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Possibly, it was around the time you had babies — or were contemplating it — that you last considered moving back to the U.K. And that’s totally understandable. Healthcare is free and adoring grandparents are readily available for date night babysitting. That said, there are plenty of positives to bringing up children in the U.S.
The extra space
The estimated size of an average American house is 2,438 square feet. Compare that to the measly 925 sq ft of the typical British new build home. If you want your children to have room to romp about then you’re in the right place.
Proximity to different landscapes
Stimulating your kids by varying their surroundings and demanding that they appreciate nature is good for them, surely. And America contains virtually every vista known to man. Of course, you may have to drive for two days and survive multiple family rows to get to those stunning mountain views or that swamp tour with guaranteed alligators.
Kids get to see a specialist for a sniffle
If you’re a neurotic parent then the notion of taking your children straight to a pediatrician instead of an all-purpose GP (as is the norm in Britain) will sit very well with you. Also, a lot of doctor’s offices have a policy of separating contagious kids from bug-free nippers to limit the spread of germs. This is so smart, yet I’ve never seen it done back home.
Children grow up to believe they can do anything
The idea that every American child is raised to think they could one day be president is a bit irritating. But I applaud the deeper message: that you can achieve your goals and nothing is out of reach. (Although, obviously, it is. Sorry kiddos!). Children brought up in the U.S. have a positive attitude and present themselves with a confidence and articulacy not seen nearly as much in Britain.
Americans love children
Walk down the street or sit in a restaurant anywhere in the U.S. (even curmudgeonly NYC) with a baby and be prepared for constant cooing and unsolicited cheek pinching. Back home, it’s just old ladies who do this and you’re much more likely to get sneery looks from the general populace should you have the gall to take your child to a public place. But Americans, bless them, are kid crazy.
Childcare is (marginally) cheaper in the U.S.
According to this survey, Brits spend on average slightly more on childcare than Americans. Okay, arguably, when you balance this with the appalling maternity leave most working moms receive in the U.S., you’re still financially better off having kids in Britain. But let’s overlook that because it’s depressing.
You might actually see more of your family than you would at home
(Note: I’m assuming here that this is a GOOD thing. If not, skip this.) One of the big benefits of all that extra living space (see above) is that visitors will stay longer. And when you have kids, guests who settle in for a fortnight go from mildly aggravating to, “Woo hoo, free babysitters!” Grandparents in particular don’t need much encouragement to stay for weeks or months at a time. A quick calculation might reveal that you’re the recipient of more grey labor than your friends back home whose parents live locally.
Kids grow up loving food
American children have a hearty appetites and relish telling you about their favorite things to eat. Adults here are much the same. Despite all the negative stereotypes surrounding Americans and food, evangelizing about edibles has to be healthier than the puritanical eat-to-live attitude of so many Brits. Growing up to regard food merely as fuel is so much less common here. On the flip side, if you’re not careful your children will end up wider than they are tall.
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.