When a friend told me recently that she was moving from a New York City suburb into Manhattan, I felt a pang of jealousy – then quickly squashed it.
After all, my husband and I had spent the past several years plotting a move from London to a US suburb. Once we had a toddler and a baby, we wanted a house, a yard and some closet space.
That brought us to Atlanta, Georgia, last November. After living with two kids in a small two-bedroom apartment, we now have a house.
That means I can keep everything. The adorable pumpkin costume my daughter wore for her first Halloween in London went straight to the thrift store on November 1st.
As my husband pointed out, she wouldn’t fit into it the following year, so there was no need to keep it (he was not as impressed by the neon orange outfit with the jack o’ lantern tummy as I was).
It was exceptionally puffy, and protruded from the one drawer we had dedicated to keepsake clothing.
Now, we have a closet big enough for a whole wardrobe of pumpkin ensembles. And our house is far from big by Atlanta standards. We put clothes, gyminis, and toddler artwork, along with my maternity clothes, nursing bras, breast pump and other pregnancy/infant gear, into a storage closet. So what if we’re not planning another pregnancy? We have the space!
And we have a yard. When the kids get antsy, we can take them outside with a ball. In London, we had to pack up the double stroller, cross two busy streets, and walk ten minutes to get to the playground. In the rain.
On a warm day, that park would be so packed that I would have to apologize to sunbathers lying two feet away from us when my toddler kicked her ball onto their towel.
While I used to take my toddler to Gymboree four times a week during lousy weather, just to get out of the apartment, we now play in our own playroom. In London, my daughter’s room doubled as my office, and my husband’s closet. Now we have a walk-in closet, and a separate office.
But the suburban lifestyle can be isolating. At Gymboree, I would run into other moms. Fellow mothers are less likely to appear in our playroom, unless we invite them in – and we still don’t know too many people here.
I also miss my street social life. In London, I ran all of my errands on foot. Between the drugstore, grocery store and coffee joint, I generally ran into at least two people I knew. Here, we drive, rather than walk, everywhere – we didn’t own a car in London.
The trade-off is I no longer have bags of diapers and groceries dangling off the stroller handle, with jars of baby food rolling out from the basket underneath.
Suburban life is endlessly convenient. In New York City, where I grew up, we went to the basement to do laundry in communal washers and dryers.
A realtor in Atlanta told me that he couldn’t sell a condo here because the washing machine and dryer were located just outside the front door of the apartment, by the elevator.
My family and I briefly lived in said condo, and loved the fact that we didn’t have to travel downstairs to do laundry. And, the dryer actually worked. This luxury eluded us in London.
An American friend was horrified when she heard that I didn’t have a dryer during my eight years in London. This was not unusual – often, people just didn’t have the space.
We used a drying rack instead. While it’s a greener solution than using an electric dryer, the clothes take a long time to dry. And when both of your kids get a 24-hour vomiting bug, as ours did one awful weekend in London, you have damp sheets, towels and clothes hanging on every imaginable surface. I don’t miss seeing my underwear swinging off doorknobs.
But once laundry becomes less of a focal point of our lives, we might consider moving back to a major city. When I was growing up in New York, I loved going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on school trips. It was always exciting when world leaders we were studying came to town. And as a theatre buff, I loved having access to Broadway shows.
So what if my track team had to run alongside the FDR Drive? What we lacked in gym facilities we made up for in cultural enrichment.
Once the kids have outgrown kicking a ball in the backyard, and I no longer have to sweet talk bus drivers into letting our Bugaboo onto the bus, maybe we will make that move.
But we’ll have to save up so we can afford a place with a storage closet. I don’t want to let another kiddie pumpkin costume get away.