I grew up in a small farming town in the middle of Wisconsin that had two stoplights and only 5,000 residents, many of whom were related to each other. Everyone was all up in each other’s business and I couldn’t wait to get out. So when I graduated from high school, I moved to Madison, a mid-sized college town that’s also the state capital. From there, I spent another seven years living in Chicago before eventually settling in — surprise, surprise! — the suburbs.
The suburbs are well known for their cookie cutter houses, sterile neighborhoods, and lack of character. But as someone who has lived in every kind of town — from a tiny, rural town to a large, metropolitan city — I can honestly say that the suburbs get a bad rap. Sure, there are downsides to living in the suburbs, but that’s true of anywhere.
In an effort to clean up the tarnished reputation of the suburbs, here are a few reasons the suburbs don’t suck:
1. Our kids can live like 1970s kids.
When the weather is nice, my kids walk 3/4 of a mile to and from school with a gaggle of neighbor kids. They run through backyards until they are called home for dinner or it gets too dark to see. Just like our childhood, we suburban parents can lock our kids out of the house, letting them soothe their own skinned knees, drink water from the hose, and make up weird games, while we moms sit inside drinking Tab.
Nah, I’m just kidding. We’re not drinking Tab like our mothers; we’re drinking a passion fruit LaCroix.
2. There’s plenty of room to park your minivan.
Wherever you go, there is ample parking for your minivan. Sure, you might confuse your silver Honda Odyssey with one of the 87 other silver Honda Odysseys in the parking lot, but so what?
3. It’s the best of both worlds.
The suburbs aren’t just a compromise between the urban and rural; they are the best of what both of these locales have to offer. The suburbs are like the mullet of family-living — city in the front and country in the back. Bam! Both!
4. You can pretend you’re younger and hipper than you really are once in a while.
Remember the good ole days when we were young and hip? We did cool things like wander through museums and try new restaurants, take swing dance lessons, and flail about in the mosh pit at music festivals. It didn’t matter if service was slow at the new restaurant or if we were bruised, sore, and hungover as hell after the raging rock concert. We had all the time and energy in the world. Now we have neither time nor energy. Most Saturday nights, we’re in bed by 9 p.m., and going to the museum means yelling at our kids to not touch anything. But for those random times when we want to relive our youth or pretend we’re urbane hipsters, all it takes is a short drive into that glimmering skyline on the horizon. We can feel cultured, worldly, and oh-so-cool for a little while.
And then when we remember we’re old AF, we can get the hell out.
5. They have chain restaurants.
The suburbs are notorious for their plethora of chain restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster — all offering mediocre food with a shockingly high price tag and an even bigger calorie count. No one needs a glass of wine as big as a kiddie pool and a blooming onion flower as big as a small tree, some people say. Well, you know what? After trying to drive away in someone else’s silver Honda Odyssey and fake-smiling at all the overly enthusiastic soccer moms, nothing tastes as sweet as a slice of cheesecake as big as my head and fucknormous fruity drink (with an umbrella thank you very much). In fact, mediocrity has never tasted so good.
6. There are neighbors who’ve got your back.
Whether you need someone to walk your dog, bring in your mail, or jump start your minivan because one of the kids forgot to turn off the interior lights again, there will be a neighbor ready to help.
7. They have kick-ass public schools.
We have plenty of good public schools, filled with great teachers and lots of space, without the hefty private school price tag. So we parents can worry about the really important things – like maneuvering the carpool line and buying snacks for soccer practice.
Admittedly, I might be a walking stereotype of suburban life, wearing yoga pants from Kohl’s while driving my dented minivan to a family dinner at Red Lobster. But you know what? IDGAF.
Home might be where the heart is, but happiness is where there’s easy parking, bottomless baskets of cheesy garlic biscuits, and the acceptance that this is your life and despite the all-too-easy clichés, you actually (mostly) love it.