Forbes came out this week with its latest “Top 50” list: The Best Cities for Working Mothers. Apparently, they took into consideration things like crime rates, health care, schools, job opportunities, earning potential and cost of living. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see Cincinnati, where we WMAG ladies live, at #26 — right in the middle. (Seems like Cincinnati’s always in the middle, like Mama Bear: Not too big, not too small, not too cold, not too hot, juuuust right. But I digress.)

I’m sure this Forbes list is mathematically generated and therefore relatively “accurate,” but really? Those editors should’ve asked us real working moms what makes a city “the best” for us. I have a feeling the results would’ve been quite different.

Here’s my list of things that determine where I want to live with my family.

  • Proximity to parents. Not only do I love, respect and even enjoy my parents, they help me out. A LOT. The closer I am to them, the easier and better things are for my family. Hello?? Free babysitter AND handyman? Grandparents to dote on my sweet bebes all the time? Can’t put a price on that.
  • Affordability of decent homes in safe neighborhoods with highly rated public schools. I want to live somewhere that we each have a bedroom, a little breathing room and a yard to play in. In an area where the kids can run around and play outside with other kids, and the neighbors even say “hi.” Where the bus picks up my kids and takes them to a place where I’m pretty confident they’ll get a good education (and be safe, of course). All while we can pay the mortgage without worrying about every other penny we spend (too much).
  • Availability of well-paying, professional work. Because I’m self-employed, I don’t need a job. But I do need clients and regular work. If I lived in the boonies somewhere, I feel like it would be hard to find such clients and get new ones. Plus, Hubs still needs a job. We both need to live somewhere that we will have access to work that we (hopefully) enjoy and pays our bills.
  • Access to excellent childcare. Now I realize this gives places like, uh, Sweden, the edge here, but assuming you want to stay in the U.S., you can still find great childcare — if you’re lucky and you do a ton of legwork. We were super lucky a few years ago to find our sitter Karen, whom I’ve mentioned numerous times before. Wherever she lives, that’s the best place to live if you’re a working mom. So don’t move, Karen, OK?!?!
  • Lots of fun family (and grownup) stuff to do. Whenever natives of the ‘Nati complain that there’s nothing to do around here, I get annoyed. There is so much to do, I couldn’t even begin to do it all! I get exhausted sometimes just reading all the posts on Family Friendly Cincinnati (one of my other blogs) about everything going on around town. I pretty much felt the same way before I had kids, just about all the arts, music, restaurants, festivals, etc. that are out there. (that I hardly ever get to enjoy anymore .. *sigh*).
  • Nice, big grocery store and other shopping amenities. Listen, I’m no shopaholic, but if I have to get groceries every other freakin’ day, I better have a nice, convenient place to do it. Fortunately, we live in the homeland of Kroger, which is an excellent place to get your goods. And they’re located about every mile or two away, in every direction!
  • Community organizations and friend groups I want to be part of. I may be the most liberal person in my neighborhood (which explains the scowls I sometimes get for my Obama and Standing on the Side of Love bumper stickers). But at least I have a church community and some terrific groups of friends that don’t think I’m a total nutjob when I promote things like healthcare for all or equal pay for women. As long as you have access to people you dig and who dig you back, you can be happy pretty much anywhere.

So that’s my list. I’m not saying Cincinnati is the best place to live for everyone. But when I did my own math, it definitely topped the list — which is why we’re sticking around for a good, long time. How about you? What things matter most to you about where you live?