Top 5 Family Friendly Chicago Neighborhoods

Top 5 Family Friendly Chicago Neighborhoods

 

Sweet Home Chicago!

Sweet Home Chicago!

We didn’t plan to stay in Chicago for 10 years—We expected to live there for the rest of our lives.  When we moved to the one bedroom apartment directly across from St. Mary’s of the Angels Church on Wood Street and Hermitage, in Bucktown, we knew that we had found “our ‘hood.’” We loved every aspect of living in this diverse and urban area.  But there was one aspect that we never considered:  What were we going to do when we decided to have children? Would we be able to raise a family in this area?

When you are in your mid-twenties, you don’t really think about where you are going to live when you have kids.  Just knowing where the closest Starbucks and sushi-joints are enough to convince you to move to a neighborhood.  Adam and I never thought about the quality of the local public schools or the location of the closest playground.  We didn’t even think about transportation options or kid-centric entertainment options?  Enter Lulu.

Lulu, our daughter, changed everything for us.  Loud buses and ambulances passing by on North Avenue never bothered us in the past. Now, the slightest noise, honk or siren would wake our little bundle of joy and guess what?  When she was up; so were we.

All of the sudden getting to the closest playground was a really big deal.  We had to cross two of the busiest and treacherous streets in Chicago (Ashland and North Avenue). Our urban nirvana became more like a living hell.

After spying two prostitutes “checking their voicemail” under our fire escape one Saturday morning, Adam and I started to discuss our options.  Neither one of us wanted to leave Bucktown.  But when Lulu and I were almost clipped by a taxi scurrying to get through a changing light on North Avenue, we decided that as much as we loved living in Chicago, we needed to move someplace safer, saner and family focused.  Unfortunately, that meant leaving the city.

That was eight years ago.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss living in Chicago.  After all, I am a Windy City Momma, aren’t I?

For those of you urban dwellers facing a similar dilemma, all is not lost.  I found a great resource. The Apartment Guys have a fantastic graphic on their site that serves as a guide for Chicago residents to identify the most family friendly neighborhoods. They include such factors as transportation options, parks and recreation, safety, schooling and entertainment options.  Here’s the link:

So, did they hit the bullseye with their selections, or have the Apartment Guys missed the mark?  What Chicago neighborhood gets your vote as the most family-friendly?

 

Disclosure:  The Apartment Guys sponsored and compensated me for this post.  The opinions expressed in the post are entirely A Windy City Momma’s and were not influenced by the sponsor. 

 

Finding Work-Life Balance By Taking A Break From Social Media

Finding Work-Life Balance By Taking A Break From Social Media

I’ve often read about parents’ constant struggles to achieve work-life balance.  Living in a 24/7 society (as the cliche goes) is challenging when you are (a) trying to keep your job and on top of all of your work and (b) trying to set a good example for your children.  My husband, Adam, is often asked how he achieves this balance and makes it seem so “seamless.”  If you follow his tweets (@akeats) or see his pictures on Facebook, you know that Adam is a great cook.  You also know that he spends a lot of time online–posting pictures of his food and commenting on it. So how does Adam balance his online status with staying tuned in with the happens (literally) at the dinner table?  The answer is embedded in the following Dove Men+Care interview with Brad Powell from Dad Labs:

Video streaming by Ustream

Remember those New Year’s Resolutions we made a month ago? You know the resolution that Lulu asked Adam (and me?) to put down the smart phones and have a conversation with her?  No one believed that Adam would do it–including me.  In the past few years, I can’t tell you the number of times that dinner (whether at home or at a restaurant) has been disrupted by Adam’s phone buzzing with some social media urgency–be it business or personal.  Each time it happens, our family discussions are totally derailed by Adam needing to either look at his phone  and texting someone or by his actually leaving the table to respond to a tweet or text.

Fast forward a month and guess what?  Adam took Lulu’s suggestion to heart.  Now, when he comes home from work, unless he know that there is something going on and he needs to be “on point,”  Adam typically goes upstairs to our room,  plugs his phone into a charger and then returns to the kitchen/family room to help with dinner sans (without)  phone.

The change in our family’s social dynamic was subtle.  I am not sure that either Lulu or I noticed what he was (or was not) doing  But looking back over the past month’s dinners together, I can honestly say that there has been a definite difference in how our family communicates and relates to each other.  Where there once there was a fourth “person” at the table–Dad’s phone, now there are just three of us.  I’ve noticed Adam asking Lulu a lot more questions about what she is learning in school and interacting with her in a way that he couldn’t when his phone was constantly buzzing.  Now, Lulu knows that she has her father’s undivided attention for at least 30 minutes. I think that the time has also helped strengthen their relationship. She even saves some of her best stories for dinner–when both Adam and I can both hear them for the first time.

Adam has even extended this non-social media bubble for ten additional minutes post dinner.  He makes a point to listen to Lulu’s (often out-of-tune) cello practice and comments on what he liked and didn’t like about her playing.  (I just learned that Lulu taught herself “Ode To Joy” on the cello because she knows that her father loves it and not because she has to play it for a school concert!  Now that’s L-O-V-E!)

The point of this post isn’t to brag about my exceptional spouse.  (Really!) If you don’t believe me, take a look at our Today Show piece. Adam’s plenty flawed.  But he has  succeeded in doing something that many of us complain about wanting to do but are still clinging to habits from the past: He figured out how to disconnect (at least for 30 minutes a day) and invest that time in his relationship with his family.   And he has seen significant return on his investment–he has stopped being a “weekend” dad and is now much more of a “day-to-day” one.  These are precious times in our children’s lives and they go by really quickly.  I am so glad that Adam’s not going to miss them.

What do you think of Adam’s methods for investing in “family time?”  Would you be able/willing to put down the phone, iPad, close the laptop and turn off the TV for 30 minutes if it meant you might be able to connect with your kids?  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  But…if Adam teaches us anything, it can be done.  Trust me, your kids may not vocalize their gratitude but they will notice the improvement in their relationships with you.

The "Real" Adam

The “Real” Adam

Here's the image on the back of his phone.  Get the point?

Here’s the image on the back of his phone.
Get the point?