Urbs vs. Burbs: “We can entertain our entire family, and no one complains about parking”

Urbs vs. Burbs: “We can entertain our entire family, and no one complains about parking”

Burlington resident Amanda Dindayal explains why life outside Toronto is best for young families

Amanda Dindayal's family lives in a 2,900-square-foot home with a 1,500-square-foot yard in Burlington for $2,700 a month in mortgage payments

Who: Amanda Dindayal, 42, an accountant at a bank; Tahia Haniff, 43, a product manager at a bank; and their kids, Syan, seven, and Kayson, five
Where they live: a 2,900-square-foot home with a 1,500-square-foot yard in Burlington for $2,700 a month in mortgage payments
Where they used to live: a 1,300-square-foot condo with a 150-square-foot balcony in CityPlace for $2,600 a month in mortgage payments and condo fees
Commute now versus then: 90 minutes versus 15 minutes

If someone had told me four years ago that I was going to love living in the suburbs, I never would have believed them. But now I know first-hand that life outside of the city is better for families.

In 2017, when our second child, Kayson, was born, we were living in a two-bed-plus-den, two-bath condo in CityPlace. We already had Syan, who was one. My husband, Tahia, and I could walk to our office building in 15 minutes (we work at the same bank), so we started bringing the kids to daycare there. I would finish work at 4 p.m., and Syan and Kayson would be in my arms by 4:15, and I would think, This is a perfect life.

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After school, Syan burned off energy at one of the shared amenities in our condo building. There was a playroom, a swimming pool, a bowling alley and a basketball court. I was that mom on the court in high heels shooting hoops with the kids, and I wasn’t the only one. About one-third of the residents in our building were families with children, and there was a real community feeling. The condo hosted magic shows, Halloween parties and even hired a Santa Claus for the holidays. On weekends, we’d have barbecues on our building’s shared terrace, and the kids would go on playdates. I thought it was so cool that my family was playing at a park right by the CN Tower. Sure, the downtown partiers came out at night, but the kids were sleeping by then, so it didn’t really bother us.

Related: “My parks are nicer than your backyards”: An architect explains why young families should live downtown

When Covid hit, everything turned upside down. The kids were home and the parks were closed—we had nowhere to go. I thought, There’s no way we’re going to survive living together in this condo. We needed a new plan. Initially, I thought we could rent a house in the suburbs to try that out. But Tahia didn’t want to blow money on rent, so we decided to buy.

A friend of ours was living in Alton Village, a subdivision in Burlington. There were kids everywhere, and people said hello—it had the kind of community vibe that’s so important to us. In July of 2020, we bought a four-bed, three–bath detached house there for $1,225,000. We were able to afford it in part because we sold an investment property, a one-bed-plus-den unit in CityPlace. Our mortgage payments went up by about $900, but we rented out our two-bed-plus-den condo for $3,650, which gave us an additional $700 a month.

Amanda Dindayal and her family outside of their home in Burlington

Amanda Dindayal's family on the patio in their spacious backyard in Burlington

Amanda Dindayal plays pool with her husband and kids at home in Burlington

Our new neighbourhood is wonderful. The sellers left behind a trampoline, so our house is very popular with kids on the block. The parents get along great too. I can pop over for a glass of wine with any one of my neighbours, and it’s cheaper than going to a bar. Over the holidays, I hosted a gathering at our house for the other women on my street. And just the other day, my neighbour gave me an apple just because I happened to mention that I was craving one.

With young kids, having access to bars and restaurants isn’t as important as it once was. We appreciate different things now, like taking our sons to a nearby creek after school to catch frogs, crawfish and tadpoles. But, when Tahia and I do want a date night, Burlington has a surprising number of delicious mom-and-pop restaurants. Mostly, we love entertaining family and friends. In the condo, we maxed out at about 15 people, but now we can have our entire extended family over—plus no one complains about parking.

When Tahia commutes for work, on Mondays and Tuesdays, he drives to the GO station, then takes the train to Union. He likes the social aspect of being in the office, but I spend most of my days on conference calls, so working from home just makes more sense. It allows me to better juggle the kids’ pickups and after-school activities.

At this point, we go into Toronto as a family only occasionally. We prefer not having to fight against traffic to get home, so we’ll rent a hotel room and spend two nights downtown, visiting the St. Lawrence Market and the Toronto Islands or taking in a Jays game. But I’ve come to realize that I do it more for me than for the kids. They’d rather be home, playing on our street.