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  • Writer's pictureErin Shea

Musings from a Small Town Girl Raising Kids in the City

Softball, Camden, Small Town Living
The Softball Field I played on growing up. Home of the Lady Lions!

I'm a small town girl, born and raised.

But I live in a city now, and since I've become a mother, I have naturally reflected on my own childhood and how it was different than what my kids are experiencing now.

I had what most people would call a "picture perfect" childhood. I grew up in Camden, a small town in West Tennessee. I actually remember when my town got its first fast food restaurant chain. As children, my brother and I mostly played outdoors, and while my parents were attentive and kept watch over us, they did not "helicopter parent." I remember playing at my grandparents' farm, where there were pastures, ponds, creeks, cows, coyotes, briars, and snakes, yet we roamed everywhere freely for hours without adult supervision.

Mom Life, Small Town Living
My kids running in my parents' yard in Camden

There were wide open spaces everywhere. There was grass. There were trees. We rode bikes. We walked up and down the town streets. We explored. We did not go to trampoline parks, bouncy houses, or Chucky Cheese for entertainment. We watched television, and as far as I can tell, no one shamed or judged my parents for allowing us to. Oh, how we loved Saturday morning cartoons! But back then, cartoons and television programming for children was actually innocent and age appropriate.

Back where I come from, everyone went to the same school. <<GASP>>

There were no private schools. There was one school system and everyone attended it. Everyone had the same school bumper sticker.

When my parents were working, we stayed with grandparents. My aunts frequently helped my mother with childcare. My Aunt Annette still tells me tales of my childhood. Suffice it to say, I was, without a doubt, a wild child.

We very rarely had babysitters. My parents worked at our small family trucking business, so my parents didn't have to ask off work to be with me for school or sports activities. Sports was a huge deal for me. I played basketball and softball and stayed busy with practices and games.

My larger family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, convened regularly for meals and holiday celebrations. I loved getting to see my family and play with my cousins on a regular basis.

Everyone knew everyone. Our community was extremely supportive of one another. The values and work ethic I observed during my childhood from both my family and other citizens in my town stayed with me. To this day, my small town roots are a huge part of who I am.

So, here I am now raising my kids in a city. Memphis isn't a huge city, but it is definitely still a city and the differences are many.

Because of my background, I have a hard time, conceptually, with the private school situation in my current city. For my readers who are not local, I'll let you do your own research on the public schools in Memphis. Conversations and social groups here center around where you send your kids to school. I look at those bills and I imagine the travel and life experiences I could be sharing with my kids if the money wasn't going toward private school tuition. And I always wonder whether it is really worth it. After all, I am the product of a small town public school education and I managed to complete college and then go on to graduate in the top 10 of my law school class.

In the city, if you want your kids to be able to run around in large green spaces, you have to pack them up in the car and drive them somewhere to do it. You have to search out and find small pockets of the outdoors. It was all so easy in the country. It was literally right outside of my back door.

Until recently, my husband and I both worked. We both had bosses to report to. In order to care for a sick child or attend a school event during working hours, it was necessary for me to ask permission or simply say I couldn't be at work. Everyone in a "billable hour" industry who is reading this knows that in that work culture, a day off is more than a day off. It means you have to find another day to make up those hours. The boss isn't erasing 8 hours from your annual billable hour requirements because you have a sick kid. The billable hours world is a very difficult space to be in when you are raising young kids and do not have family in town to help you.

We rely on babysitters a lot. More than I care to admit. We do not have grandparents or other family members here to help. Many times I feel very alone because of this. I long for what my mother had when she was raising us-- a built-in support system that could be called upon in a moment's notice. On a couple of occasions, I have asked for help from the moms in my daughter's class, and they have happily stepped in to help me. But, I feel guilty for having to ask other busy moms to help me take care of my children.

People are going in so many directions. People are so busy.

There are so many different schools. And activities. And organizations offering activities. And groups of moms.

I don't even know where a softball field is around here. I've literally never seen one. Kids don't ride their bikes alone here. There is always a parent hovering nearby.

I'm sad that my kids are missing out on those big family get-togethers with all their aunts, uncles, and cousins. I'm sad that my kids do not see their grandparents on a regular basis. I'm sad that I don't have a big yard for my kids to run wild in.

I think I really miss the country. Life was so simple there.

I'm still learning how to be a mom in the city. Luckily, there are resources like Memphis Moms Blog to help me find and plan "city kid" activities.

Are you a small town girl raising kids in the city like me? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.



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