In the fall of 2014 we fled the comfort of our suburban home to raise our 6 and 3 year old in the more diverse, culturally rich and exceedingly walkable downtown of St. Paul, MN.
It was a carefully calculated move. We were in a stage of our lives where we could move anywhere, but wanting to stay close to family, we narrowed it down to Southern MN. Rochester, Northfield, Edina, Excelsior, South Minneapolis, and St. Paul’s Highland Park, Mac-Groveland, Hamline-Midway or Downtown/Lowertown all received special attention for their schools, employment, and walkability to places we wanted to go. In the end, it was the skyways (and it’s promising escape from the weather), the Chinese immersion program at Jie Ming in St. Paul, and the cultural titans of the Science Museum and Children’s Museum that got us downtown St. Paul.
It appears we have a unique view of ideal parenting locations. Census data puts the average household size in 55101 (downtown’s borders) at 1.26. Couples are an anomaly here, so what exactly does that make us? It does feel like we’re in a Robinson Crusoe novel–on an adventure in uncharted territory, a family downtown by choice with long term intentions.
Ironically, despite the lack of pint sized residents, we’ve discovered a children’s paradise. Or more accurately, a parent’s paradise, because in contrast to the herculean efforts I used to make to organize, schedule, prep, bundle and supervise the kids for stimulating experiences, exercise and culture, here I just walk out the door.
In the move, our private space shrank to a 900 sq. ft. apartment (a 4 fold reduction). Our living space, however, has increased a thousandfold. The skyways (5 miles of it), the Central Library (with an amazing children’s section), a world class Children’s Museum, Union Depot, and an indoor swimming pool, to name a few, are now extensions of our living room. Yes, we have to share it; but someone else cleans it–and that is a thousand times worth it.
We came to give our children a richer environment, a place where they could learn other languages and be with people who look different… or are different. For ourselves, we were searching for a life with less stress, less cleaning, more time and more joy. So far I think we’re on track. Learning the ins and outs of our new city hasn’t been obvious, but we are finding it’s worth figuring it out–and it’s worth sharing.