliment weather? Rarely. My commute is an additional 10 minutes and involves a T ride. I've spent a lot of time reading, studying, and catching up on work emails on the T over the past decade. As a parent, I've come to appreciate this "me" time even more.
Stick with me on this one, especially if you are currently living or have lived in a large home with storage aplenty. Small spaces are often glamorized on TV programs, but it takes consistent effort to live comfortably in a small space. The good news? Studies have shown, the smaller your home -- the less area there is to clean.
We have made (and continue to make) a conscious effort to funnel our time and money into experiences for our family instead of bringing more and more stuff into our condo. Do we buy stuff? Absolutely. However, we also donate and give away items that we no longer have use (or space) for and we make a regular practice of this. We've found Give Back Box to be a great and free way to donate our items without having to schlepp them to the post office.
We have so many great places to visit across the city. When it comes to birthdays and other holidays, we ask our families to consider gifting experiences or memberships to our son rather than physical items. The Boston Public Library also offers day passes to many museums in and around Boston including the Museum of Fine Arts, Children's Museum, and Museum of Science. It requires some advanced planning and a library card, but the passes are free.
This is a question that only you can answer. As with any location, there are plenty of pros and cons to consider. If you're considering moving to Boston -- let's have a conversation.
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