I was born and raised in New York City. My mother was too. I am actually a fourth-generation Manhattanite that could never imagine living any place else.
I will tell you the truth, though: when I went for my 9-week ultrasound after my first round of IVF, and the doctor heard (and saw) a second heartbeat, my husband said, “We have to move!” I don’t know if I was more in shock over that additional heartbeat, or of the prospect of having to leave the island that my family has called home since 1902.
So we looked. We looked in Brooklyn. We looked in Queens. We looked in Staten Island. We even looked in New Jersey. Some of the homes that we saw were quite magnificent. We even toured a renovated firehouse in St. George right by the Staten Island ferry. But, nothing compared to the bright lights and big city that is lower Manhattan.
We decided to stay. Sure, moving would’ve given us more space, but how much space do you really need? My grandmother raised seven children in a 350-ft. apartment on the Lower East Side. If it was good enough for her, it should be good enough for me! I never had a bathtub or a closet to call my own, so I figured that maybe my kids shouldn’t either.
Once we stopped looking for a house, we started thinking about how to adapt our current living situation so it could accommodate two extra people. We made a ton of changes: we put up some walls, painted everything, and did what typical parents do when preparing for their newborns. Of course, I worried I wouldn’t have enough space. But ultimately, I always knew that this was going to be the better choice for me and my growing family.
I’m happy to say that almost 13 years after the arrival of my tiny little twinnies, we made the right choice. And yet, moving still crosses my mind from time to time. I had a recent talk with my kids about it — high school is right around the corner and, in New York City, there’s an overwhelming amount of options. Maybe it would be time for a simpler life. Maybe they needed a breathe of fresh air.
And just like their mama did 13 years ago, my twins totally freaked out. They love living here. They love playing in a park filled with kids instead of a backyard, where there might only be the two of them. They love walking to get shrimp noodles in the morning or fresh mozzarella in the afternoon. They love the hustle and bustle. They love seeing random celebrities. They love being able to get pretty much anything they have ever wanted at any time of day. While they aren’t spoiled, it’s not the worst city to live in when your kids forget to get poster board for a project due in the morning at 9 p.m. at night. (Thank you, 24-hour CVS!)
But what I love about the city is so much more than the superficial — the fact that I never had to teach the kids what “diversity” was; that the kids are amazingly open-minded; that they have kids in school with two moms, two dads, no dad, raised by grandparents, and every type of family in between. I love that they take seeing a giant Picasso in the street (near Washington Square Park) for granted. I love that they literally went trick or treating in Gucci. I love that they are so open, accepting and inclusive, that regardless of where they end up as adults, they will have tons of friends and very open hearts for all of them.
WAIT! Don’t think that I’m saying that folks living in the ‘burbs are close-minded. NO WAY! I’m just saying that the typical opportunity for exposure to different types of lifestyles is sometimes limited. Growing up downtown in the literal melting pot of the city (you saw Gangs of New York right? We live in the “five points”) allows them to see, hear and even taste the different cultures and lifestyles.
I love this city and, sure, we don’t have a bathtub, but we do have so much more to be thankful for. And most days, we have a typical life… even if it it may never seem typical to someone living outside of Manhattan. (You see us cooped up in 650-square feet. I see a small but cozy 3-bedroom that I can clean in about 20 minutes.) And anyway, my kids don’t know the difference.
So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to raise your kids in the city, I hope I’ve convinced some of you to stay. But if you go, and have some extra room in your basement, email me because I’d love to store some boxes down there.
Natalie Diaz is the Pied Piper of twin families around the globe. Founding Twiniversity — the world’s leading support network for multiple birth families — in 2009, she’s become the global influencer for this small niche community. Reaching over a million families a week through Twiniversity’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube channels, moms and dads of twins flock to Twiniversity to find resources, ask questions, explore new products, and find community and support from other twin parents. Natalie is a true connector, bringing parents from all walks of life together, breaking past cultural differences, to share in the highs and lows of parenting twins. Natalie’s book, “What To Do When You’re Having Two” is a global bestseller in Twins & Multiples Parenting.