When we were living north of Chicago, we would get so many comments like, “Wow! You must love living so close to Chicago!” “Don’t you take the kids there all the time?!” etc., etc. The truth is, we honestly didn’t think it was all that great. Living 45 minutes north of Chicago, meant just DRIVING there was rough with children. In addition, everything was SO INCREDIBLY PRICEY. When you’re trying to save up for a house, spending 80 bucks for a trip to the Shedd Aquarium (bearing in mind you will be lucky to get even two hours out of your money before the kids are absolutely done) just doesn’t seem like a great idea.
We tried the Lincoln Park Zoo once with Abby, before Evie was born. We had looked into all the wonders Chicago had to offer and this seemed like the one good idea. It had fun animals, we could walk around, take breaks as needed, pack a picnic lunch to save money, and *drum roll* it was FREE. Of course, even though we were there right away there was absolutely no free parking left so we enjoyed the stressful experience of driving around looking for parking before finally just forking out $25. Boo. It did end up being pretty fun but wasn’t something we would want to experience more than once (MAYBE twice) a year.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say most people probably enjoy Chicago for its shopping and food. Throw in the group who like walking around taking pictures from the Sears Tower and in front of the Bean and I think we’ve covered it. This would explain in a nutshell why I don’t love Chicago. In fact, I don’t even really like it. I don’t like shopping. I don’t like spending money on eating out. And you would have to offer me a very generous sum of money to convince me to go up in the Sears Tower. Heights aren’t my thing. I’d take a picture in front of the Bean if I happened to see it, but I’d rather take one in a good ol’ Iowa soybean field (I know, I know, groooooooooooan). Finally, I don’t like the mobs of people (especially with children – it’s just stressful trying to keep track of everyone!) and lack of nature. There are buildings and stores and people everywhere. I didn’t realize how much I needed the country until we lived in the city. Give me a big, green field with a herd of goats over a crowd of Chicago folks any day!! I think I go into survival mode in obscenely large crowds and just feel stressed until I get out. haha
Even though we weren’t living IN Chicago, we were in a big city. There were basically never ending cities all connected to each other and it took roughly an hour driving to get out into the country. Shopping at Wal-mart on the weekends was actually downright terrifying. The store was so full of people that I would get claustrophobic. I had to be ready to yank Abby out of the way of careening carts at any given moment because everybody was rushing around getting stuff and most of them were MAD. People’s attitudes were all, “GET IN. GET OUT. AND GET OUT OF MY WAY.” It felt like over busy, yet oddly isolated, lifestyles were the way to go.
Maybe this way of life was strange for me because I grew up in such a small town. Everyone knew everyone else via some sort of connection or relative and you couldn’t drive anywhere without at least a few people waving at you. Most days it felt like people went to Wal-mart just so they could make some friendly small talk with a neighbor. We didn’t even have a super Wal-mart most of my childhood and it made the newspaper’s headlines for about 2 years straight before and after it was built! Life just felt more relaxed.
Chicago living is probably vastly improved if you’re a lover of busy city life, have older (or no) kids, or are enjoying a weekend visit. Totally different experience. Or maybe I just didn’t know where to find the good activities and have an atrocious time adjusting to big city living. That could definitely be part of it. Farm girl who can only handle so much city = me.
Although we grew up thinking the QC area was the biggest city ever, we now recognize (and deeply appreciate) the much slower pace of life is has to offer. Shopping is back to a much more social and friendly experience. People wave and smile as they drive by. Speaking of driving….. even the “busy” roads feel empty and SO slow now. And it seems there are endless fun things to do! There are so many wonderful, child-friendly activities within quick driving distance. I’m still beyond thankful that we are back in good ol’ Iowa – a place we can definitely call “home.” 🙂