Is DC really the most “Family Friendly” city?

The Washington Post’s new On Parenting Blogger, Janice D’Arcy, scooped us earlier this week when she noted that Parenting Magazine’s July issue names DC as the most “family friendly” city in the nation.

At first my heart swelled with pride for my hometown (well, kind of my hometown. Does 15 years count?)

Then I patted myself on the back a few times for being smart enough to raise my kids here. I did a few victory laps, I relished the notion that my children will be cultural savant’s because of the plethora of museums at our disposal and the excellent public education system.

But then I thought about living here. You know – actually living here – and the reality of it – and there is so much that is wonderful about DC. But I think we’re remiss in not discussing one really important topic as we all swell with pride over raising our kids in this most “family friendly” town in the country.

Umm…family friendly? Really? If you’re sitting in an office right now, are you surrounded by family-friendly policies that encourage you to have a work-life balance, enable you to skip out at 2pm without a care in the world, to take your suddenly ill child the docs and then roll in late tomorrow because little Johnny has a year-end  play?

I didn’t think so.

So yes, I do think that DC is an amazing city and one with so many advantages for raising children over others – starting not just with our free museums and fabulous zoo but with our strong housing market and decent job market as compared to other cities. But where I think DC lacks desperately is in leading the way with family friendly work policies, ones that support both parents in needing flexibility. Policies that recognize that horrible beltway traffic coincides with projectile vomiting child coincides with work meeting at 4pm and something’s got to give and you can choose your kid’s needs over your place of employment and not be judged for doing so. And it being the capital city, I think the onus is on our government (including Senate and House offices) and the companies headquartered here (including all the trade associations) to really carve the path towards supporting family friendly policies – not just including them in the employee handbook – but actually actively supporting them, encouraging employees to partake in flexible work schedules – and realizing that working from home can – and does – actually mean you work at home and, in my experience, accomplish  more than you can at work with all the other disruptions.

And note – I don’t consider things like “back up childcare” and childcare reimbursement pre-tax policies as the kind of family-friendly policies I’m looking for – because those policies help me remain at work – they don’t help me see my kids.

So yes, Parenting Magazine, DC is a fabulous town for so many reasons (though I also question their kid friendly restaurant reasoning – either that or I am spending way too much time at local Mexican restaurants or Pizza joints) – and I am proud that we topped the list. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I ask you what you think ?

What’s your reaction to DC being named most family-friendly? Have you seen an improvement in work-life balance policies at your office? Are others participating in family-friendly programs or is it the kiss of death to be the only person who actively uses these policies?

2 Responses to Is DC really the most “Family Friendly” city?
  1. […] DC fell from the ranking of 2 to 9. Anyone who follows my blog knows I was highly suspicious of Parenting Mag’s ranking of DC as the number one city for families. So, I certainly eyed these results dubiously. Is this how a top […]

  2. Melissa
    October 14, 2011 | 2:22 am

    Don’t get me wrong, I like DC as a city. When I didn’t have kids I thought it was great. Great shows, good places to eat, convenient transit. But now that I have kids I see the city differently. I totally disagree with DC being “family friendly.” Yes it has free museums and the zoo is nice, but I have two toddlers and (minus the zoo) the museums are next to useless. On top of that the museums are so over crowded with tourist that I am terrified I’m going to lose my three year old….certainly not something I was concerned about in the last two cities I’ve lived in. And forget work being family friendly. Since we moved back here my husband is hardly home before 7 pm. Most nights he sees the kids for about 10 minutes before I have to put them in bed at 8. There went my idea of having family dinner every night. This is almost worst than sea duty. Another 18 months of this and we are out of here.

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