As I mindlessly browsed through Facebook a couple of weeks back, I found myself intrigued by an article published by the Star entitled “Why We’re Raising Our Kids in a Condo”. I quickly found myself pouring over every single word of Jackie Burns and her family’s story. A true modern family, Jackie and her Husband decided to forgo purchasing a home in the GTA in favour of condo living. Though I have yet to start a family of my own, I’m often consumed with thoughts of when might be “the appropriate time” to retire from the core and lay down roots.
Since I didn’t grow up in Toronto I am still exploring this new space. I’m met with mixed feelings as I travel outside of the city to visit my friends—the new homeowners. Their big backyards and formal dining rooms are all too familiar to me and while I adore the perks of living the suburban lifestyle, I selfishly am not ready to part with Toronto’s core. More and more, I see parents wheeling their strollers around my neighbourhood and I can’t help but hope that they aren’t visitors.
Jackie and her husband, Anthony, discuss how they felt these same pressures before finally deciding to reside in a condo that, as it turns out, suits their family perfectly. Recognizing the lack of this lifestyle depicted in children’s literature, Jackie has set out to fill the void through the creation of her new children’s book, The Condo Kids. As you can imagine, I was completely inspired and absolutely thrilled by Jackie’s story and her new book. I couldn’t help but reach out to Jackie myself and have her elaborate on her tale, just for you.
[photo credit: courtesy of Jackie Burns]
[photo credit for above & featured image: Alison Levesque-Santos]
Without further ado, Welcome Jackie!
Jackie, I’ve given our readers a glimpse into your family’s story and the motivation behind The Condo Kids, but could you share with our readers the thoughts, feelings, and events that finally led you and your husband to forgo the “suburban dream” in favour of high-rise living?
It’s funny because the “suburban dream” was never ours! We just thought it was something we needed to do for the sake of our kids and their childhoods. We’d bought into the notion that the best place to raise children was in a house with a big backyard in a ‘family-friendly’ neighbourhood. We had been loving living in a condo for years pre-kids and but then really started to think seriously about moving to a house when my oldest son was two and we were pregnant with our second son. After looking at a few houses, we got cold feet and decided to put it off for a couple more years. Then a funny thing happened. Our boys started to create these wonderful bonds with the other condo kids in our building; they loved swimming in the indoor pool, and they would spend hours watching all the trains, trucks and buses from the window of our condo 30 floors up in the sky. Before we knew it, we realized they loved high-rise living just as much as their parents! It turns out putting off our move to a house was a good decision because it allowed us to realize this lifestyle makes the whole family happy and in the end nobody was forced to compromise.
You’ve had so much success working in the media, as a writer/editor, reporter, and TV producer. Now you have written your first book with a second on the way! Has writing a children’s book been a long-time dream of yours, or were you inspired to share this particular story with the world?
I’d always wanted to write a book someday but I didn’t think it would be a children’s book! The first bit of inspiration for the idea came when my oldest son was a toddler and would stand in the solarium of the downtown condo we were living in at the time and wave to the other babies and toddlers across the street in another condo. It was so cute! Sometimes he would wave to pets too. I thought it would make a really unique book idea.
Kathryn and I literally devoured The Condo Kids. The book was relatable, funny, and really allowed the reader to get to know the characters personalities, likes, and dislikes. It’s clear that Noah is a born adventure-seeker, while Michael is somewhat more reserved and analytical. How have your two boys helped you develop these characters and the other characters featured in The Condo Kids?
Thanks for the amazing feedback! So glad you liked the book. I was definitely inspired by my boys and their friends in the condo when creating the characters. They have a certain dynamic between them and I wanted to tap into that in the book, but at the same time, every character isn’t based on a specific child. It was more of a grey area! There are personality traits from all the real condo kids which have found their way into The Condo Kids characters.
While reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find that parents, the local chef, and the superintendent are also a big part of The Condo Kids community. These adults seem to play an honorary parental role, one might say, to The Condo Kids community. Is having all of these trusted relationships another reason you and your husband love condo living?
That’s so great you picked up on that! It takes a village to raise a child, and yes, having these trusted relationships with other adults in the building is definitely one of the reasons my husband and I love condo living for our children. It’s almost like our own Neighbourhood Watch program! Our building has an Italian restaurant on the ground floor and chef Maria treats the condo kids like her own. She always spoils them with Nutella pizzas and other treats. Grant, who is our condo’s doorman, has worked in our building for more than 30 years and probably knows every child’s birthday and bloodtype!! We do have a handful of superintendents who have also worked in the building for many years and look out for our kids too. The convenience store owners live in the condo next door and feel like family. They watch over the children and report any suspicious behavior to the parents: ‘They went THAT way!’ They always help the little customers count their spare change for a treat or help them find something on the shelf when they have been sent on an errand by their parents.
Wow, over 50 condo kids, and counting! Your boys seem very lucky to take advantage of many organized sports and events with all of these children in the building. How do you see this experience of condo living benefitting them as they enter their adolescent years?
Thankfully, I’m not the parent of a teen yet, haha! I’ve heard from friends with older kids those are the years you really don’t want your child to feel isolated and alone. Even though they are more self-sufficient, they really need a parent around more than ever. I think condo living will be good for my boys during the teens years because they have this incredibly close-knit community around them and I think they’d be less likely to feel alone. Plus, with the many condo amenities, they will have lots of outlets to blow off all that teen angst!
You’ve indicated to the press that your family’s living situation is not exactly as you had expected it to be, but it is clear that your family is thriving in a building with 46-storeys. Is there any advice or wisdom you’d like to share with our readers out there who are struggling to lay down roots?
I would feel badly if families are feeling pressured to go into tremendous debt just to buy a house because they think their kids need one for a happy childhood. There are so many different ways of raising a child; on a farm, in a townhouse, on a boat…Our family just happens to have found happiness living in a high-rise because that’s what works best for our lifestyle. We don’t like to garden, we aren’t handy and we HATE to shovel. We love staying physically fit as a family with all the amenities and crave the social aspect of condo living. On the flip side, we have many friends who love to putter around in their gardens, BBQ on their back decks and have man dens in their basements. They wouldn’t dream of living in a condo… and that’s great too!
I guess any advice would be to just keep an open mind and don’t make any decisions based on what you think you should do or because of pressures you may feel from society.
[photo credit: courtesy of Jackie Burns]
Thank you so much Jackie! I loved reading your answers and am so happy we were able to hear even more about your experience. It’s been such a pleasure having you join me on the blog today. For all of our readers out there, we hope you pick up your own copy of The Condo Kids, and for one lucky reader we will be giving away a copy! Please like this post on Instagram or Facebook to enter to win.
Have a great day everyone!