Remind me why I don't want to live in Joe's Apartment forever...
March 17, 2011 8:19 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have decided to leave New York City for the midwest in order to settle down and start a family. We've been talking about this for more than six months; now that it's here I'm scared out of my wits and having second thoughts.

This is a lifestyle decision more than anything - we can't have the lifestyle we want living in or near New York. For one thing, we want our kids to be raised around family, and we've got none for three states in any direction. I want to at least have the option to stay home or work part-time for a while; we couldn't afford that here. And someday we'd like to own real estate, which seems more impossible every year that we're in NYC.

Our lease is up in June and that was our planned move date, but my husband's tentative letter of inquiry to a company he'd like to work for in his hometown wound up with a firm job offer the next day -- way sooner than we were expecting! So now he's probably moving out there by the end of the month and I'm going to stay in our apartment and at my job until I find a job there (hopefully) or our lease is up, whichever comes first.

And I'm freaking out and I forgot all the reasons why I wanted to do this in the first place. New York is the only place I've lived as an adult, and I don't know anything else. What if I hate being close to his family? What if I can't find a job? I feel really bad dumping all this on my husband, since he's so excited about his new job and probably feels like I'm not being fair, since this is what we've been talking about doing for six months (to be fair, I warned him I might react like this, since I hate change).

Here's where some of my specific anxiety is coming from:

- I hate the idea of spending three months apart (we've been married only six months!), but it makes more financial sense, even taking into account trips to visit every two weeks.

- I love my job. It's a dream job, at a high-profile company in my industry. Basically a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm walking away from it. The opportunities within my career are slim everywhere else in the country. I'm afraid I'll never find such an awesome job again and that my graduate degree in the field will be completely useless.

- I love my boss. I'm leaving just as things are getting good with a new team of people, and I'm completely at a loss as to how I'm going to tell her. I have a review towards the end of this month, during which I will have to tell her because I'm not capable of lying to her about my plans for the next twelve months (and because I do want to give them more than two weeks' notice). I'm terrified of this.

- Oh my god, moving across the country as an adult means we've got Stuff and need to rent a truck and it's this huge complicated mess. I'm worried about driving a rental truck across half the country with all our stuff in it. I'm worried about getting our security deposit back. I'm worried about moving to a place where we will probably need to have a car instead of relying on public transportation, about learning to drive in the snow, about living in a place that's not as "cool" as New York.

- The salaries for the job offers my husband has received this week seem frightfully low. They're totally within range of normal to great on salary sites for the region and from what colleagues have told him to expect, but they're so much lower than what we're used to seeing in New York, and we're not exactly raking in the dough here. The prospect of going to one salary that's less than half of what we're pulling in now is terrifying, even though intellectually we know that the cost of living is cheaper.

Has anyone else made a similar kind of life change? How did you deal with this bizarre last minute change of heart?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: FWIW, when I find myself in these situations I consider which I can better live with: getting to the midwest and realizing after 6 months that it's a mistake, or asking your husband to stay in NY and realizing after 6 months that staying was a mistake. Neither is ideal, but sometimes it helps to figure out the worst of two evils.
posted by shopefowler at 8:35 PM on March 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Being near-enough to family has its perks. My wife and I aren't. Sure, we can drive up and visit on a weekend, but she works for (nearly) free once offset by daycare costs. Then you spend your time thinking: if she stops working, we have a more cohesive family, but we decrease her lifetime earning potential, and her eventual career improvement. Now with a second on the way - well that gets even more interesting.

If my job skills were in demand near them (or near my family) we would find it hard to justify staying here on that fact alone.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:45 PM on March 17, 2011

I'm not exactly in your position. But, just as I finished my MBA and was ready to accept some very high paying opportunities, my doctor told me that my health dictated that, if I wanted a baby, I needed to have a baby RIGHT NOW. And this was terrifying because I knew I wanted to stay home while my kids were small. I wanted to secure some work experience that leveraged my graduate degree. I worked in high tech and that's not exactly a patient field.

For me, having kids was really important. And taking health risks, including the risk of never having kids, was not something I was willing to do. And so I had kids.

And I spent the next 40 weeks figuring out how to completely re-design my career, so that I could still have my career and my family on my own terms. Fortunately, I'd already been working as a consultant for several years. But I worked really hard at a plan for keeping up my skills and my network. I worked really hard at re-designing my work so that I didn't have to work f/t hours.

Today, I (still) have a successful business with contractors in the US, Canada and beyond (that part's new). Since having my kids, I've taught at the university level. I get interviewed on radio. I get asked to write for popular magazines and trade journals. I've been asked to speak at events. I even did a radio pilot -- and I have zero background in radio. (I love that I did the impromptu first audition for the pilot over the phone, while my 4mo was cooing on the floor and I was making ga-ga faces to keep him busy for 45 minutes without ever letting on to the producer.) And you know what? I don't work full-time. I'll have spent 3 days this week looking after my kids when they're sick and home from school. I've got a morning next month devoted to a meeting with the principal of my kids' school, where I'm championing seismic upgrading. I spent a good portion of last week at medical appointments for my kids. I have a crazy, crazy life and I love it. I love the flexibility I have.

But I've made some trade-offs. The key is to figure out what trade-offs you can live with.

Maybe you're not ready to move. Maybe it's just that you're worried about your career and you need to come up with a plan for your career. It's possible that you could get into consulting, telecommute for your current employer, work on a project for your current employer -- there are lots of ideas you could explore.

And you need to work on your relationship with your husband and keep him in the loop about all this. Maybe he shares some of the same fears.

You also sound like someone who would feel a whole lot better with a life plan, budget and so on. A list of cool restaurants in that area. 12 weekend getaways for the year ahead. 2 cool vacations you could take each year with the money you save. Refresher driving lessons this summer before it snows. A subscription to some cool magazines/websites that will keep you in the loop. A professional course you can take each year and one week-long professional conference you will attend. Maybe you could also work on how to ramp up your expert profile - teach a course, publish, whatever works for you.

If you have a graduate degree and you write well (as your post shows), you may just be the kind of person who needs to gather information and work out a plan.

If you attempt that and it still doesn't fit right, then it's more than the unknown.
posted by acoutu at 8:48 PM on March 17, 2011 [20 favorites]

Context: I lived in and around big East Coast cities for the first 35 years of my life before moving to the Midwest, partly because of the ease and quality of life. And it is indeed as advertised. So I endorse your overall plan.


is it clear you have to do this right now, as opposed to a year from now?

It seems like the job you have in New York is a special opportunity; staying in it for a while and building credentials might make it easier for you to break into an unfamiliar market, or even to work remotely for your current company (don't know whether this makes sense in your industry.) His job... maybe doesn't sound as special? Is there any reason he won't get a job just as good if you move later?

The biggest reason to be near your family is your kids. But your kids... don't exist yet, right?

I think your plan sounds terrific, but I don't see a need to hurry.
posted by escabeche at 8:48 PM on March 17, 2011 [12 favorites]

I just moved from NYC home to Colorado last fall to be closer to my family after spending most of my adult life in NYC. The move was easier than I expected (I used Flat Rate Movers and they treated my furniture like museum pieces - memail me and I can go into detail) and the quiet life here and the blue skies and the time with my family have all been a completely positive, nourishing change. More so than I imagined.

My advice: If you love your job and you're essential to your team, ask if you can telecommute. I'd been fully prepared to resign from my job for this move, but my boss offered me a telecommute position instead. So now I work from home in a sunny kitchen, drink pots of lovely hot tea all day, and forget to wear shoes. I still keep NYC hours and the work blackberry but it all balances out.
posted by mochapickle at 9:07 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding escabeche here. It sounds like all the reasons you want to move are future-based - kids raised near family (but no kids yet); option to stay home or work part-time (but no need to yet); buy real estate ("someday," in your own words). These might be good reasons to move in the future, but none of them seem like good reasons to move today. So it's not clear to me why you decided your lease-end date should be your moving date. Can you think about staying in the city another year or two?

I don't think your last-minute change of heart is bizarre. As you yourself say, you expected to have this change of heart.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:14 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm so so feeling for you right now.

I think the most important thing to discuss with your husband is that you've been married 6 months (a BIG change) and now you are leaving NYC and the best job you've ever had. That many huge changes in one year could be too much for, anyone, let alone a new marriage. (hope I explained that right.)

Can you guys change your minds here? Do you need to move or start a family right away??

If your husband landed an awesome job with a higher salary I think it would be 100% worth the risk even without a job for you. As it is, I think you are jumping into this together way too fast and it may adversely effect your relationship, which is the ONLY important true consideration here.

He doesn't have to take this job just because they made an offer. You should both stay where you are and build up your careers in NYC until you are BOTH ready to move happily, no matter the risks.

**former lifelong Manhattan resident here. I still miss home every fucking day of my life, despite the fact that I technically have a much smoother ride where I am now. I left when I was ready. If I had left a moment earlier, I'd have jumped off a bridge by now. There are things you are leaving behind that are NOT replaceable. You will have other things, but you won't have what you have now. Don't go until you can mitigate any deep personal loss you might feel. Resentment is a relationship killer.
posted by jbenben at 9:15 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Do you guys really have to do the moving so drastically staggered? Because I don't do change well either, and I'd be a mess of anxiety and panic attacks over my husband having a three month lead time on moving. Except for taking little trips to meet family and stuff, we operate under the assumption that marriage is not a long distance deal (and we did long distance for two years previously--though maybe that's why we both feel strongly about it).

If my husband were going to move, and had to move ASAP for a job, I'd probably just go with him and find a subletter, assuming I'd have insurance coverage and such under him. Seriously, I grok that the separation on top of the transition might not be the best choice for you, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:21 PM on March 17, 2011

Also, has he looked into job opportunities in other cities/near your family as well? It seems like you're not really engaged with this decision--it's his family, and his job offer that are deciding this. Might not hurt to cast your net a little broader, and maybe see if there's a compromise you'd feel more comfortable with.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:24 PM on March 17, 2011

I hope this doesn't make it worse, but I feel somewhat compelled to share...

I've lived in neither NYC nor the midwest, and I haven't looked for jobs in either. However, I *have* in the past looked into moving to parts of the country where the cost of living and the pay scales are both much lower than what I am used to. And at least for the jobs and areas I was looking at, I found that the pay went down way faster than the cost of living. I also found that "cost of living" isn't really a single thing -- it may be that houses are dramatically cheaper, but groceries and utilities and restaurants and clothes might cost roughly the same. If I want to buy a new computer, it doesn't really matter if I'm living in the south or the west coast. The prices are the same (with the possible exception of sales tax). Also, if houses are 50% cheaper, but I'm also taking a 50% pay cut, does that really make it any easier to buy a house? In some cases yes, but it's not a foregone conclusion. How this all works out depends on a lot of factors.

I spent quite a bit of time playing with numbers. In my case, it looked like even with the cost of living difference, I'd be taking a pretty significant pay cut when it came to buying power, both for real estate and for day to day purchases.

So, if money is tight for you, I strongly recommend doing some real financial projections rather than just relying on the concept that the cost of living is lower in your destination, with the hopes that it will make up for lower pay. It may turn out that things will work out well, and you'll probably feel much better actually knowing that. On the other hand, it might be that there will be a problem, and it's better to know that before it's too late...
posted by sharding at 9:37 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Remember that your industry has jobs outside the traditional work-for-a-big-company jobs (not sure if you left out the specifics of your industry on purpose, but I'll do the same in my comment assuming you did).

There are consultants, and representatives, and small companies, and startups all over the place, even if the big companies are mostly in NYC. There are also, of course, retail establishments which sell the product you produce. I guarantee you your degree won't be useless—you'll just have to use it to make your own opportunities. And right now, as the industry is undergoing a massive change in the varieties of ways consumers can acquire its products might actually be an ideal time to strike it out on your own. Because nobody really knows what they're doing in this brave new world, you might, effectively, be able to create a job for yourself out of something that doesn't even quite exist yet.

You are smart and capable. You can make this work for you. Good luck!
posted by ocherdraco at 9:40 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Basically a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm walking away from it.

Basically, you can't know that it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. Also, your ability to move and set your plans in action (including your husband finding a great job immediately) are a pretty rare opportunity in and of themselves.
posted by hermitosis at 11:15 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our lease is up in June and that was our planned move date, but my husband's tentative letter of inquiry to a company he'd like to work for in his hometown wound up with a firm job offer the next day -- way sooner than we were expecting! So now he's probably moving out there by the end of the month and I'm going to stay in our apartment and at my job until I find a job there (hopefully) or our lease is up, whichever comes first.

Okay wait hold up.

Where "in the Midwest?" Small-town with limited access to city? Or metropolitan, e.g. Twin Cities?

Because you don't need to live in your husband's hometown just because that's where his job is, you just need to live within reasonable commuting distance. So, to be blunt, pick the closest big city. Not because there is anything wrong with smaller towns, but because you need to develop a social circle, and you need a relatively bigger pond for that. Plus, it'll put you in touch with more transplants, which will help with the culture shock. (There is culture shock.)

But I get ahead of myself. How AMAZING is this particular job that he's got lined up? Could he do it elsewhere? Is he just rearing to go home? Maybe you should talk about motivation... because, sounds to me like you're totally sacrificing your career for your husband's job.

Maybe that's not what you meant to say, but...well....are you? Because...your satisfaction with your job situation is just as important as your husband's.
posted by desuetude at 11:19 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take to heart what Sinatra said about NYC: "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere."

Have fun on your adventure.
posted by three blind mice at 1:18 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you talk to your boss about telecommuting or doing contract work, so, effectively keeping your job but working from a distance? If they really like you, you may be surprised with how far they will go to keep you involved in the company.
posted by chiefthe at 4:13 AM on March 18, 2011

And at least for the jobs and areas I was looking at, I found that the pay went down way faster than the cost of living.

Seconding this. I did what you're contemplating in reverse (midwest --> NYC) ten years ago. Though the cost of living here is higher, it is definitely not double our expenses in the midwest, nowhere even close. When you say that "intellectually" you know the cost of living will be cheaper--I'd map that out into a budget, researching actual costs in the area you're considering, before jumping at a job that entails a 50% paycut.

Do not disregard the feelings that you're having. A major relocation can cause serious depression, even for people who didn't have second thoughts in advance. Add to that quitting a loved job and potentially starting a family... well. Just make sure you're healthy, happy, and truly on board with this decision before going ahead with it.

Take care, and good luck.
posted by torticat at 5:40 AM on March 18, 2011

Tell your husband you want to stay in NYC. Dealing with issues together is what being married is about.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:07 AM on March 18, 2011

What you are feeling seems quite normal, actually.

I worked in the New York labor market for quite a few years. Do NOT expect to see these salaries anywhere else in the country outside of California. As long as what you and your husband are making is suitable to meet the cost of living where you will be settling, it will be fine.

And as others have mentioned, what is to stop you from freelancing or consulting? The world is flat! Take advantage of that. If companies can outsource and work with resources from foreign countries, I'm pretty sure they'd work with you from Ottumwa, Iowa or wherever you're moving.

I'd talk this over with your husband. Maybe you can postpone this move for awhile until you're a bit more comfortable with it, but there is always going to be fear of the unknown. Good luck!
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:17 AM on March 18, 2011

Others have already given good advice about your feelings about the move and the job, but I'll weigh in on the salary and costs. I don't necessarily agree with everyone here that the salary drops faster than the cost of living--I always thought the salary increase in expensive cities didn't keep up with the cost of rent! Moving to the midwest, your biggest savings is going to be in rent/mortgage. Space is cheap.

I've lived in San Francisco and I've lived in Omaha--I don't know if I could BUILD a big enough mansion in Omaha to equal what it costs for a regular house in San Francisco. My husband and I live in the midwest and we were able to, as first time homebuyers, buy a brand new house, 3 bed, 2 bath with a big yard for a $160K mortgage smack in the middle of the city (so not rural).

So depending on what the salary is you're moving for and what city you're headed to, I wouldn't worry too much. You can live pretty comfy on anything from $45K on up in the right midwest city.

The caveat on all your concerns is going to depend on the city. The midwest isn't all the same, so each city is going to have its own economy and personality.
posted by ninjakins at 6:21 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all your comments, everyone. Here are a few clarifications:

We planned the move on this timetable because while we don't have kids yet, we want to have them soon, and we want to be settled before we do. We felt that I needed to have a job there for a little while before we could start trying for a baby (so I qualify for maternity leave), and we'd like to have our first kid or be very close by next Christmas (2012). In order for that to work, a move early this summer makes a lot of sense.

There's really no benefit to waiting another year, except that I wouldn't have to deal with my fear of change this spring. We'd just be stuck in the holding pattern we've been in for the last several months -- prior to it becoming REAL, we were both complaining almost daily to each other that we feel stuck, we don't want to be in New York anymore, we want to start achieving some of the things we've been talking about.

I do plan to propose telecommuting to my boss, but I'm really at a loss as to how to make it work. My office is like Grand Central, I deal with a lot of physical items, traffick a lot of things between various people, and need to attend a LOT of meetings. While many of these things could work remotely, it would be for no benefit to my company and all to benefit me. I guess it's possible my boss might be willing to discuss redesigning my job title and re-allocating some of work so I will bring it up but it seems far-fetched and I'm definitely not holding out hope for that.

I am not willing to live near my own family for a number of reasons, one of which is that they are out in the boonies and a two-hour drive from any major city. My husband's family is scattered in and about the Twin Cities (how'd you guess, desuetude?), and we plan to live right downtown. I've really liked everything about the area from my trips to visit, and I was the one who suggested we consider moving back there when we were ready to start a family.

In terms of my husband's career, he is also giving up better opportunities in New York for moving to the midwest. He'll be earning less and doing less interesting work, but it will be stable and come with benefits (which the competition here in NYC doesn't allow for in his field). The job he's been offered is probably the best that he can find out there, it was offered at the higher end of what he'd been told to expect and it comes with paid training on some specialty software.

acoutu, you basically nailed me - I do need plans and lists and budgets and I've got them all, and what inspired this post is that the rational side of me agrees with everything on paper and the emotional side of me is going "CHANGE!! TAKE COVER!!"

mochapickle, check your memail.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:22 AM on March 18, 2011

The only thing I think you should consider is that sometimes it takes a LONG time to get pregnant. How would you feel about spending several winters in the Twin Cities without children?

Good luck!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:26 AM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Have you thought about maybe moving to the suburbs outside of nyc? They could be much cheaper then living in nyc .more peacefull without having to give up your jobs.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:39 AM on March 18, 2011

Best answer: possible comforting thought: we moved away from our families, got established, loved everything about our jobs, life, and the place we lived. Then we had a baby. We moved home within two years. We gave up better jobs/opportunities, we lost money on our house, we made huge lifestyle changes.

It was hard. It was hard because it was scary and because I had to keep telling myself "it isn't about the money. IT ISN'T ABOUT THE MONEY." Just make sure that's true for both you and your spouse.

And it isn't - it's about building a community of people, about being close to your parents when they need help, or your siblings when you - or they - need help. It's about having a house with a yard, and a dog. And if you have kids, its about them spending time with your family, even though sometimes you won't like living near them. It's about taking vacations to do stuff you like, instead of taking vacations to see your family three states away. It's about hanging out with friends and playing games instead of spending $100 on dinner. It's about learning to cook.

Which is all a way of saying, I think you're smart to do it before you have the kids, and that, even if you never have kids, you'll be happy in the long run for having done it.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:02 AM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yikes. New York for Minneapolis? majortom1981 has it. Move to the suburbs.
posted by repoman at 7:02 AM on March 18, 2011

Check out It will give you a cost of living comparison between two places, as well as a number of other factors.
posted by reddot at 7:45 AM on March 18, 2011

If you're in publishing, there's a good chance that you might pick up work in the Twin Cities, or that maybe your current employer has contacts there? I don't think that Mpls/St. Paul equals the boonies.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 AM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: dpx.mfx, that's exactly what I was daydreaming about for six months before this all became real. The fear of change has overruled that.

To those of you recommending the suburbs of New York - thank you, but it doesn't help. The point is to raise a kid surrounded by family, not outside of a city. We have no family anywhere on the east coast.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:25 AM on March 18, 2011

Thanks for the clarifications.

In light of all of that, I'd still really try to minimize the time spent long distance. Last summer, the husband and I made a 1000-mile move, and it was a huge, trying experience--but the fact that we were going through it together really helped. (we were relatively newlyweds, too). There seems to me to be few benefits of planning your move around your lease, and not your own emotional needs. Would they be willing to delay his start date by even a few weeks? Can you move up your own anticipated move a little?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:00 AM on March 18, 2011

Best answer: I'm leaving New York City for my home state in six weeks. I'm moving to another major metropolitan area, where the job market is maybe even better for me than it is here, where I'm closer to my family, where I like the climate and the culture and the lifestyle better, where I even already have friends. It's a move my boyfriend and I have been talking about making for three years, at least, and that we both agree will be a positive from a financial, a lifestyle, and a career perspective for both of us.

I'm still scared and second-guessing myself.

Every time we have to make a major decision...what car to buy, what to take and what to leave...I find myself scared to death this whole thing is the biggest mistake of my life. It's stressful, we're fighting, there are challenges we didn't anticipate...and we've barely even started with the preparations. But I don't think there will ever be a good time to move. I don't think it will ever get easier. So, if we want to do it, really there's just no time like the present. It's like ripping off a band-aid, I tell myself. You can do it fast, or do it slow, but it's gonna hurt either way.

But really, it was comforting for me to read your anxieties and know I wasn't the only person feeling scared and anxious and OMG how could this EVER be a good choice? I hope maybe it helps you to know you're not alone as well.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:15 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

My husband's family is scattered in and about the Twin Cities (how'd you guess, desuetude?), and we plan to live right downtown.

Heh, lucky guess. My best friend moved there for her dream job about five years ago. I'm certainly an Urban East Coast Person, but I'm really fond of the Twin Cities now.
posted by desuetude at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2011

I came back to add that while we were doing it, we did the long distance thing for almost six months - with a baby. It sucked, but it went a lot faster than you might expect that it would. But do it for as short a time as possible, see each other as often as possible, and learn how to communicate well at a distance (some people suck at talking on the phone, and do better with texts and emails). Really, there isn't a whole lot to say to each other every day if all you're doing is working and you email during the day, so don't feel bad if the phone calls suck.

It's worth it!!
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:14 PM on March 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone! Psycheslamp, I'm glad my post comforted you -- your comment certainly helped me!

Any other advice still welcome - I feel MUCH better about the whole thing today and am starting to get excited again.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:11 AM on March 19, 2011

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