Last year, I said goodbye to wine bars, bike paths and gourmet bakeries. My husband and I traded an inner city apartment for a house with a backyard, in the Blue Mountains. Yes, a baby had arrived and another was on the way.
Our apartment had disappeared under our son’s things. It was time to accept the inevitable.
There are pros to our new home: reasonable rent, we’re close to family, and space. But there are cons too: we’re too far from our friends, it’s a long commute to work, and we have to drive everywhere. Every night my husband and I chat about where to spend The Rest of Our Lives.
I decided to ask around: where is the best place to raise kids?
Here are five perspectives.
After a stint in the suburbs, Zoe Bishop decided to raise her kids in Sydney’s inner city. Feeling isolated, especially as a single mum, she wanted to be close to her friends. “Community is vital for parenting,” Zoe says.
“I’m raising my kids in a different city from my family, and I wanted my friends nearby.”
Zoe rents a terrace house in Newtown, with close access to local schools and parks. “The schools are well resourced with very progressive policies,” she says.
“There are numerous parks where we live where the boys can ride their bikes and go on their skateboards. There are plenty of opportunities to run around, and it’s quite lovely to have to get out of the house to do that.”
Kelly Fisk heard the call of the suburbs: big blocks, affordable housing and ample parking. She and her husband were living in Sydney’s inner west, but craved space for their new daughter. They bought a house in Emu Heights in western Sydney, near Brendan’s family.
“We realised the things we loved about the inner city just weren’t as important to us anymore,” she says. “Funky wine bars have made way for kid-friendly cafes.”
Despite missing city life, they are happy with their choice.
This year, they welcomed another daughter to the family.
“It’s such a lovely area for kids and young families,” Kelly says.
“In fact it’s taken some getting used to having kind strangers chat to me and smile at my kids when we’re out and about.”
Kelly is now trying to persuade her city friends to make the move west.
Evelyn Craigie wanted her daughter to experience the great outdoors, the way Evelyn had been able to while growing up in a rural NSW.
“When I was living in Sydney, I couldn’t hear any wildlife and I thought, I’ve got to get out of here.”
Evelyn bought a villa at Forresters Beach on the Central Coast, giving her an affordable home close to the ocean, while still within a reasonable distance to Sydney.
“The beach is a giant playground. There’s so much you can do there in the water, on the sand, and on the rocks. It’s got everything kids need to have a great time.”
Despite having fewer resources on hand, such as and public transport and ‘cool bread’, Evelyn has no regrets.
“I’m really happy. We haven’t looked back. I don’t really miss anything in Sydney.”
Sacha Etherington moved from Sydney to her husband’s hometown of Mudgee in central west NSW.
She recognised the country town would be an ideal place for raising a family.
“We thought there was a real sense of community, which you don’t get in a city area,” Sacha says.
She now has three daughters and is actively involved in her local area. She set up the local gymnastics team, ran and sold a medical recruitment business, and recently bought the local post office.
“You see your hairdresser, teacher or doctor when you walk down the street. People want to do the right thing by you.”
Sacha also loves the space.
“We have big trees for the girls to climb and space to make as much noise as they want. We have dogs, chooks, rabbits and a vege garden,” she says.
The downside of rural life is limited choice and services.
“There are towns near us where there’s no one to deliver a baby. We have to drive two hours to Dubbo for specialist appointments.”
Australia’s smaller cities are a good option for balancing job opportunities with housing affordability.
Alicia and Lukas Temple relocated from Sydney to Brisbane, enabling them to pursue their careers while enjoying a good lifestyle.
They live in a large home, just five kilometres from the city.
“We have a beautiful four bedroom Queenslander with a pool,” Alicia says.
“We couldn’t afford this in Sydney or Melbourne.”
The proximity to their workplaces means they have more time at home with their two young daughters.
“I drop the kids off at daycare on the way to the office,” Alicia says.
Alicia also says access to daycare has been easier in Brisbane.
“It feels more family orientated,” Alicia says. “There are good parks on every corner and most restaurants are kid-friendly.”
But she does miss the fast pace of Sydney.
After talking to five mums, I found myself flitting between five decisions.
Each mum sold me on her lifestyle, but it turns out, I’m still no clearer on where my family should live.
Where do you think is the best place to raise kids?
If you can’t play with your kids, should you feel guilty?
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