Tuesday 19 October 2010

The great Australian dream?

or this?

Since I've embarked on this parenting lark, I have had one debate raging in my mind. I know that I'm not alone in this and many of my mum friends have been having the same debate with themselves. No, it's not cloth versus disposable. Or breast versus bottle. Or controlled crying versus co-sleeping.

It's city life versus the 'burbs.

It's been spinning my mind round and round in circles. What would be better for the kids? What would be better for us? What is going to make us all happy?

As a lot of you know, we live in a small semi-detached cottage in the inner west of Sydney. The four of us in two bedrooms. A handkerchief-sized garden.

We live a stone's throw from a famous strip, filled with restaurants, cafes and shops. We live minutes from the CBD. Our neighbourhood is an eclectic mix of cool people, academics, famous actors, musicians, older migrants, fashion designers, stock brokers, tradies, wharfies, families of all descriptions.

Our kids play in a park with the locals kids, every day. Their parents are a mix of different nationalities, sexualities and family situations. Everyone looks out for one another. Whenever we walk around our neighbourhood we always meet and say hello to people we know.

Our kids dine out on authentic handmade Shanghai dumplings that feed our family for the price of a Domino's pizza. They eat sushi, Turkish pide, pasta, Vietnamese and much more without batting an eyelid.

They get to see and participate in all sorts of concerts and activities in the area. Cultural festivals, free performances and concerts are a regular thing in another local park a couple of hundred metres from our house.

When you look at it like this, we live in Nirvana. Why would you want to live anywhere else?

Well, there's those planes that fly overhead, relentlessly from 6am to 11pm. I know it's 6am when that first Boeing 747 flies over shuddering the windows.

There's the fact that we live on top of each other. The kids can't squeal don't the hallway constantly cause I worry that they're disturbing our neigbours. There's nowhere for us really to get away and have our own space if we need it. There's no space - full stop.

Parking. During the week, I can't park in front of my own house. Dragging two kids and boot full of shopping down the street is not fun.

It's times like this when I dream of a home in the burbs. Where I can pull into my own driveway, never worrying about if I'll be able to get a park. The kids have room to run around and spread their toys. Make noise and be, well, kids.

Somewhere peaceful, with no planes, no trucks. Clean air. Space. Green.
Where the kids can walk to school. Ride their bikes in the streets. Be independent.

Then I toss the argument back in my mind. Would our view of the world be narrowed? Would we miss the diversity we have come to love here? Would we miss the restaurants and cafes? Being able to walk everywhere? Being part of the action? Would I die of boredom?

Do you live in an inner suburb, the burbs or the country? What do you love about where you live?


  1. Great Post! WoogsWorld is situated right on the fringe of the city. We rent the only house in our street with off street parking and a big backyard. We sacrificed house space for outdoor space, which is what you do when you have two boys 2 years apart. We too walk to everything and have the cultural/dining and entertainment options at our fingertips - and I like it!

  2. Well you know my slant on this. I had this CONSTANT struggle when we were in Camperdown. The space {lack of} the noise, the neighbours and the NO FUCKING PARKING during the day that did my head in. The move to the burbs was something that Rob was not keen in AT ALL, also considering the cost involved to get more space, the pay off just wasn't enough as we really wanted all those things you mention so we went to the extreme and moved to the country. A very big house in the country.

    Who knows what this is going to mean for us. Def we will miss out on a lot of culture and experience and diversity that the girls used to get. But...they will get other things. Cows, an appreciation for the land, and it's not like we can't still get a Adriano Zumbo macaroon and coffee if we want, Bowral is *just* there and Sydney is less than 2 hours away. We are lucky to have family back there who we can stay with, and make real weekends and be tourists in our {old city} see galleries, get Sushi on Stanley again, go to festivals, theatre...we will just be planning ahead of time.

    Who knows the answer though? I think listen to your heart {Roxette was right}. You really know the answer already. Pretending that you can't live without all those things only lasts so long. Believe me. I know.

    PLUS I need a neighbour down here. Gerringong? Yes Please!

  3. I think you have a very narrow view of the burbs- I live in the burbs and have access to all those things (and more). The inner west doesn't have a monopoly on great cafes, food, culture and diversity!

    There is diversity all over Sydney & unless you go out and explore other parts of it (including burbs) you're not going to find that out.

  4. Oh Beth, if I could have your house I would move in a heartbeat. Skip and I call Bowral 'rural Mosman'.

  5. Aneets - good point and I agree with you. I lived in many different areas of Sydney, including a few different burbs, before we moved to the inner west (only been here 4 years out of 34) and didn't miss out on good food, culture, etc. But it's the abundance I've grown to love. It's also being right in the middle of the action. Literally stepping out the door and having it right there.

    The 'will I die of boredom?' question was a little tongue in cheek.

    Then there are the questions of the cost of moving to somewhere larger and the commute to work, etc, etc. It's never an easy decision to move!

  6. Well I don't live in Sydney, but I'm guessing the basics are the same as here in Melb. I view our place now as the best of both worlds: we live on the train line, an hour out of the city proper. We can walk everywhere, we have caf├ęs at our disposal offering a great variety. I love that I don't have to queue. I have parking space (heck, I have a garage and a driveway!). We live on 1/4 acre. We're in the 'burbs. It's leafy, quiet, heavily community-oriented and still quite diverse.

    If we want to visit hustle and bustle, or festivals, or the symphony orchestra... we drive or hop a train and we're right amongst it. But then we come back to our haven with all this glorious space around us.

    You asked! That's just my 2c. And I'm glad your 'die of boredom' query was tongue in cheek... it's only ever what you make of it. Right? ;)

  7. We sold up the inner pad last year and moved to the burbs in July this year - yep, took me a year to accept the burbs change, and while we are still considered to be in the inner sanctum (that is still only 12kms to the CBD) we can't walk to EVERYTHING like we used to.

    In saying that, we have a decent house, decent yard and and the kids are much happier, we have more people over to play/stay/dine then we used to in the other place cos now we have space, it is easier for people to visit us and stay for longer as the space is welcoming to larger numbers of people.

    It is good, but no, I wouldn't be able to go really far out, I like the access to everything, I like to be close to work and if I get a call from creche the kids are only ten minutes from me.

    IMportant to remember, there are restaurants and people everywhere, a new place will not be in the desert with no one and nothing around, it will be ok to leave the hustle and bustle, and having a drive way is bloody fantastic!

  8. We're in the South West, which I guess is the 'burbs? We like where we live but in saying that, we both grew up here so we know no different.

    The 'burbs do have traffic, trucks and parking can be a pain sometimes. Don't even get me started on the shambles that is the M5! It seems you have to keep moving out further and further on the fringes of Sydney to escape it all.

    Our dream is to sell up in a few years time and aim for something abit further out, something semi-rural. 4 bedroom house on a decent sized block of land. Bliss!

  9. We're also conflicted on this. I love where we are now, it is an area that I feel thoroughly spoiled by because everything I could possibly want is right there. Although I too am not thrilled with the flight path! Also I'm not too thrilled by the prospect that when we do move, we'll have been well and truly priced out of the inner west market. So we'll hold tight for the meantime, until we work out our next move.

    But where to move to? We're both adamant that we are not moving to the north shore or the Western Suburbs, despite proximity to our parents. Neither are bad areas and they have everything we could want but they're not moves either of us want to make. And we can't quite deal with the thought of moving interstate either. So we fantasise of somewhere in the country but not too sure of how to make it work. Will one of us become a permanent SAHP? Will the other live in Sydney at one of our parent's places during the week to cut the commute? We've talked about this heaps, but can't arrive to any firm conclusion.

  10. well as you know I used to live in Crown St surry Hills and when I made the decision to go back to my hometown for 3 months (yeh right) I was anxious at leaving all of those wonderful city things you described there. How could I live without restaurants at my fingertips, festivals, Diversity, interesting ppl?! BUT now a few years later I love this lifestyle and you know without all of those things at my fingertips it has caused me to become more creative and inspired.
    When I lived amongst it I let the city entertain me, i passively soaked it up.
    Being out in the country has made me create the things I want, it has forced me to step up and see what I am made of, it has opened up my imagination and widened my perspective.
    Having a child out here is fantastic, open places to run around, make a noise and CHEAP! Our mortgage is cheaper than any rent i have ever paid. I LOVE me some culture and diversity and cafes and restaurants are my thing, not having them at your doorstep makes them even more of a special occasion when I do visit them. I think taking the plunge and leaving where everything you (think) you need is right at your fingertips does wonders for self-growth and seeing what you are made of and the kids LOVE it!

    having said that,can't wait to get to Sydney!

  11. Being Me - yep, I certainly wanted your 2c! It's interesting to hear what works for people and what they enjoy about where they live.
    It sounds like you've found your own little piece of paradise.

    Holly - We'd like to do the semi-rural thing too. It's all about finding a balance of what works for us.

    Clairey - Interesting to hear what you've done and how you've done it. Yep 12 km is still pretty close to town! Glad you have found something that works for you and your family.

    Sarah - you've perfectly articulated how I feel. I love our area and being spoilt for choice. But we have been priced out too. We could only afford to buy a house the same as what we've got, so no real point, when we really want space. Now trying to find an area where we could live happily, where we can have the space but still be affordable and still not too far away for Skip for work. He works 11 hour days, so if we add too much more on to the commute the kids would never see him. We'd love to go country, but I don't think we could make it work career-wise.

  12. I would never live in the city. I don't like the hussle and bustle at all. But that is just me.
    I think you'd find the burbs are pretty diverse themselves. I can't say i've met a homosexual man couple with a child/ren but i have met lesbian women who are mothers. There is a HUGE cultural diversity, so much so that sometimes i feel like the odd one out.
    There is still loads to do around here, but i do think the 'burbs are too polluted for my liking and too "busy" for my liking.
    Personally i think if you're thinking of somewhere quiet then you need to go rural these days.

  13. As you know, we were in inner-city for 6 1/2 years then moved to Bundeena (loads of space, in the national park), stayed a year, didn't like it and moved back to Rozelle again...and are here to stay. But I know people who made the move either to the 'burbs or country and love it (but must say I also know a few who are not happy with their move and have either moved back or are planning to). I know that is enormously unhelpful....but my one word of advice would be RENT (rather than sell and buy...like we did). Apart from a bit of hassle, just making the move and seeing if you like it is at worst an interesting experience and at best finding the place you'd like to spend the next phase of your life. I am really glad we moved....and then moved back again....the only negative was the stamp duty we had to pay (which we would have avoided if we had rented out our house and rented in Bundeena - but even so..not really complaining).

  14. Great post hun!

    I was at this crossroads too recently and I know I will be happy with the decision we made.

    The city IS great at times. The Burbs are great too, at times. Both have pros and cons.

    Now that my husband works out of the city, there is no reason for us to live here.

    I'm from the North West of Sydney originally and when we move into our new house in 2 months, my sister will be 10 mins away, my parents, a 2 min drive, my inlaws a 5 min drive. Woolies, shops, parks, movies, all a 5 min drive.

    Yes, the cafe scene in the suburbs might suck a little, but it will make for a fun date night out in the city, minus the kids.

    I'd give the move a go. More space will be fantastic, the kids will have room to grow, literally!

    If you don't like, you can always move back.

    You only live once, life is short hun. Do it, go country!


  15. So hard. The old pro and con dilemma.

    We don't have the city scene so much on the Gold Coast, but I know I found it hard to leave the bright lights of Surfers Paradise when our first child arrived. To move to essentially the suburb I grew up in.

    But from there, we've gained a lot of friends just like us in our street and the kids can run around the backyard and knacker themselves.

    Good luck with your decision. Sounds really tough. x

  16. We're in the burb's - Sydney's northern beaches in all it's gloriousness. And yes, it is very burb'sy and mummsy. But we have the bush and the beach and inner city Sydney, and multicultural Sydney all within reach (or a 40 min drive - bit more for Cabramatta for Vietnamese!). I think it comes down to your attitude. If you want to find it, you'll go looking for it. If inner city'ites want the beach, they go find it. If we want grungey cafes, we go find it. It's the peeps who just live within the confines of their patch wherever it may be, and think "That's it, that's all I need" - well I think thats when it starts getting scary!

  17. Really it's only a location. I've done inner city, burbs and now a tree change and each one offers a different experience. Some days I hate the few hours to get to Sydney to catch up but then other mornings when the air is still and the birds are feeding there is peace.

  18. I walk my hounds in your area every day. As the Whitlams proudly sing "You gotta love this city"

    I couldn't live anywhere but the Inner West. Grew up in the 'burbs and it was the pits.

  19. Thanks everyone for their comments.

    Sam - I was thinking about you when I wrote this ;) The one thing that makes me a little sad is, that we will be further away from our family and friends. It would def be easier if we were moving closer.

    Giving Back Girl - yep, totally agree with you. We have friends from north shore/northern beaches who won't visit us anymore as they don't like to cross the bridge and friends in the west who won't leave the area. Most weekends during summer we're at Freshwater and we love a Sunday drive to discover something. Being foodies we'll travel to Granville for baklava or Richmond to pick fruit or something like that.

    Curvaceous Queen - Yep, but it's a location I've grown to love living in. So, when the time comes it will be sad to leave the neighbourhood. Though I know that we will live somewhere equally lovely.

  20. For me it's the country hands down. We live in the burbs or on the coast but work in the city and we dream of the day when we can move back to the country.
    I grew up in a large regional city in NSW and it's very cosmopolitan now. It offers a lot of the pros of the city, but work is a 10 min drive and you can pop home for lunch. I really want my children to experience the wonderful childhood I experienced in the regions.
    At the moment it's just hubby and I but we could not move into a house any smaller. I love the space and having a beautiful guest room and office. And it had to be the burbs so we could adopt a puppy.

  21. Hey Corrine, as you know, I'm a burbs girl ;) We have the big house, biggish yard, with lots of parks and green space a minutes walk away.

    The culture that you speak of sounds amazing- I would love that for my kids!! But, as they say, the grass is always greener ;) Personally, the burbs is the place to be, for me, with little kids... but in 20 years time, we'll do a house swap? ;)

  22. Loved this post. As a mum of two teens and a five-year-old, it really is such a short time that kids are very little. If you can stick it out till they're at school, you'll be glad you did. I live at the beach, not the city, but it's a big region and we made the decision three years ago to move from the burbs to closer to the beach and the "CBD". The sacrifice we made was in space and we no longer have a pool but we love being able to walk/ride anywhere - and wouldn't go back! The one toilet between five does get a bit trying at times though!!

  23. There's give and take in every situation. Culturally, I live in the arse-end of nowhere. But we do have space, and we're close to the beach. I am concerned about the lack of opportunity here though.


Thank you so much for your comments! I'm always thrilled to hear from you.

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