Today I got to spend some time with my brother, a corporate lawyer, who now lives in LA. He works with banks and large companies to structure contracts and transactions. My brother lived on Wall Street a few years and doesn't miss New York at all.
'Life is hard in New York,' he tells me every time we see each other. To him, it's the subways and the long hours. Why not have a healthy lifestyle and nice weather all the time?
I often think the opposite, that New York life is easy, and that New Yorkers are a breed of human that refuses to grow up. They don't have to deal with buying a place, cleaning gutters or shoveling snow. They can live in a perpetual playland, if they want to.
Take my coworker and her husband, who came with me on the Aspen leg of my trip. They rent in Battery Park City, after living in White Plains.
'How about Brooklyn?' I'd suggested to the husband. 'You get twice as much space as Manhattan, and there are a lot of great restaurants now. It's not like it was a few years ago.'
'Well, we love Battery Park City. There's the park, and there's the water.' Then he added, 'Having a kid in New York isn't so hard. Everyone comes to you.'
Yes, that's true, but your combined income has to be a certain amount to afford such luxuries. He and his wife have a nanny who visits every day, so that both parents can work. They own a car, and he makes the reverse commute to Jersey for his job. Presumably, too, they park the car in a garage.
My cousin and her husband, on the other hand, live in Chicago. They also have a babysitter who visits daily to care for their 10-month old. They own a townhouse on Chicago's South Side.
These families are the lucky ones. I think it's the story of many couples in New York and other major cities. Their lifestyles sound nice. Their kids were planned. But what happens when life doesn't go according to plan?
What if you're a single parent? What if you're struggling to make ends meet? Your view of the world would be very different from 'everyone coming to you'.
My mom recounted life when I'd been born. My father was studying for his PhD. His monthly stipend was $400 a month. Rent was $350 a month. Fortunately, my grandparents moved in to help with my brother and me, so my mom could go to work.
It certainly does take a village to raise a child. Some villages are just fancier than others.