Choosing Home

Open minds, open hearts. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to sell out.

A principle told us there was more opportunity for kids to grow in a smaller town. A mom of four told us her kids were safer in the big city. Not necessarily what you’d expect, right?

Through our conversations with parents, grandparents, educators and students in and out of the city, we came to understand (or at least scratch the surface on) the complexity of choosing the environment in which to raise and educate your kids.

Samantha, principle of a small town an hour south of Milwaukee, told us all about the incredible opportunity afforded to kids at the school – not in spite of – but because of its small size.  “It’s a very inclusive community. There’s not a lot of racial or ethnic diversity, but there’s economic diversity.”

We heard the same from parents and grandparents at the school’s volleyball game, who said that in a larger town and school system, there’s no guarantee you’ll make the team or be included – there’s always a risk of being left behind.

Danti, on the other hand, is one of the many millennial parents we met who was adamant about raising her kids in the city. Despite experiencing some violence firsthand, she feels safer with her kids here – being watched over by her extended family and community. In a smaller town she says, kids have more opportunity to get into trouble – they know when their parents are gone, they don’t stay as busy, and they more easily fall into trouble with drugs and teen pregnancy.

Beyond just the safety, she sees the city as the only environment in which to raise her kids with “open minds, open hearts. I don’t want to be one of those people [who moves to the suburbs]. I don’t want to sell out.”

We met another parent who chose one of the few diverse neighborhoods in Milwaukee because she felt it was important for her kids to be exposed to a range of people and viewpoints. And if they see or experience something dangerous or challenging – it’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a family.

Today’s parents don’t just dream of a white-picket-fenced, stable suburban environment for their kids (in fact many avoid it like the plague). They’re seeking a combination of opportunity, growth, culture, support, nurturing, security, and of course affordability – and it is incredibly difficult to find all of these things in the same place.

Any brand appealing to families, students, or looking to connect with the educational community, should bear in mind that no environment is perfect. There is no unicorn city, neighborhood or school that provides all of the things parents are looking for in perfect balance. Most families choose with their heart, sacrifice a few criteria, post-rationalize, and make the most of where they are.

Lana Meyer