Urban vs. Suburban Living

So we’ve been living in the DC suburbs for almost two months now.  And I’m surprised to find myself really missing SF a lot more than I thought I would be.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I ended up really enjoying urban living and the easy opportunities that it brought about.  So here’s a compilation of the pros and cons to both urban and suburban living!

Suburban Pros

  1. Space!  Omg, it’s luxurious out here–more house, a larger backyard, maybe a front yard and side yard too!  We no longer live in a community where the houses are pretty much on top of each other, and a little brick yard.  My kids can freely roam around the backyard to play soccer, wade in the kiddie pool, or have a picnic under a tree.
  2. And with space comes a lot of nature.  I mean every city has a large urban park, like Golden Gate Park in SF and Rock Creek Park in DC.  But there’s nature in your backyard like large trees, grass, and tons of different animals roaming about.  Hello, deer?!
  3. Parking!  It’s so easy to park any where here.  It’s kind of weird not having to parallel park or factor in extra time to find parking.

Suburban Cons

  1. Nature!  I hate bugs!  They are all over the place.  They bite.  I hate it.
  2. I hate how you have to drive to do anything.  It’s not easy to walk any where, even though it may be half a mile away.  Unless you want to walk on the wild side, e.g. sidewalk-less streets.  No thank you.
  3. Strip mall after strip mall after strip mall.  It’s hard to find anything mom and pop, which is good and bad.  But we can agree there’s no charm to a strip mall.  And the cookie cutter houses.  No charm there, and slightly bordering on Stepford-ish.
  4. Kid activities are a bit difficult here.  It’s not as abundant and things are just further out.  There’s a world of difference when you have to travel at least 10 miles to get some where vs. a few miles, especially with a baby.  A quick 15 minute drive to the zoo is now a 40 minute ordeal.  You get the drift.

Urban Pros

  1. Culture!  Not that suburbia can’t have culture because there are different pockets here with different cultures.  But it’s just nice walking around your urban neighborhood and seeing different types of people going about their daily lives.  There is no seeking–it’s just apart of the mesh of daily urban living.  And I know most people may not necessarily view this as a pro, but I personally like my child to be exposed to the urban poor.  I want them to see homeless people because I want them to know that the world is not perfect and that there are people out there that need some help.
  2. Walking!  Even though I hated walking in SF and those bloody “hills”, everything was easily walkable.  There were three different parks I could easily walk to, a grocery store, shops, restaurants, everything all easily walkable from my house.  I miss it, surprisingly.
  3. Kid stuff!  You live close to museums and the zoo to take your kids to, local artists are always playing music you can expose your child to; all just a quick bus or car ride or walk away.
  4. The charm of different neighborhoods and iconic cityscapes.  Each neighborhood is known for something and it’s always amazing to see something so iconic of your city, especially during sunrises and sunsets.  Nothing is ever the same, so you are always discovering something new.

Urban Cons

  1. Crime.  I mean there’s crime in suburbia too.  But it doesn’t seem to happen so close to home like it did when we lived in SF.
  2. EXPENSIVE!  Good grief is it expensive to live in a city!  Your buck just doesn’t travel as far when it comes to housing and food and everything in a city.
  3. Public schools aren’t the best in most urban areas.  You just hope that you can afford to live in the best urban school district, you win the school lottery, or you make enough money to send your kid to private school.
  4. Parking!  Sometimes paying for a space to house your car is just as much as a bedroom in a shared home (no joke!).  And then there’s that whole parallel parking thing.  But I guess that’s why you rely on public transportation and walking more.

Obviously this isn’t an extensive list, and you may disagree.  But these are my pros and cons right now.  I’m sure that the list will change as I become more acclimated to suburban living.

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Earthquake!

So I should mention that we did feel the earthquake here in San Francisco a few days ago.  It was considerable enough to wake up my husband and I at 3:30am, although I feel like the earthquake I felt back in Virginia in 2011 was worse (maybe cause it was longer?).  We had no damage to our home, our little monster slept through it, and my husband easily went back to sleep (I, however, had to go pee and any pregnant woman knows how that goes).  Many of our friends here, including long time San Franciscans, said that it was a big earthquake.

The next morning had me thinking about the true safety of our home.  We have our earthquake supplies to last us three days.  But we don’t have any of our furniture tethered to the wall or anything.  If this earthquake happened in the daytime and was just half a magnitude bigger, who knows what would have happened to my son with the furniture.  I mean we have our normal baby proofing in place like plug covers and gates, and I did make sure that there’s nothing hanging over  his bed.  So I quickly went on Amazon and bought this, this, and this (because you can never have too many first aid kits).  Hopefully we won’t have any more significant earthquakes any time soon, but if we do we’ll be more prepared.

I’m Not the Nanny

baby_monster_frogWe’ve lived in SF for over a year now, and it is not uncommon to find more nannies than parents out on the playground.  And this makes sense here in SF because the cost of living sometimes means that you need two incomes.  By no means are nannies or daycares or preschools are cheap, but it isn’t worth giving up that second income because you can’t really live.

We are fortunate enough that we can live on one income.  We might not be able to travel like we used to or enjoy nice expensive meals (and sometimes not save as much as we used to), but we are able to make it work in an incredibly expensive city.

Stay at home mom’s feels like a rare breed here in SF.  I do meet moms and dads on the playground, but more often than not they are able to work from home for at least part of the week/day.  I’d like to believe that I get mistaken as the nanny because it is rare to find a stay at home mom.  But I’m sure my race and looks also lead people to believe I’m the nanny.  By looks, I mean people mistake me for a teenager sometimes.  I always get carded for alcohol, and I still sometimes get carded for a rated R movie (especially if I don’t wear makeup).  Maybe one day when I’m out with Baby Monster people will think I’m the mother.

Moving with a Newborn

golden_gate_bridgeIn October 2012 my husband was offered a job in San Francisco.  We lived in SF the previous year, knowing it was only temporary, and loved it.  But we were a newly wed couple (1.5 years of marriage) still doing what late 20-somethings do in a city.  When the temporary gig was up, we moved back to my hometown to our old life more or less.

Baby Monster was a mere 2 months old when we were faced with this second huge life change (the first being his birth).  We were still adjusting as new parents, but with the benefit of having my parents and brother, not to mention the countless of friends, there to help us along the way.  We were exhausted, happy, overwhelmed, everything new parents experience, but we had the benefit of our personal support network.

Husband also got a job offer at a company in my hometown, which pay wise was great.  But deep down we knew that the best thing for husband’s career was to pick up and move to SF.  And so he left at the end of October to embark on his new job opportunity, in addition to sort things out so that the transition for Baby Monster would be seemingly seamless.

Baby Monster and I finally made the leap in December 2012 at 4 months old.  Not only were we dealing with a huge move and 3 time zones, but the dreaded 4 month sleep regression.  Husband and I were even more exhausted, stressed, angry, sad, beaten, and without our support system.  Sure we had friends here, but we were the only ones married let alone with child.  My husband’s parents did come for Christmas, but that only provided a temporary reprieve and even then they too dreaded the sleep regression.  At our wits end, I was prepared to leave my husband and take Baby Monster back home with me.  I loved him dearly, but at the time I felt like things changed for the worse because everything was left behind on the other side of the country.

Ultimately we stuck it out and became stronger as family.  Baby Monster learned how to sleep again (thanks to sleep training).  Husband and I worked through our roles as parents to help support each other more.  We try to do things that we used to do before Baby Monster.  We began to develop a new support network here in SF.

The point of this post is to remind everyone, especially myself, that the mantra “This too shall pass” is, in fact, incredibly true.  It may seem like the end of the world and you may be desperate enough as a parent to give up, but you’ll learn from it, grow from it, and be stronger because of it (as cliché as it may be).  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.