Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Living in the City is Hard

I live in the third largest city in the U.S. And I love it. There is something about this place that just feels right. Oprah once said, "I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here." I get that.

I love you, Chicago.

I love playing in your parks. 

I love that my babies can look out the window and see "the tallest building in America" each morning (even though it's not anymore).

I love that my babies know their way down Lake Shore Drive (LSD) and that they know the different exits for the different museums and attractions.

I love that despite the fact that we are in this huge city, we live in our neighborhood, and that makes it all a bit more cozy.

I love that at one point our zip code was the most diverse zip in the U.S. I love that my kids don't bat an eye at diversity, and the only time they act uncomfortable in groups of people is when they are all white.

I love that if I go a block or two north I am in one of the largest Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in the country. 

I love that if I go a few blocks south I am in "Little India."

I love that our KFC is Zabiha Halal and our Subway is Kosher.

But it's hard.

It's hard when you walk down over three flights of stairs with three kids and walk through an alley or down the block to find your car and your arms ache and your heart is just weary.

It's hard when your husband works hard at the office and at school and comes home to have to do laundry because you can't get three kids and the laundry down the stairs to the basement where the washers and dryers are.

It's hard when you feel trapped inside and don't have outdoor space to play.

It's hard when you want to be the "fun mom" you always dreamed of, but the need to keep some peace between you and the neighbor downstairs leads you to shrug your shoulders and stick with coloring or another blasted movie.

It's hard when you drive your kids to the preschool in the suburbs because you couldn't find a decent one in your neighborhood.

It's hard when well-meaning friends who do not live in the city try to give you advice, or act like it shouldn't be hard, when just getting your kids to the car feels like you deserve a medal.

It's hard when the city that you love had over 500 homicides last year.

It's hard when you have to teach your kids to avoid the broken glass, the garbage, and the occasional rat when you walk down the alley way to your car.

It's hard when you pray every day when getting into your van that's parked on the street that no one will get run over, because there was that one time she almost did.

It's hard when it's time to enroll your baby in Kindergarten and your neighborhood school, the one you fell in love with four years ago when you saw the children playing at recess, has horrible test scores and teacher to student ratios and you know that your baby wouldn't do well in that environment.

It's hard when you go from website to website, researching the good schools, filling out school lottery applications, filling out applications to test into selective enrollment schools, and you know that your whole family's future hinges on where she gets into school.

And so.

And so you start looking at the 'burbs. The thing you don't want to do. And you see beautiful homes, for the same price as an old, run down city home, with a backyard and you can walk to drop your baby off at a school that exceeds all standards.

And you begin imagining how happy your kids would be in a single family home, with a backyard, where they can run and laugh and stomp their feet and no one will complain.

And you feel better. You feel like this is the only way to keep your kids safe.

But then.

A missionary friend comes to visit. And he asks to pray for you before he hops back on a plane. And all he says is,

"Lord, help them make the best decisions for their girls. 
Not the safe one."


  1. Oh my, how I relate to this. We lived in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood for ten years. My first three kids were born there. Oh how I dreaded the phone calls from the downstairs neighbors ...
    We also participated in the madness of school applications and lotteries only to end up sending our daughter to a private kindergarten.
    It was all so beautiful and so, so hard, and there is a special place in my heart and in my prayers for Christian families living in the city. Especially this city.
    Praying for you!

    1. Thank you Christie, so much. "It was all so beautiful and so, so hard..." YES. The only thing I can compare it to is raising children - beautiful and so, so hard. But it is harder to maintain vision and purpose with where you raise your family.

      Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

  2. We have chosen to grow our family in the city as well. Theoretically, I want to care more about being where God wants us that about what is safe and comfortable. But the reality is, when the details (schools, logistics, heck, even the "walkability" of our neighborhood") shake out, sometimes it is just hard to be satisfied with that decision.
    I just have to keep trusting that this conviction to stay is God-given. And in the end, it will be worth it.

    1. Oh Deana,

      Isn't it so hard? I know in the grand scheme of things, this isn't exactly "suffering," but when you have babies, all these issues tend to muddy the waters and it is hard to know exactly what to do when that Mama Bear heart is God-given. Everything is a bit cloudy. I will be praying for you and your family that you will continue to hear God's voice and have peace for wherever He leads you! Blesings to you!

  3. Oh how I miss that place. I lived in that ZIP for several years, too. I miss that weekly Farmer's market beside the playground in the shadow of the 2nd or 3rd tallest building. Getting groceries in the bottom of the stroller and the amazing views from Target's parking deck.
    There is a school you may not know about that meets at Park Church. I'll leave the address just in case you want to check it out. Schooling is one of the toughest parts of having kids in the city. http://christianheritage.org/about/campuses/chicago-campus/
    Go eat some Garrett's for me. :)

  4. I love this Brenna. The more I read the more I feel I know your heart. Your friends quote, their prayer is priceless.