Like me, you spent most of your 20’s and 30’s in the city. When I looked for a place to live the most important factor was how many blocks to the coffee shop. I lived in Andersonville for 14 years and I thought it was the perfect mix of city living and small town community. I chatted with friends as I walked my dog, local shop owners knew most my name, and I had a couple of favorite dinner and drink spot that made me feel like home. Then came baby #1 and shortly there after Baby #2.
Suddenly, dog walks were shorter and less leisurely, I was lucky if I make it out to dinner once a quarter, and I never visited my favorite Martini Bar again. But even though I couldn’t truly appreciate all that the city had to offer any more, that little voice inside kept telling me that I am a “city person”. I didn’t know if I could enter the life of a suburbanite. But when I did a non-emotional pros and cons list that included some very finite and important factors like budget and school performance, moving to the suburbs keeps coming up on top. So I caved… and off to the suburbs we went, Evanston to be exact. A year and a half later, here is what I learned:
Location Matters Even More Within the Suburb
Even if like my family, you know which suburb you want to go to from the beginning, areas have distinctly different feels. 40% of all the houses in Evanston are within 15 minutes walk to one of the 4 commercial strips (Central, Church, Dempster and Main). And while a choice like Naperville may feel so far out there and super suburban, you can live in the heart of it’s downtown and walk to the Metra, grocery, river walk and have a life very similar to an Andersonville or Lakeview… well…not as many bars…but how has time for that anyway. So we ended up a 12 minute walk from the center of the Church Street Commercial District, and we can still walk to the YMCA, the farmers market, the library and restaurants in the summer. We even walk to the lake as well. This helped us maintain much of what we liked about our old Andersonville / Bowmanville location. You can live in pretty pricey areas of Evanston and still must jump in your car for everything.
Consider Family Activities and Amenities
My kids are presently 4 and 2, the most important aspect of my house location is it’s proximity to a park. Evanston is packed full with parks. We live within a 4 block walk to 4 different parks. The one across the street has tennis, soccer and baseball fields and basketball in addition to the play ground. My kids have been to gymnastics, ballet, ice skating, swimming and music at several of the numerous park districts or the YMCA.
I had to Give up Some Amenities
While downtown Evanston is walkable from my house, it’s simply not the same as downtown Andersonville. Evanston’s commercial offerings are spotty, and I don’t have the same desire to pop in and out of stores on a lazy sunday afternoon walk as I did in Andersonville. Maybe it’s because Andersonville was committed to no big chains, and Evanston is all Gap, Barnes and Nobles and other big names…but it’s a big change! As far as restaurants, in the last 2 years restaurants like Found, Farm House, Smylie Brothers and Boltwood have popped up and become the salvation of date nights for all Evanstonians. There are tons of family and college friendly places, but on the one night a month that I get to go out on Mommies’ night out, I don’t want plastic table cloths and pizza. There are also a couple of local breweries popping up that adds to Evanston’s hopeful transition to a Foodie paradise.
Diversity Does Exist in the Suburbs!
Diversity was a big factor for our family. We were looking for racial, socioeconomic, and family structure diversity. We found this in Evanston. I joke that a straight white couple in Evanston is almost the minority. I love when I take my daughters to swimming there are three other adopted families, four other mixed race families, and three other same sex families with every ethnicity possible. In all the people that we meet, no one has ever even so much as blinked an eyelid when I introduced my family. Our street is very diverse as well, across all the factors. I think it probably is fair to say that Evanston is somewhat segregated socio econmoically, but there several pockets that defy that rule, and we are thrilled to have landed right in the middle of one.
Happy With Our Suburban Move
Overall, I could not be happier with my decision to move to the suburbs. We had passed on houses that would have been in a “better” school district because the area and school it lacked the diversity we sought. We really had to look at what factors were most important to us and then be true to them.