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Why I Choose to Raise My Kids in San Francisco: Janice Tam

We’ve all been there. A well-meaning friend/family member/colleague knows what’s best for you, for your future kids, for your life. They have advice, and you want to take them seriously because they have kids! What do you know?


That’s where I found myself in 2008. I’d just landed the job that made it possible for us — me and my then-boyfriend-now-husband Markus — to move from San Jose to the City.


“We are going to stay in the City forever,” I asserted over my microwaved lunch.


“But you’re going to want a room for each kid, and a backyard. You’ll need space for an au pair and storage space for all the kids’ stuff,” my coworker countered. “You’re going to want to move back to the suburbs as soon as you have children.”


I looked at my colleague; a mom of two elementary-age kids, former Noe Valley resident currently residing in San Mateo.


“You’ll change your mind once you have kids,” she said. “Just you see.”


“No, I don’t think so,” I replied, this time a little less sure.


Markus and I packed our things and moved into a one-bedroom in Mission Bay. We ditched the car and started taking Caltrain to jobs on the Peninsula. We’d finally made it to The City.


In 2012 we welcomed a baby girl, Heike, and were determined not to go back to the suburbs. In a city rumored to have more dogs than kids, we expected San Francisco to have little to offer our growing family.

We traded event calendars for the Golden Gate Mother’s Group. We became immersed in a world of play spaces, museums, and preschool spreadsheets. We knew when Teacher Jim was running story time at the Main Library. We had a strategy for the San Francisco Unified School District lottery. We found our people.


Heike learned to walk on the Mission Creek promenade to a backdrop of houseboats. When that got too limited, we ventured farther to the Embarcadero. We used carshare when we wanted to explore the greater Bay Area.


In 2014 we welcomed our second daughter, Saskia, and moved to Potrero Hill. Our world now revolved around Recess, Jackson and the Arkansas Rec Center playgrounds, and the Potrero Hill library. All within a two-block radius of our home. Muni routes connected us to everything. A jaunt down the hill takes us to Crane Cove Park. A beach! Half a mile away!


Now, both kids attend Daniel Webster Elementary. We’re fully ensconced in the community. Growing up in the City, the children are exposed to the realities of humanity that push us as parents to model empathy and teach street safety.


Parenting is never easy but parenting in San Francisco is both a special kind of challenge and joy. As I think back on those newborn days to where we are now, I know we made the right decision to stay. Ten years after becoming parents, we wouldn’t trade any of it for a third bedroom in the suburbs.


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