I have literally been house hunting for 6 years. I don’t know anyone that’s been searching for anything for that long. The first couple condos we owned were no-brainer decisions. They were sparkly new condos across from Manhattan, an obvious choice. Then when the kid came and it was time to buy a “family” home, that’s when the universe decided to crap all over us.
We tried to buy a townhouse but it got severely damaged by hurricane Sandy, that heifer, just before the closing. We got nervous and backed out, but not without some serious drama whereby the sellers were threatening to sue us. This was after a bidding war where we had to offer the asking price and write letters to the sellers convincing them to sell to us.
A year later later, still traumatized by this experience, we decided to leave the city and buy the quintessential suburban house in NJ, it was gorgeous and I never dreamed I’d have such a nice house. Then we got there and I experienced serious culture shock; there was almost no diversity which I was not used to at all and I felt I was living in isolation with a long commute and very few people around. I used to stare out the window and get excited the few times I saw other humans walk by. On the flip side, I did see a lot of deer.
I tried to go to working mothers meetups but they didn’t seem to gell with me. Bottom line was that I just didn’t feel comfortable there or relate to the town or people. Everyone keep telling me how lucky I was to live in such an affluent town with a great school system but I just didn’t feel it.
Luckily since my daughter was still only in daycare, we were able to put the house up for rent, and hightail it out of there after six months and move back to the city. Most people thought we were nuts and I couldn’t blame them.
We spent the next few years debating if we should stay in the city, move back to the same burb, or try a different burb. Everyone we knew in our demographic started to move to this one cluster of towns which were pretty much exactly like the previous burb we lived in, too far and isolated.
As usual I forgot my own advice and got influenced by what everyone else was doing and I started looking into these towns even though I had swore off the burbs. I thought there must be some reason everyone was moving there that I just wasn’t getting. But each time we went to visit, again I tried to like them but they didn’t feel like home.
Finally we went back to looking at the original town that I had wanted to buy in in the first place. We had originally vetoed it because the schools didn’t have stellar ratings so nobody else we knew was moving there but every time we went to visit, I always felt really comfortable and happy there. I realized it was because it was very similar to the area I grew up in: tons of diversity and the perfect mix of urban and suburban, and close to Manhattan, even if it didn’t have perfect schools.
I’m happy to say that we made an offer on a house in this beloved town of mine and will be moving in the next few months. As for the schools, well we found a very affordable private school there.
If I had wanted to blindly martyr myself for my kids, we would have moved back to one of these traditional burbs with the great schools but I would have been miserable and I’m not sure my kids would have necessarily been better off. A highly rated school is important but it isn’t the solution to every problem. The people, the kids, having a reasonable commute that allows you to actually be around more for your kids, and a sense of belonging also factor into a child’s well being. Also I think making “sacrifices” that cause you to be unhappy so your kids will be happy doesn’t work; your kids know it and they aren’t happy unless you’re happy.
Once I stopped being so concerned about what everyone else was doing, and instead just went with what I knew would be best for me and my family, the decision was easy and I didn’t need to keep second guessing myself.