Where should we live?
June 28, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Help us decide where to live - options inside!

Problem: It is time for my wife and I (two women in our twenties) to decide on a city to settle down in. We want to buy a house and have babies within a few years. I have equivalent job leads in three cities we are considering; my wife can work from anywhere. Assume I have a job offer in all three places (obviously this won't definitely happen but it's a good possibility, and due to my wife's income, it is not necessary for me to have a job before we move.) We would ideally love to be settled in a new home (rented) before Christmas.

Priorities: Decent cost of living. Good career prospects for when I want to change jobs/in case I lose one. (I am in advertising/design.) A strong neighborhood/community feel. Liberal/down with gay families. Relaxed, comfortable lifestyle.

Alphabetical Order:

Option 1: Live in Decatur, GA (or Oakhurst), work in Atlanta, GA. We have both lived here.
Pros: Very good career opportunities. Lots and lots of lesbian families. Good schools.
Cons: Horrible traffic/commute. Highest real estate costs of the three. We like Decatur and surrounding area okay, but dislike most of Atlanta. Longish drive from my family, a plane ride from hers.

Option 2: Durham, NC (possibly working in Raleigh, NC.) I have lived nearby; she has never lived in this state.
Pros: Decent job opportunities. Close to my family. Fairly liberal/diverse and supportive of the gays. Low cost of living. My home state, so I love and miss it.
Cons: Commuting to Raleigh would suck if I can't find a job in Durham. Most of the schools are bad, so we'd be relying on the lottery/magnet schools. I've never lived here, so I don't know first hand what the cons really are (though I've done a lot of research.)

Option 3: Kansas City, MO (eventually Prairie Village, KS or similar.) We have both lived here.
Pros: Close to her family. Decent job opportunities. Low cost of living. Good commute. Good schools (once we buy in the suburbs.)
Cons: Least gay-friendly. We'd have to buy in the suburbs to get good schools, however there are a couple that I don't mind. I hate winter and there are few areas to vacation in without flying.

We have been talking about this extensively and just keep going around in circles. There are so many factors to consider with all three of them. And now it is really time to decide. We can always change our minds later, but of course I'd like to get it right on the first try and avoid the hassle and expense of moving again.

I'd like your feedback on which of these factors you think should be most important, which you'd choose, any other factors we should be considering, etc. If anyone is familiar with these cities or has lived in one of them, feel free to weigh in with your personal opinion as well.

I know having a job is important and believe me it's a big consideration but please try to limit answers like "wait and see what offers you get" because it is actually not our top priority at the moment - quality of life is.

Thank you!
posted by ohsnapdragon to Grab Bag (13 answers total)
How long ago did you live in Decatur? It has really taken off in recent years, and Atlanta has improved a lot also. If you worked in downtown Atlanta, the commute wouldn't be too bad. If you'd be relying on I-285, though, that's a different story.
posted by hazyjane at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2012

Response by poster: hazyjane, we live here now. (In midtown Atlanta, but we hang out in Decatur whenever we can.) I would be working in midtown or buckhead. If there is no traffic it wouldn't be a terrible commute, but there is always traffic. : ) Under 30 mins would be okay though - I should probably try to drive it at 8 or 9 am one day and see how it is. Thanks!
posted by ohsnapdragon at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: I'm not at the marriage and babies point in my life yet, but when I am, the gay-friendly factor will be high, high on the list of priorities for me. Until then, I can deal with whatever--but I will want my children to live in a welcoming community, because they're going to be stuck with two moms from day one, and they won't have the option to be in the closet about it, either, or the grown-up understanding of where prejudice comes from and how to deal with it.

I don't know any of your places, but looking at what you've written about the schools and the culture in Kansas City... it doesn't matter if your kid goes to the Best School In The World Ever if he or she gets picked on every day because of his or her family. You may also have trouble finding the strong neighbourhood/community feel if your city is not gay-friendly, and this may be particularly the case in the suburbs.

Again, I wouldn't have made this comment at all if you weren't talking about kids and schools. Obviously since you've both lived in Kansas City and her family is from around there, you know better what it's like, and maybe it's actually OK but just not as good as the other two? But if you have any sense that it would be tough to grow up with two moms there, I would give that very strong consideration in your long-term planning.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:50 AM on June 28, 2012

I have no knowledge of any of these places, really, other than lots of folks love Raleigh/Durham. But I want to point out that you sound more excited about Decatur or Raleigh/Durham than you do about Missouri. If that's true for your wife, too, you could at least narrow your options to 1&2.
posted by ldthomps at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Option 3: Kansas City, MO (eventually Prairie Village, KS or similar.) Cons: Least gay-friendly.
How are you measuring gay-friendliness? The Guardian's awesome info-graphic says Kansas and Missouri have better hate-crime laws than Georgia or North Carolina. All four states permit adoption by single parents, but only North Carolina specifically bans adoption by same-sex couples. However, North Carolina is better on school bullying and hospital visits. Kansas and Missouri beat North Carolina and Georgia on likeliness of same-sex marriage ballot victories, according to statistician Nate Silver, whose model predates North Carolina's recent landslide vote to ban same-sex marriage constitutionally.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2012

Just sent you a memail extolling the virtues of our ITP Chamblee Neighborhood.

Seriously, love, love, love it here!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:30 AM on June 28, 2012

Response by poster: feral_goldfish, thank you for that link, it's very interesting. I was basing that opinion off of the general feel/social climate in each location, more than the actual laws. I'm not sure which is more important.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 10:50 AM on June 28, 2012

There are definitely parts of the Philadelphia area that would fit the bill. (But from the places you've named, you seem to be biased in favor of the South.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:55 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: Hi! I'm a lesbian, with a kid and a partner, and have lived significant portions of my life in both Decatur and in Raleigh/Durham (well, technically, Chapel Hill and Durham), and currently live in Durham. My neighborhood is named Duke Park, and is lovingly nicknamed Dyke Park if you want an idea of how numerous we are here.

The two places have a very similar hip, fun vibe. They are both bastions of liberalism in the middle of a conservative state. NC is slightly less conservative, but the difference isn't big. I like the feel of a smaller town, which is why I'm still here and not back in Atlanta with the rest of my family. I like being able to drive 15 minutes and be in forest, and not in a generic suburban subdivision. That, I think, is the biggest difference between the two areas.

Also, I don't know what field you're in, but in general, the job market is better here than it is in Atlanta. Plus, most of the jobs in the area are in RTP, which is smack dab in the middle of the three cities, so commuting isn't bad at all. Hell, I live in Durham and would rather commute to Raleigh (~30 min) than I would commute in Atlanta. I quit my first job after college in Atlanta because I had a stressful two hour daily commute. Angry, so angry...

As far as kids go, there are some good schools here, just as good as in Atlanta, but it depends on where you live. I have a recent question with more info about Durham schools in particular. Also, keep in mind that Durham is one of the most up and coming cities in the country right now. It's likely that the school situation will get better by the time you have to worry about it.

So, my vote is for Durham, because I've made the same decision myself. Feel free to memail me!
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:45 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and there are about a billion gay families with kids here. I can't guarantee that your kids will never get picked on, but in Durham? I'd be surprised if it was ever an issue. Part of me wants to say that Durham is more liberal than Decatur in this, but I moved from Decatur in 2000, so I'm probably comparing NC in the 2000's to GA in the 1990's, and that's not fair.

And, I see that you're in advertising & design. Still, I think that you could be looking for places in RTP which is barely a commute at all. And if you do have to commute to Raleigh, it would be a reverse commute, so it may be long, but it'll have little traffic, and still, I'd rather do that than a commute in Atlanta traffic.

So again, Durham > Decatur, but think about the small/big city feel. It's not to say that Durham is that small, but it doesn't have the same big city feel of Atlanta. We do have most everything you'd want here, good venues, foodie culture, international airport, etc., and if it's not here, you can probably find it not too far away in Raleigh or Chapel Hill.

Also, even though it will be 104 this weekend, it is, in fact, slightly less oppressive during the summer.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:56 PM on June 28, 2012

i've been considering a move myself, and while it may seem right-wingnut-gloom-and-doom thinking...um...the environment (and economy) is kinda falling apart at a speed which is becoming a bit alarming. the south and even the coasts are seeming less like places to retire to/raise kids than to escape from.
that being said, I've actually been looking at KC myself (i spent a few days there while on tour) and found myself pleasantly surprised (that art district seems particularly nice). and while i worry that it might not be far enough north for some of the worst case scenarios being proposed (170 degree summers by 2050, anyone?), it is well situated for river trade, agriculture, fresh water supply, and both solar and wind power. It was a major trade hub back in the covered wagon days, and well...those days might be coming back...and soon. (peak oil is HERE, yo).
on a less alarmist note, Google is building (has built?) one of the largest solar-powered data centers in the area and are rolling out city-wide free wifi. ...and it's also home to more public fountains than any city in the us, and second only to Rome. Plus, there's a lot of good companies to work for there and the museums are top-notch (another educational consideration).
posted by sexyrobot at 1:07 PM on June 28, 2012

Response by poster: Tooty McTootsalot, thanks a lot for your answer, it's great to hear a comparison between Decatur and Durham and to know that they feel similar in terms of vibe. The big city feeling and the traffic are the two biggest reasons we are dissatisfied with Atlanta.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2012

I live in Prairie Village, in NE Johnson county, and I think you should consider coming here. Your pluses are all good and true, and I really think the not-gay-friendliness isn't as bad as you might expect. I have no data for you, just a feeling... We have quite a friendly neighborhood here. I think fairway would also be pretty good. I can think of two gay couples within a 5-block radius. Take a look at the hyperlocal blog pvpost.com to get a sense of the happenings around here.

As for vacations, you might be on to something, but Colorado is kind of nice when it's not on fire.

I can't talk to Decatur or Durham, sorry. But it is nice to have family around -- don't forget about babysitting...

Good luck! Let me know if you have any specific questions about the area.
posted by mgogol at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2012

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