When you picture the all-American family, images of lawns and other comforts of suburban life likely come to mind. But a push toward minimalism and emphasis on location and experiences over square footage has some families staying in the city. Raising kids in NYC has its own set of unique challenges and rewards.
To get the best tips on how to thrive in the city with children, we reached out to two New York City moms. Kristin McGee lives in the Upper West Side with her husband and three boys. She is a celebrity yoga and pilates instructor, as well as an author who writes about her family and fitness experiences living in the city. Hailey Andresen lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son. She runs Household Mag and co-hosts Mom and Dad Made a Podcast.
Check out their advice for city living with a family below!
Challenges of Living in NYC with a Family
Maybe you’re already firmly planted in the heart of the city or maybe you’re debating moving to NYC with kids, either way there’s a lot to consider. Contemplating the following struggles of raising a family in NYC can help you anticipate and plan for potential difficulties.
It’s Not the Suburbs
If grassy lawns, extra bedrooms, and long car rides are what you’re dreaming of, NYC might not be the best place to raise a family. But if you anticipate that living in the city with children will be a totally unique experience, you may just fall in love with it.
“It’s a completely different way of life in all honesty,” Andresen said. “Being open to city living and embracing its uniqueness is essential in finding happiness—and for me at least, I can’t imagine living in a suburb again.”
Living in NYC with a Newborn Is Hard
There are challenges to raising newborns everywhere. But doing endless loads of laundry and making frequent doctor visits with a new baby can be grueling without a car. If you live far away from the laundromat or your pediatrician, are navigating living in a one-bedroom with a baby, or have to climb countless steps to reach your walk-up flat, the first few months could be extra difficult. If you can make it through these first months, however, there are plenty of things to do with babies in NYC.
Higher Cost of Living Means More Budgeting
Like any major city, living at the center of art and culture costs a pretty penny. Raising kids anywhere isn’t cheap, but the cost of raising a child in NYC is above average. If you’re looking for an affordable place for your children to grow up this could present a challenge, but smart budgeting and choosing the right borough or neighborhood can make it possible. Just remember that you’ll likely need more space as your kids grow, so try to plan and save ahead of time.
Why Living in NYC with Kids Is Worth It
There are challenges to raising children in NYC, but there are also numerous benefits to raising kids in the city. See why the moms we interviewed think NYC is one of the best places to raise a family!
There Are Endless Opportunities
Andresen was pregnant when her husband’s new job moved them from Arizona to the Big Apple. At first she was skeptical. She had never dreamed of living in NYC with a family.
“It took me living here to really fall in love with it,” Andresen said. “Aside from my selfish reasons for loving the city, when we really thought about what was best for Owen, New York felt like our place in every way possible. The diverse culture, energy, inspiration, accessibility, and opportunity is unmatched.”
Now, not only does Andresen love living in the city, but chronicling her family adventures in Brooklyn is what gave birth to her other baby: Household Mag.
Choose Your Family
Raising a child inspires some to move closer to family or their hometowns. But if work, culture, or love of the city keeps you on the East Coast, Manhattan provides a unique opportunity to build your own family. This was precisely the case for Andresen.
“I know very few people who actually were born and raised in New York City, so we’re all just kind of going at life without too many family members close by,” Andresen said. “This can absolutely have its challenges, but it’s truly taught me the importance of finding my village and making family out of friends. We all take care of each other, and you have to learn to lean on others as parents.”
Enjoy Play Dates
Not only will you have your pick of parents with similar interests, but there will be new friends for your kids as well. “There’s a ton of culture and other people around with lots of babies their age to have play dates with,” McGee said. “I feel like it’s a very community-based place to raise kids.”
Andresen also cites the infinite opportunities and things to do with kids in NYC as a perk to big city life.”As Owen gets older, I know he will absolutely benefit from everything this city has to offer. But in all honesty, we have access to even more for kids than we would in Phoenix without having to own a car.”
New to the city and not sure how to make friends? Join a parenting group and discover the best things to do with kids in NYC.
How to Make City Living with Kids Work
So you’re staying in NYC with your family. Now what? We’ve gathered some tips to make city living with kids work!
Invest in a Nice Stroller
If you’re living in NYC, say goodbye to car culture. For McGee, a double stroller on the subway is her main mode of transportation. Find a stroller that works for your family, and get moving to the park or nearby library. If you have farther to go, check the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website for accessible stations.
Get Out of the Apartment
If you’re living with less square footage, make sure to get your family out of the house. Living deep in Brooklyn offers Andresen and her family a little extra space, but she still plans frequent outings to keep them on the move. Walking to Prospect Park, going to local playgrounds, and attending classes and playgroups are some of Andresen’s frequent family adventures.
“We’re big walkers!” Andresen said. “One of our favorite things to do as a family is to pick a new neighborhood to explore, grab coffee, push Owen in his stroller, take him to a playground, and grab a bite to eat.”
Exploring the city by stroller is something McGee loves, too! She said she likes pushing the twins to the playground, park, and local library, which gives her kids more diversity and space.
Searching for organized activities in the city? From the best playgrounds to fun restaurants for families, Time Out lists kid-friendly events and activities all over the city.
Buy What You Need, When You Need It
McGee found that bulk buying doesn’t work for most city dwellers. Three little ones meant she was tempted to buy extra of everything at first, but their living space was bursting at the seams. Now, the only regular bulk item she buys are diapers, as her twins go through them quickly! Living in the city means fridge space is also precious. Rather than stockpiling groceries, McGee heads to the store every couple of days.
Utilize Vertical Storage
When it comes to where to put what in your NYC apartment, try thinking outside the box! Although McGee had plenty of room in her 1,200-square-foot apartment with her husband and first child, their Upper West Side home got much more cramped with the arrival of twins.
In addition to efficiently using available storage space in their apartment, the couple mounts her husband’s bike on the wall. Utilizing vertical storage helps them make the most of limited space and frees up the floor for the little ones to play!
Quality Over Quantity
Even though her husband still claims she’s a pack rat, city living has taught McGee a lot about letting go of less important items. “We’ve learned to keep only what we love or need,”McGee said.
For Andresen, minimalism has always been part of her family mantra. “For us, material objects just don’t hold quite as much meaning as they do for others, and that’s served us well when having to make the most of small spaces. We make an effort to only bring objects in that we truly love and need. It’s never felt like too big of a challenge.”
No matter your personal philosophy, raising a family in Manhattan will require learning to maximize your space and prioritize the personal belongings that really matter.
Embrace Flex Rooms
Another key to city living is being flexible, not just with your outlook, but with your physical spaces, too. Creating multi-purpose rooms and being able to modify your apartment for guests, as well as life needs, are important. McGee makes their lack of a guest bedroom work by having a daybed in her twins’ room.
Clean with the Seasons
Another tip to keep your New York apartment organized is to maintain a regular cleaning schedule. Kids make it easy to quickly acquire excess items, so McGee stays on top of the mess by sorting through things with each changing season.
Choose the Best Neighborhood for Families
Just like any other city, some neighborhoods are better for raising children than others. Andresen finds living in Brooklyn provides her family more space for an affordable price while still remaining close to the things she cares about. Meanwhile, the Upper West Side works well for McGee and her family of five. When choosing the best borough in New York City for families, consider good schools, safe neighborhoods, and the availability of family-friendly activities.
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
No matter your location, raising a family is full of surprises! Remember to give yourself time to embrace and adjust to the challenges and joys of living in the city with kids. For McGee, adjusting to not having a car and lacking space at home took a bit longer with her first son. However, by the time her twins came along, she and her husband adjusted more quickly to embracing a more minimalist approach.
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. But if you’re living your best life, it’s likely your children will grow up better for it. Other than the culture that makes Andresen love living in NYC with her family, she believes the city helps she and her husband be the best versions of themselves.
“As parents, we’re a quick train ride into the city to absorb any and everything we want to and are constantly inspired, leading us to a happier and healthier life,” Andresen said. “This is our place!”
Still struggling to make all of your family’s belongings fit in your NYC apartment? Extra Space Storage has storage facilities throughout the city, so it’s easy to get a convenient storage solution for your family. Find a storage unit near you!