On the bus, 4:43pm, a sunny and windy afternoon. I’m still a bit weak and dehydrated from a round of stomach flu yesterday… There is nothing to make you grateful to feel good than a day of nausea. So lucky that my sister was able to pick E up from school.
After our recent visit to Chicago, I’m doing a lot of comparing/contrasting with SF and, honestly, SF is not winning. I never want to trash talk my beloved and incomparably gorgeous city of almost twenty years, but we are no longer a very good match. I’m tired of hearing myself complain about the high cost of child care. About how if we ever lost our apartment there would be no affordable place to go (not to mention zero hope of ever owning property). About competitive preschools and street parking and this sense that the skyrocketing prices are just A-OK with the techies coming in with gigantic salaries.
I don’t want to go on about that or the complex school lottery system or the families getting evicted or the impossibility of this hamster wheel because honestly I have that conversation with everyone I know who is still living in the Bay Area, all the time. So let’s look at the Chicago suburb where my sister lives.
Child care approximately half the cost. Housing same. Amazing schools. Awesome community for families. Economic and racial diversity. Next to an incredible city. Some great old friends! Four seasons. My parents across Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan! I could go on.
But the biggest click for me was seeing the cousins adoring each other. And talking to my sister about how we could back each other up. This is family!!
There are huge downsides. Namely, winter. And giving up the year-round outdoor opportunities of the incomparable Bay Area–the trees, the smell of eucalyptus, the trails, the ocean air, the vast wilderness. And of course -sob -my sister B! My friends! My mama community!
But something’s gotta give. I yearn to put down roots, to build community in a place that doesn’t feel so tenuous. Where life is a little/a lot easier. To be able to envision E’s trajectory into the future, full of opportunities and tons of love.
I know that contemplating moving home or close to family or to the suburbs when your kid is 2 is not exactly a new idea that I just invented. There are great reasons why people scale down. For me, being in the most expensive city in America PLUS being a solo parent feels like unsustainable squared. Or at least would require a level of struggle I am less and less willing to take on.
So, I’m simmering on this. And I already have been forever since before getting pregnant. Meanwhile, I had E, the cost of living in the Bay Area shot up, and I thought… I’ll see how long I can last.
And now he’s two, and mama wants a plan.
[Fast forward five days:]
After I wrote that on the bus, I went home feeling sick again. Like the bug I had earlier in the week circled back on me, and then E got sick that night, and we took a sick day. It was like a week-long bug!
Now we’re feeling fine. E is napping after a fun 2nd birthday party of one of my mom’s groups with 20 or so kids. Sunny, hot, on Potrero Hill with stunning views of the city, great friends and connections, so much what I love about being here, so many conversations about grappling with all of the above… (Not just me!)
Also grateful for the freedom to contemplate big changes and try on the possibilities. We’ll keep living to the fullest in the meantime- simmering, thinking, weighing pros and cons, crunching numbers.
And contemplating lists like this one: Onion Ten Best Places to Raise a Family
One more point of gratitude: for my online community. I get to take you with me everywhere!