I've had a 10 year love affair with New York City.
When I moved here, I felt there had never been a woman so suited for city living as I. Everything immediately fell into place. Everyone always talks about how hard it is to get by in the city. I'm sure we've all heard the cliche - If you can make it there... Well, for me - New York City was a piece of cake. It embraced me like a long-lost friend. Everything about city living just made sense to me.
Apartment hunt? No problem. I found one easily on what ended up being named the "best block in NYC" a few years after I moved in. A job literally fell into my lap days after I moved here. The subway system? When everyone else looked baffled and irate - I got it with an ease that even I was sort of shocked by. I could hail a cab anywhere. I had the touch. Seriously. I was like a female Fonz - with all things city falling in line beneath the snap of my fingers.
I started working at very popular -- you could even say landmark -- bar in Brooklyn. There I met a second family. Even though mine was thousands of miles away, holidays were filled with love and community. I met my now husband on the corner of my block. I know my postman, the corner store owners and all of the ladies that sit on their stoops. Brooklyn lifers afford me the respect of an honorary native.
It turns out though, that NYC is kind of a no-strings-attached kind of lover. As soon as my child arrived, everything changed. Now I'm a city parent.
I'd seen the women struggling to get strollers up three flights of subway stairs. I'd seen toddlers bundled so tightly in winter it was questionable whether there was really a child behind all of those layers. I'd seen women carrying groceries, stroller, and toddlers menacingly up Brooklyn stoops. It just never really sunk in.
Parenting is a thousand times harder in the city. Anyone who says anything different needs to come to my house and give me a crash course in city-motherhood because clearly there are some things that I am just not grasping.
I know there are people that live in elevator buildings, have backyards, and can afford a nanny and food shipped from Fresh Direct. I'd like to think that their lives are just naturally easier than mine - that they are more suited for being a mom in a place like this. But I'm not even sure that's true. I know a woman who is filthy rich, lives in an a brownstone duplex that she owns with a backyard, a car, and all of the conveniences that I am missing. When I told her I was moving, she said, "I don't blame you. Raising kids in the city is impossible." The quizzical look on my face prompted her to add, "I know I have a car, but I still have to park it six blocks away from my house and drag my two toddlers home with my hands full of groceries. It sucks."
So why do we do it?
Well, I'm sure for most people it's for a great job. But I'm a freelancer. I work from home and can do this work anywhere. For others I'm sure it's just the fact that NYC is an amazing place filled with art and culture. But to be honest, it's really hard for me to enjoy all of that because I am just so exhausted all the time. To be fair, this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am six months pregnant, I have a toddler, and I live in a third floor walk up. A trip to the store takes a reserve of energy that I barely have. By the time I get home - I feel like I'm done for the day. More than once I have found myself fantasizing about the car, the garage, the backyard - the suburban life I left 10 years ago when I decided to come here.
I've always fancied myself to be a very cosmopolitan woman. It's pretty hard to admit defeat. But struggling to keep up in NYC has taken quite a toll on my energy - and my marriage. We need some family around. The whole "it takes a village" motto never made more sense. Being unable to afford childcare in Brooklyn has reduced us to basically passing our son off to each other when we are heading off to work. We haven't had a date in months.
When I became pregnant again, my first thought was, "we're screwed." I called my sister in a panic, and she said, "you know - you don't have to do this anymore. You guys could move down here to Florida. It's way cheaper and you'd have family around to help." My first reaction was, "Florida? From New York City to Orlando? I don't think I can handle that culture shock." Then I realized that we never really leave our apartment.
Funny how you can be in the "greatest city in the world" and stop appreciating it because you are just to damn tired to cart your family around everywhere. Life changes - and we have to change with it. Yes, I love Brooklyn - but our love affair has become rocky at best.
When my husband and I realized we would be paying the same amount for a three-bedroom home with a backyard in Orlando that we do for our tiny one-bedroom, third floor walk-up in Brooklyn - our choice was made. Then I went to Sperling's and realized that making $50,000 a year in NYC was the equivalent of making $26,000 a year in Orlando - meaning we'd only need to make $26,000 a year to live the lifestyle it would take $50,000 to live in New York. No wonder we always feel broke. By Brooklyn standards - we are.
Sorry New York City. It's not you - it's me.
(photo: ollyy / Shutterstock)