For those of you (and this may be all of you) who became seriously overwhelmed over the last few months while (1) working from home while trying to
homeschool crisis-school your kids, (2) feeling like your house is suddenly too small now that everyone’s home 24/7, and (3) possibly taking on more kid and home duties than your partner (plus, you know, worrying about the pandemic), today we’re bringing you advice from moms who moved to be near family. Have you been thinking about moving to be near family — and are the family members your parents (or other relatives), or your in-laws? Have you been pondering the change for a while, or have the consequences of the pandemic prompted the idea? Are you hoping that your family will help provide childcare?
Psst: Over at Corporette, today we’re talking about what to consider if you are thinking about moving to the suburbs, in general.
We polled a bunch of our friends who’ve made the move to get their best advice for working parents. Here’s what they wish they’d considered (aside from job/career factors, of course):
How “Close” Will Your Family Be?
Some of the people we polled moved five minutes away from their childhood homes; others considered “close” to be within a day’s drive. (Particularly for one of Kat’s friends in the foreign service, even being within a five-hour drive of her parents was a luxury!)
Consider Your Own Childhood
Whether you grew up in a rural or suburban area, or a city, think about what you liked the most (and disliked the most) about living there. If you’re weighing a move to your hometown, how has the area changed since you left? Have you visited often enough since moving away that you have a realistic picture of what it’s like now, rather than an idealized version from your childhood?
On the flip side, what aspects of your hometown did you not really appreciate, or even think about, as a child but would value now?
Research Schools & Childcare
How are the public schools rated in the community you’re considering? (Try sites like GreatSchools and U.S. News & World Report for info, but be aware that they can’t provide the full picture.) Does your potential school district have a diverse student population? What opportunities do the schools provide, in terms of AP classes, IB programs, extracurricular activities, and sports — and special education services, if that applies? If you’re planning on going private, can you find what you’re looking for, e.g., Montessori or religious schools?
With respect to childcare, can you maintain the type of arrangement you have now, e.g., a full-time nanny or an in-home daycare, or will the move necessitate a change? If you’re expecting family members to care for your kids exclusively or to babysit occasionally, make sure you’re all on the same page regarding expectations — before you move. Another thing to research: What summer camps are available?
Look into the Area’s Amenities
How far from your target area are grocery stores and big box stores? Independent shops/boutiques, furniture stores, farmers’ markets, movie theaters, sports venues? Recreation spots, parks, libraries, and hospitals? Playgrounds and organized activities for kids? (Keep in mind that if you’re coming from the city, some things, like hiking, kayaking, geocaching, and more may not even be on your radar!)
Browse Yelp to see if your favorite cuisines are represented in the area. (One of the dads we polled, who moved from New Jersey to Colorado, noted, “We weren’t prepared for the lack of good food out west. Barely any Italian or Jewish delis, no Greek diners, horrible offerings at the grocery store!”)
For information about things to do and the general nature of the place, visit the city’s subreddit, if it has one, and/or peruse posts on the city’s Nextdoor. Depending on the community, there may also be relevant groups on Facebook. It’s a great idea to join a local moms’/parents’ group before the move (particularly if you you have preschoolers!) to get a sense of the people as well as the opportunities and resources available locally.
(Bear in mind that Nextdoor has had serious problems with racist comments and has other issues. And if you need a break from thinking about your move, check out the Twitter account Best of Nextdoor. It’s … illuminating.)
Getting Around: What’s It Like?
If you’re moving from the city to the suburbs, this will likely be a key difference! To find out how walkable your target neighborhood is, for example, check Walk Score and/or use this (very detailed) checklist. Apparently — I just learned this while writing this post — most walkability indexes are “severely flawed,” so take them with a grain of salt. You can also try using the National Walkability Index, but it’s not as user-friendly. (Read: I couldn’t figure it out.)
Speaking of walking — or driving, or biking — try to figure out what your commute will be like and what local traffic is like in general. As for transitioning from walking frequently to driving frequently, one of our mom friends who moved from Brooklyn to the Chicago suburbs noted that she had thought getting around with her kids in strollers and baby carriers was a pain, but having multiple car seats was an even bigger pain.
Take a serious look at what would become your local airport. If you’re not a fan of layovers, what are the available direct flights? How far away is the biggest international airport hub, and how frequent are flights to and from it? You may also want to look at other transportation considerations, such as access to highways, train travel, and more. (Keep in mind this all may change as airlines deal with the impact of the pandemic!)
On the flip side, a lot of the parents we polled noted that, prior to their moves, all of their “family vacations” were spent visiting relatives, so they weren’t going anywhere interesting — and so moving opened up their vacation budgets and time in some regards!
Think about how far you will live from your parents and other relatives. If you’re considering asking them to provide childcare, will they be willing to make the drive to and from your home frequently?
Arts & Culture — for Kids and Adults
Are there museums (art, science, technology, etc.), theaters, arts & crafts festivals, and interesting community classes for kids and adults?
If sports dominate the local culture, how do you feel about that?
Look online at the local daily newspaper and alt-newsweekly (event calendars, and so on) to get a feel of what goes on during a typical weekend.
My Own Move From Washington, D.C., to Rochester, NY, to Be Near Family
For my $.02, my husband and I moved to my hometown of Rochester, NY, in 2007 after living in Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village, MD, (metro D.C.) for several years. My parents live here, and we wanted to be able to afford a single-family home in a nice neighborhood with a good school district, with a real yard and a garage (great to have during Rochester winters!) without having to pay $700,000–$1 million. We never could have afforded a house like ours in or near D.C. — our three-bedroom, two-car-garage, single-family home in the town I grew up cost $100,000 less than our two-bedroom townhouse in Maryland. (And our neighborhood has sidewalks, streetlights, and fiber internet! Granted, property taxes are much higher here — but still.)
The cost of living is much lower in Rochester, and while salaries are lower, too, that gap is smaller. My husband’s commute is far shorter than in D.C., “rush hour” is nothing in comparison, and as the local saying goes, everything’s within a 15-minute drive. We miss our friends (it took a while for me to make friends here), favorite restaurants, and so on, but we’re glad we’re near my parents, and they love spending time with our son, who was born after we moved. They’ve been a huge help with childcare, too!
Rochester is a big enough metro area to have everything we want — and Canada is only 1.5 hours away. Growing up, I never thought I’d come back here to live, but we’ve never regretted our decision (horrible winters or no).
Are you considering a move to be near family (or have you already done so)? Besides the factors listed above, what other aspects are affecting your decision? Will your family provide childcare?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / monkeybusiness.