Steph and I joke that in 2020, our then 13-year old daughter Kate will attempt to pass herself off to her friends as some kind of sophisticate. "You know, I was born in New York City. That's why I have such a good sense of style," she'll say, ignoring the fact that she moved from New York when she was 18 months old.
Once we found out that we'd be having a child during our time in New York, I suspected that we'd want to race out of the city. I thought that the oddities of Manhattan life – the expense, the carlessness, the feeling that you lack room to move – would propel us away. I was wrong.
Sending Kate to daycare for the past year has meant that we've met the parents of her classmates. These families are similarly situated to us, with similar experiences and jobs — and they're not leaving New York any time soon. Moreover, we've met the families that live in our building, with children now heading to college who have lived their whole lives here on 89th street. They're not racing to get out of the city.
All of this is not to say that it's easy to raise kids in Manhattan. You need only look at the expense of Manhattan living to grasp the challenge of raising a family here. Money magazine's online cost of living calculator indicates that someone earning $50,000 in Hastings, Nebraska (just down the road from my hometown), would need to make $119,397.45 to maintain the same standard of living if they settled on the island of Manhattan.
Some examples will help illustrate why my gut thinks the Manhattan number above is on the low side, at least for our neighborhood. First, the annualized cost for Kate's daycare is on par with what my parents paid to send me to Stanford in 1995 (we paid 3x what our friends in Dallas, Texas paid for comparable care). Second, as we look to rent a home in the SF Bay Area (where Money says you must earn $94,771.31 to approximate that Nebraskan $50k), we find that the same price we currently pay for a 1-bedroom apartment in Manhattan gets you a 3-bedroom house in the nicer parts of Silicon Valley.
Despite the expense, despite the concrete and the pace, despite the pollution and the claustrophobia of being in a city without owning a getaway car, we could live here. We could stay. Kate could grow up here. Granted, we'd probably move to Park Slope in Brooklyn, participating in a yuppie migration as predictable as a seasonal bird migration, but we'd still be in New York City.
But we're not staying here. We're leaving New York. It's impossible to know what the future holds, but it looks like Kate's not going to grow up here. She's not going to grow up as a city kid.
And that makes me a little sad.
What's this? After living in New York City for three years, I'm returning to California. These are the parts of my New York experience that I'll miss the most.