Raising Kids in Raleigh

This is getting kicked around a bit in another thread, but I wanted to share something that Matt Yglesias wrote recently about how cities are fantastic places to raise kids, but the affordability crisis is making it increasingly difficult for families with children to stay in the city even if they want to:

As it relates specifically to Raleigh, what sorts of things can we or should be we doing to ensure that that Raleigh is a city of opportunity for people at all stages of their lives? I was talking with @ADUsSomeday in real life recently, and he was talking about how in his neighborhood, he sees a lot of young childless professionals and a lot of older neighbors, but not very much in between. And I think we see that in a lot of places. If a neighborhood is not conducive to raising children, it’s going to really limit your ability to retain very many people in their 30s and 40s–and if those folks leave the city, they’re not likely to come back to it once the nest is empty.

Obviously school quality is crucially important, but that’s the ambit of the county school board. For Raleigh city government, I think the single biggest issue is tackling the affordability crisis by increasing density and housing diversity, and secondarily by making safely walkable and bikable neighborhoods rather than car-centric ones. Any parents on this forum care to chime in about the best and not-the-best features of living downtown with kids?

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I’ve been meaning to use the collective board knowledge to see how many on here are currently raising kids in DTR (school age), and their respective thoughts on this.

While I do not live in DTR (wish I could afford to tho), my wife, three kids, and three dogs share a 2100 sqft townhouse in N Raleigh. We do live in a neighborhood where we can walk to two different shopping centers (7 minutes to Harris Teeter, 21 minutes to Food Lion) that each have lots of dining options. I know we are the exception to the rule, but choosing to live in a walkable neighborhood (after living in a desert island for 9 years) was an important factor for us. We moved into a neighborhood of mostly retirees and empty-nesters, but in the past year, my kids have gained about 5 adoptive grandparents on our street. The plus side as a parent, we have no problem letting them run and play in the neighborhood, because there are lots of eyes watching out for them. This may get me shunned on this forum, but in our section of the neighborhood, there are 3 cul-de-sacs, meaning, there is no through traffic, and my kids (ages 10, 10, and 4 1/2) play in the street literally everyday.

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My daughter is 4 now and raising her near downtown has been a joy and I don’t feel like she’s been missing out on anything. At the same time, my wife and I sound like weirdos when we talk about living in downtown, raising kids in downtown in our “tiny” (1250 sq ft) home so a lot of this may come down to what people expect in at different life stages. There’s just a large perception and mindset that when it is time to have kids, that means:

  • I need a yard
  • I need to have a room for every kid
  • I WANT a bonus room

Basically, much, much more space is needed. I challenge that to be honest but hey, more power to you if that’s how you want to spend your money.

I think you’ll hear this from young families at first, that they not only can’t afford downtown but what they really mean is that they can’t afford the suburban amenities (space and more space) in downtown in addition to owning two cars. At the surface, larger cheaper homes near downtown will help this but the economics don’t support it so I don’t think this will happen.

One topic I think that is not being talked about as much is the family dynamic shift of a single income (father works and mother stays at home with the kids) from decades past to having two working parents these days. This presents a challenge where deciding where to live has to be somewhat in the middle of the two working locations. I think it would be an interesting and worthwhile endeavor for downtown Raleigh to try and grab folks from both sectors so that both parents can work/commute to downtown.

I still remember that stat where over half of Triangle workers cross a county line to get to work. That means there’s a REALLY good chance that a lot of working couples work far away from each other so the collective “compromise” middle location to live in somewhere in the suburbs rather than near a large employment center.

I’m not sure what downtown employment has to look like, I guess a mix of industries down here, but when both parents can easily grab jobs in the same location, getting a house nearby starts to make a pretty strong argument.

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We did single income (and twice tried single vehicle) until we sold our old house in NE Raleigh. With young twins, it literally did not make financial sense for my wife to work since all of her income would go to childcare. My wife now works in Durham and I work by the airport in Morrishell. We have the little one in daycare. Between the 12 months of daycare and trackout day camps for my twins, we will spend over $17,000 in 2019 for child care. This isn’t a downtown issue, but a working parent issue. Being a parent to even one child costs a fortune… I honestly struggle to figure out how folks afford to have multiple kids, live in big houses, drive expensive cars, and go on vacations every year. Our typical “vacation” has been a 4 day weekend to my mother-in-law’s house in Charleston. Exciting vacation, but it is literally all we an afford until the kids become more self sufficient.

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This is a huge issue for so many families, regardless of where they live, but if housing costs in the city are astronomical, it just compounds the problem. (And the cost of rent for a day care business is going to be higher in an downtown area, which doesn’t help.)

This is probably my number one national political issue, honestly. My wife and I would like to have another child someday, and our daughter is old enough that the overlap of having two children in day care would be short enough that we could just bite the bullet and eke by for a little while. Our salaries are comparable, and it just wouldn’t make sense for us personally for either one of us to drop out of the workforce temporarily because of the long-term damage it would inflict on our earning potential. But I absolutely understand why child care costs are driving so many people who want to work, and especially women, out of the workforce. It’s a calamitous national crisis that’s not being talked about nearly enough.

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This issue was one of the breakthrough benefits offered by SAS Institute, not too long after it started in Raleigh in 1976 on Hillsborough street. Free day care for employee’s children.

One of the first women employees was going to leave to have her child… but they were so dependent on her, so Jim Goodnight offered for the company to pick up the tab off site day care. Later (after they moved to their campus off Harrison/I-40) they built on site day care. You can pick up your kid from one of buildings (there’s a couple of them) to have them join you for lunch at one of 5 cafeterias on site. With that and the free m&ms, why work anywhere else!

It is still the most popular benefit, and really helps retain employees.

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Debt tolerance. I’m convinced that’s how others can “do it all” while you and others feel like they can’t. I can’t explain it to myself any other way. Others must be fine racking up a ton of debt in some form or another. Maybe you justify it by thinking you’ll pay it all back once the kids are going to public school. :man_shrugging:

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Honestly, this seems like a no-brainer for any large employer, and I’m shocked that more companies don’t offer it.

My only thought is that historically men with stay-at-home wives have been the people in positions to make decisions on benefits, and they didn’t understand the need or care. Hopefully, as we see more women and more men who have working spouses rise up the ranks to executive positions, this will become more widespread. Props to Jim Goodnight for being a trailblazer.

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I personally will never understand how the Triangle area in general gained the reputation as a “great place to raise kids.” The city neighborhoods are either cost prohibitive or the houses are too small and filled with millennial tech bros who will likely never have kids. The suburban neighborhoods, I feel, are terrible places for kids to grow up. They are essentially locked in their sub development and forced to endure a sheltered existence until they can get their drivers license and then you have to worry every time they go somewhere because the roads fucked and the drivers are terrible. All things considered - we will likely stay in the city and build an addition if necessary. Hopefully it gets better for kids, seems like it might.

I honestly wonder about that too. I’ve got a decent job and have 2 incomes in my household, but I don’t know how people afford having kids and have any sort of standard of living. It’s way better here than metro Boston where I used to live, for sure.

I don’t want kids for a number of reasons, but I’d be a lot more amenable to the idea if I was super rich and had a nanny and stuff, and didn’t have to worry about any costs. Health insurance, food, clothes, activities, education, etc make me feel like no one would ever have any money. My only debt is my mortgage; no student loans, car’s paid off, no credit card debt. But add that on, and it’s even worse.

Raleigh is a great place to raise our two dogs tho! :upside_down_face:

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I had the same thoughts as you when I was married without a kid, thinking that I was about to have a huge chunk of our budget going towards childcare that I would have to make some serious sacrifices. I guess you just get used to it and work with what you got.

My daughter is almost 5 so let’s say we had no kid now, what would I have done with 5 years worth of no childcare costs. Probably gone on a few more international vacations or upgraded the vacations I have taken plus paid more debt off (some student loans and paid more towards the house)

I will also say that when having these childcare costs and I want something expensive, I may hustle a little more, I’ve done some freelance work to make some side money. Without the push for it, I may not have done that kind of side hustle if I was comfy.

Everyone takes it differently though. It’s also temporary as Kindergarten starts next Fall and we immediately get a raise. :grimacing:

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For a different perspective on the cost of raising kids and living in Raleigh check out the Root of Good blog. Some may already be familiar with it. They have three kids, dad retired at age 33, they’re now living on a roughly $40k/year budget. Seem to do 2-3 international vacations a year. They don’t live downtown and have only one car.

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AMEN!! I’ve been counting the months until Alex starts school next August. Then we get to replace siding and windows with our “raise”. But we have a home we love, so it is an investment.

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I agree. Others are appearing to “do it all” due to their willingness to take on mountains of debt. Everyone else has a mortgage and two car payments so why shouldn’t we??

Be careful what you do with that raise when your daughter ends day care and starts kindergarten. I’ve been down that road and wasn’t the most careful.

Yep, raising kids in an urban location ~1 mile from center of DTR. The only goal I’ve ever had for my kids would be that they can walk / bike themselves to school. You’d think that would be an easier bar to hit - really sad how hard that is to achieve TBH. We don’t have a yard but find that gives us more time to play with our kids in the city parks - of which we have (2) within a block! Seriously though, places like Marbles and the new Moore Square (with a splash area, OMG) or Pullen Park, etc, are all we could ever ask for and they are all bikable for us. We’re very happy raising our kids here.

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That sounds fun. I was wondering how raising kids close to or in downtown would be.

Looks like lots of upside with all the public spaces, and so much to do being reachable by walking or biking.

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I took my wife and daughter to the Holiday Express at Pullen Park last night, which is the first time we’ve ever done that, and oh my goodness, it was just magical. (My wife took all the good photos, but I’ll try to post some later if I can.)

What an amazing thing to have here in our city. My deepest gratitude to all the city employees who work to make this happen every year. I don’t know which one of us had the biggest smile last night, but that was one very, very happy kid.

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