17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mothering utopia?

Chole’s post got me thinking about the places I have been a mother and what I have loved and despised about being a mother in those geographical areas. Our daughter was born in New Jersey and we lived there for the first 8 months of her life. Then we had two years in Queens before we moved on to our current residence in Pittsburgh. Upon reflection, I realized that I really didn’t love love love being a mom in NYC, was so glad to have moved on before our son was born, and that the thing I liked best about NYC was the close friendships that I had there. We will be moving somewhere again this summer—we don’t know where employment opportunities will be located yet. But, I’m thinking about the kind of place I want us to live. My personal utopia. Assuming that jobs are comparable no matter the location (a big assumption, I know), here is my list of requirements and desires in order of their importance.

1. Short commute time. When we lived in New Jersey, dh spent at least 3 (and often 4+) hours per day commuting back and forth to his job in NYC. It wasn’t so bad before we had kids, but after our daughter was born and he left before she got up and got home shortly before she went to bed, we decided this wasn’t how we wanted to operate as a family. That’s when we started looking into housing in NYC. I will give up almost anything so that we can be close to dh's job (and mine if I happen to get one). And it’s not just because I think that my kids need to see their dad as much as possible, which they do. It’s also because I can’t handle being the “preferred” parent who does all the heavy parenting work. It’s selfish, but it’s also emotionally healthy for all of us to have more balanced relationships.

2. Cost of living. This one's a close second. Oh, how I want to buy a house. A real house. I don’t want to pay 400k for a townhouse. I don’t want to rent for the rest of our lives. I want to purchase our very own home. It doesn’t have to be big, or new. I don’t really even want a yard—too much to take care of. But I want a house.

3. OK, so throw this into the mix. I want to live in a city, but not too much city. I learned to love city-life when we lived in NYC. I grew up in small town Montana, lived in Provo for a few years, went on a mission to the sparsely populated southwest, and then lived in suburban New Jersey. New York city was a shock to the system. The noise, the trash on the streets, the lack of trees, the stress of trying to find a place to park and then successfully parking. But it grew on me. I loved the proximity of the grocery store, the post office, the library, and just about everything else I needed, all a short walk from my front door. I liked living close to people and having neighbors I knew. I loved the diversity—walking down Steinway with the melodies of multiple languages washing over me, the smells of gyros, NY style pizza, tikka masala, and masaman curry wafting through the air. But as much appreciation as I gained for city living in NYC, there was too much pavement and not enough green - even with our postage stamp backyard complete with flowers, tomatoes, and a grill. I missed the trees and couldn’t make it to parks often enough to satisfy that longing. I want something between heavy duty city and suburbs (dh swears there's a word for this - anyone?).

Those are probably the three most important things. I want to live in a city where commuting is easy and where we can have a house. I also want good public schools with diverse student bodies. I want easy access to libraries, parks, and museums for regular outings with my kids.

When you combine a short commute with my desire to have a house, a lot of cities are off the list. All the big ones where traffic snarls are as much as part of a day as eating, where the suburbs are far away from the downtowns, and where places to live near work are expensive, small, and not houses.

It turns out Pittsburgh meets about all my requirements. We just need a job to keep us here. But if we can't stay, then maybe Boston. Maybe DC. Although they don't meet the above criteria, we could live and be happy there. Until we know for sure, I’m going to keep on dreaming about my life in that perfect location and hope for the best. How about you? What’s most important to you? For all my co-bloggers who have moved on, how does life as a mother in other places compare to life in NYC? If you could have your druthers, what would the location of your home be like? Oh yeah, and does anyone know anything about Minneapolis?


  • Gee, Michelle, you should move to Austin. The house in the link below (notice the price tag) is 20 min from downtown--a downtown full of funky restaurants, great live music, and other good things.
    posted by Blogger Julie M. Smith at 1/24/2006 07:10:00 PM  

  • Ack. I don't think my link worked. Anyway, that house was 169K for over 2000 sq ft, and nice.
    posted by Blogger Julie M. Smith at 1/24/2006 07:11:00 PM  

  • Portland, Oregon, if you don't midn the west coast... I sounds like it would fit your ideal pretty close to perfect. ( I don't live there, but my brother did for years... very nice, clean, green, relatively affordable...)

    I have family in Minneapolis- very nice place, but really hard winters.

    As for me, if money were no object and I could be where my heart is home, the Northern California Coast is it.

    p.s. you've got the right idea with not wanting a big yard- WAY too much work and upkeep- and the kids are just as happy in a smaller, more managable yard- lesson learned first-hand.
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 1/24/2006 08:19:00 PM  

  • Michelle, I kept thinking of DENVER. And I think the word DH was swearing about was Yin and Yang? Who knows.
    Don't move to Dc...the driving is insane.
    Boston--LOVE that city--really expensive though.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/25/2006 06:00:00 AM  

  • According to the Today Show...the top 5 cities to start a family:

    1 Portland (Jen!)
    2 Boston (best for fertility treatments $5 for IVF I think...)
    3 Minneapolis (Sick Days to care for kids)
    4 San Francisco
    5 Denver
    11 Baltimore

    Click on the "Wheres a good place to start a family?" box.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/25/2006 07:14:00 AM  

  • try this for the video
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/25/2006 07:16:00 AM  

  • Dude. SF best place to start a family? Oh wait, first of all, good post, especially in that I can really relate. Back to SF. We're in the SF Bay Area, and while dh and I are both life long Californians through and through and the thought of leaving makes breathing difficult, we're planning a move to Denver (Portland second choice, but far less likely) later this year. With the cost of condos 1 hour away from the city starting in the $400s, and the commute being long and expensive (it takes dh more than an hour each way), we can't wait to own an affordable home, have a short commute, a YARD!, and still keep parts of the culture we love.

    Good luck finding a new place to call home!
    posted by Blogger Julie at 1/25/2006 07:41:00 AM  

  • Michelle, I think we have just about the same criteria as far as a perfect living situation!

    For what it's worth...this is my short list:

    1. Portland (Kage and Today show are right!!!). The neighborhoods just outside of the city are amazing....although they are getting less and less affordable.

    2. Austin. This might work for you guys...isn't it a techy town? And it's so vibrant yet folksy. No hope for us w. dh Ed a journalist.

    3. Seattle. A little big and expensive.

    4. DC. I think you guys should move here, but I'm a little biased!

    Two other place that I've heard are up and coming: Raleigh, N.C. I haven't been there but I hear really great things....and Baltimore: When Ed started at the Post, everyone told us to move to Baltimore....low prices and many of the neighborhoods are gentrifying.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 1/25/2006 08:07:00 AM  

  • http://www.americaspromise.org/100Best/winning_communities.cfm

    I thought that this was interesing...agree, disgree...whatever.

    In almost 5 years of marriage we have lived in two cities in WA., ID, CA. (not a city listed!, and back to ID. Before moving to Idaho, we couldn't get even close to being able to afford a home. Now we have a home, a yard (just grass is easy for us to upkeep), my own mail box, and DH has about 30-40 min commute (each way). Our home is over 1500 sq ft and we got it for less than 130K! We love it here, it is smaller than everywhere we have lived, even though it is growing like crazy. But like you we made a list of what we wanted, and decided that owning a home on one income was our #1 choice. Tired of paying rent, (the worst was over $1000. for 800 sq ft.). When DH was looking for jobs, Houston was on the list (again, affordable housing) and the Seattle area, but only because we have family there, if we moved there we would have to rent.

    Anyhow, I just thought that the list of cities was interesting.
    posted by Blogger Ender at 1/25/2006 09:37:00 AM  

  • I second Julie's recommendation for moving to Austin -- or Dallas/Fort Worth. Austin is hipper, but the Dallas area is cheaper and not as hot in the summer months. Heck, you could buy our house (we're putting it on the market soon -- 4 br, 2 baths, nice neighborhood with duck ponds, golf course and HOA-run waterpark, 20 min. from downtown, around 170K). Friendly, supportive ward. Fort Worth has good museums, North Dallas has a bustling Little India for good takeout.

    Also, no state income tax.
    posted by Blogger Allison at 1/25/2006 11:49:00 AM  

  • Also, I've heard really good things about Minneapolis, if you don't mind the cold.
    posted by Blogger Allison at 1/25/2006 11:50:00 AM  

  • I myself love living in the city. The San Fran area is great but tres expensive. We especially like the Livermore/Pleasanton area - again, expensive, but lots of access ot great things and close proximity to city living (San Fran). In the DC area, Reston is awesome (this is where I grew up). Not overpriced, good commute to DC, great schools, good shopping and stuff to do with kids.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 1/25/2006 09:33:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the suggestions. So, put Austin, Portland, and Denver on the list. (There's something about the idea of living in Texas that makes me uneasy...not sure what though.)

    DC was off the list after we spent one hour going about 8 miles on the belt during rush hour. That plus the prices of the condos where dh's sister lives. Yuck. I hate the cold so am scared to death of Minneapolis winters...

    If only we didn't need to give top priority in our moving decision to that job thing.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 1/26/2006 10:21:00 AM  

  • "There's something about the idea of living in Texas that makes me uneasy...not sure what though."

    It's because Texas has an image problem -- the psycho cheerleader moms, Friday Night Lights, etc. I have no connection to Texas and didn't want to move here, either. But it's been six years, and we've really liked it here. There are more transplants in the major cities than natives, and nobody wears a cowboy hat to the office like J.R.
    posted by Blogger Allison at 1/26/2006 12:38:00 PM  

  • I lived in Texas when I was your daughters age Michelle, and I remember snakes, turtles, tornados, humidity.

    Now I think of Plano and some cult...but some people probably think you are already in a cult, so that should be no problem as long as you are ok with the elements listed above.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/26/2006 02:41:00 PM  

  • Kage, I just can't see you living in Texas...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 1/27/2006 01:25:00 PM  

  • I totally agree Michelle. Before I moved to NY I thought I wanted to live on 10 acres in the middle of nowhere. Now I want to live in a neighborhood, with sidewalks and porches where the neighbors know each other and stop to visit. Where you dont have to drive everywhere. Where you have a house that is big enough for my family with a yard but not something huge. Where the postoffice and market and library are close by. I think the movement is called New Urbanisim and little planned communities are being created that fill this need. Not NYC but not the suburbs either.
    posted by Blogger Brandolyn at 1/27/2006 09:46:00 PM  

  • Brandolyn, I think I've got your utopia here! I would probably be happier about living here (Vermont) if a major urban center (or even a minor urban center...) were just a little bit closer. But I live in a town of about 4,000 people, and I live right in town - walking distance to post office, library, grocery store, pharmacy, bank, etc. There's a major walking trail that runs right past our yard, so people stop to chat all the time when we're out there. We know our neighbors, they are very friendly and helpful folks (one of them used his snowblower to blow our walk clear the other day, when he saw we hadn't gotten around to shoveling it yet - so nice!). It's a nice combination of rural (all around us) and town (right where we live). Of course I've only been here for 3 months... so we'll see!
    posted by Blogger marian at 1/28/2006 06:20:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home