These connections, they say, are established by time spent together. It is a fundamental variable, yet it isn’t easy to control. It’s difficult in the current era to spend as much time with your child as you would like and pay the bills or do fulfilling work. We work longer hours, with less security, so it requires us to think- what has to give to spend a good chunk of time with my child?
Moving closer to family members who can care for your child, or moving closer to work so you can spend more time with your child, may be a way of moving closer to happiness. But if you are extending your commute and leaving burdgeoning roots in the city you are just spending less time with them. We all know that if asked to choose between having a garden or having their parents around more, children would choose to have their parents around more. And if you asked them to consider the amount of equity in your flat and what you could get in the suburbs, they’d fall asleep, with good reason. It’s not important.
While it is true that playing outside is good for children, there is also colloquial evidence that being forced to share resources and space with family members is beneficial for us as we grow up. There is little or no evidence that spending more time commuting is a reasonable sacrifice for a garden. Time spent in nature is important, which is something that having a garden can achieve. But getting into nature can be achieved in many urban settings too- go to parks, grow some plants, get a pet.
Another benefit of living in the city is that mastery of a skill is associated with hapiness, and in many cities, the choice of skills to master is larger. As children get older and develop their own interests, it may be better to be near more amenities, more classes, and more cultural opportunities. It may be that the city could cultivate your child‘s talents, rather than inhibit them.
In short, does living somewhere bigger make your children happier? No. There’s no evidence it does, but there is evidence that other things increase your child’s chances of happiness and for us, these things are better achieved in the big smoke than in some godawful part of the commuter housing belt. (if you’re wondering, we would love to live nearer our families, but they’re either side of the M25 in cultural deserts with high costs of living, far from London Weighting salaries, and far from many friends)
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