Back when North American metropolitan areas were laid out, in suburbs connected by freeways, women typically stayed home to raise the 3.9 children that was typical for a woman to have in 1961.
The entire metro area design evolved interconnected with this dominant idea about womanhood as motherhood. Suburbs detached from work areas; malls and shopping detached from home, such that it was a full time job to drive around to provision a home and get kids to and from activities.
Today, suburban living requires almost the same commitment — one parent must devote herself (or himself) to keeping up a suburban home, even if there are no longer 3.9 children there. It is still, at minimum a significant part time or full time job. Leaving one child in extended daycare or with a nanny in order to commute 1 hour each way and then work an 8.5 hour day is not most parents’ preferred option and thus suburban living creates stress for families where both parents enjoy their jobs and want to remain in the workforce. Although working from home is sometimes possible with today’s technology, for many people it’s just not as satisfying as with face-to-face interaction.
Indeed the suburban style of metropolitan organization seems anachronistic and out of place with today’s realities, which creates a lot of stress on families. 61.9% of families with children have both parents working, in Canada. Yet the housing stock and our housing assumptions — that we need to live in a house with a yard if we have children — evolved from a time when many fewer mothers and fathers both worked.
Moreover, today, a woman in Canada typically has only 1.6 children in her lifetime. Having a house in the ‘burbs is hardly necessary as a “space” issue. How much room does a family of 3 need?
Female labour force participation has grown steadily in recent years, and it’s no accident that so has apartment and condominium living in Canada’s larger cities. Given women now earn the majority of university degrees, and the economy is increasingly knowledge based, I expect that urban living close to workplaces will grow in the coming decades. Look for demand for apartments and condominiums to grow.
Living and working in close proximity saves time, allowing time for work and for children, particularly if an employer is somewhat flexible (an increasing pattern as well) — or if the woman or parents create their own businesses. High density areas close to business districts offer lots of potential customers.
Your comments welcome .. are you seeing apartment living as a force that is supporting women in professional careers? does it support you?
What about in the USA where the fertility rate is 2.1 children per woman (much higher than Canada) — is this a cause or an effect of continued suburban lifestyles?