Having a baby before buying a house?
January 11, 2017 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Debating the pro/con of trying to conceive before buying a house. I think we can and want to, my partner and the world thinks we cannot.

We live in an area where housing is pricey and people have long commutes. Currently we live in a 1 bed+den that's in the city and 10-20mins door to door from home to work. My parent are a 30-60min drive away, depending on traffic. We'd like to eventually move into a suburb that's closer to them that has an awesome school system. But I'm thinking in like a few more years. My partner and parents think we should move this year before getting pregnant.

If we buy a home, it'll eat a bulk of our savings and our commute would be an hour most likely. If we wait, we'd be more secure financially to buy a better home. There's room in our apartment, in the den or bedroom. And plus, I love where we live. Am I missing something everyone else is worried about?

(Yes there's the issue of childcare. It is pricey in the entire area, and we haven't figured it out. There's a center by my office and my mom works half days and would help out.)
posted by inevitability to Society & Culture (55 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Am I missing something everyone else is worried about?

Yeah, people love telling people what to do, especially in regard to making sure they ascend the American Family Escalator and double especially in regard to anything having to do with babies or the promise of future babies. Oh my god.

Millions of children all over the world have started their lives or even lived their entire lives without the formal structure of their own bedroom in a single family dwelling. They're fine. You're fine. You are much more capable of determining what is best for you and your budget and your family than anyone else outside of it.

You have my personal permission to plan your family on whatever schedule you think is best and move to a house (or not!) when you're ready.
posted by phunniemee at 8:07 AM on January 11, 2017 [62 favorites]

My kiddo is 3.5 years old and still sleeps with us. Your family situation will adapt to wherever you live.
posted by jillithd at 8:09 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

i'd wait as well. adding time to your commute is the exact opposite of what you want with a new baby. unless you buy a brand-new house there will be some sort of maintenance issues you'll have to deal with. so the devil you know and all..

the only major plus side to moving is being closer to family. i wish we had family nearby when our son was born. although 30-60 minutes isn't that huge a distance.
posted by noloveforned at 8:10 AM on January 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

If I waited to have kids until we could buy a home, we wouldn't have had kids. Like ever. And neither would many other people.

That said, we still don't own a home and are working toward it slowly. I honestly don't know what will happen to this goal down the line. And if I had to choose, I'd rather have the kids.
posted by zizzle at 8:10 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you're ONLY moving to the suburbs for a baby that hasn't been born (or even conceived!) yet, you might hate it. Friends recently tried and they were back to the city in months. The suburbs & schools will be there when you actually need them, you don't need to jump the gun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:14 AM on January 11, 2017 [18 favorites]

We went through the same process and decided to go kid-first. And this is really negative-sounding, but my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and I remember being really grateful that I didn't have some big rambling house with an extremely empty second bedroom to come home to. Once we had a child and had a decent understanding of childcare costs etc, we felt more confident about what we could afford, and we ended up buying a place when the kiddo was under a year old.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2017 [16 favorites]

I will also add, I'd think carefully about letting parents or anyone else get too involved in this decision. The previously mentioned friends' parents are now fighting directly with each other over what is "best", and it sounds like a huge headache.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2017 [12 favorites]

A long commute was one of the biggest stress factors for us in having kids. Your set up sounds like a good one to start and you can continue to re-evaluate as the baby grows. There a thousands of children in New York and other big cities living in exactly these circumstances right now as we speak, and millions of families around the world that live in one room. The only drawback I can think of is that packing and moving with kids is a bit harder than before kids, but it is totally doable.
posted by goggie at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Up to the woman (you).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:21 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I understand there is a serious learning curve with the first kid, and ready availability of grandparents and others with experience to help out in the first few months can be huge. (This is second-hand for me, no kids here.) I can imagine that relatives who want to be available to help would rather have a guest bed than a couch to crash on when they do help you.

I also have the experience with my own relatives that many of them in the suburbs consider living out there the real world in a way the city isn't. They also tend to overestimate the dangers of city life while underestimating the dangers of suburban life. The relatives who have told me how easy the commute from the suburbs would be have as a rule never made that daily commute.

So, yeah, I agree that you should do what you and your partner think is best for your family. But looking at places near family and trying out the commute will be a lot easier to arrange pre-kid. That looking and trying might help you make up your mind.
posted by Cranialtorque at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's just a lot of possible paths here and you have to crunch your own numbers and think about your own want/need priorities to arrive at a conclusion.

Childcare seems like the biggest financial unknown. Will you still be able to save enough money to buy a house prior to your baby starting kindergarten (since you seem to want to move partially for the schools)? You definitely need to figure this out now, and consider also that childcare tuition, like rent, tends to go up on a fairly regular basis.

As for your current apartment: Of course people can and do raise babies happily in small spaces all the time. Just think about the implications and if you're okay with that, then go for it. Remember that babies are up and down at all hours for the first year or so, give or take. Think about sleep situations. Think a lot of about sleep situations, because believe me, this is the #1 thing that you probably don't think that much about now that you will care deeply about when you have a newborn. Where will the baby sleep? When the baby feels the need to cry for an hour at 3 AM, where will that occur? How light a sleeper are you, and is your partner?

And moving on to toddlers: do you have parks and playgrounds near you? Some place to go when you must turn this child loose to run around like a savage?

All things to think about and if the answer in each case is "this apartment is totally fine" then your apartment is totally fine! Enjoy!
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, the issue of childcare. You must take that seriously if both of you currently work and need to work to afford your place in the city. I know it sucks to have to take it into consideration (believe me) but childcare is astronomically expensive and often super inflexible.
For instance, you say your mom works half days and would help out, but can you find half-time childcare that is significantly cheaper than full-time childcare, such that it would save you money? How long is the wait list?
And are you planning to compensate your mom for her commute to your place (30-60 minutes each way), or are you somehow going to drop off your kid at your parents' house so you have to do that commute 4x daily?
Can you easily set aside the cost of childcare now, or will you have to start budgeting big-time for it? Because the cost of childcare starts up just after you've spent a ton of money on baby gear and possibly also the healthcare costs for pregnancy/birth, depending on your insurance situation, not to mention if you aren't compensated for parental leave. Plus the cost of diapers and formula (many women find they need to use at least some formula in the first year, and it is not cheap either).
posted by aabbbiee at 8:23 AM on January 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

Millions of people have babies before - or without ever! - buying a house. Babies do not *need* their own room immediately, no matter how many pretty nurseries pop up on Pinterest. And being in a smaller apartment in the city will help you keep the baby consumerism to the "must haves" because of space constraints. :] And your commute is under a half hour right now? I'd hold onto that!

Where do you want to spend your maternity leave - do you anticipate holing up, or do you want the option to walk places with the baby without having to get in the car and deal with car seats?

I can understand if your mom's going to provide some of the childcare during the week, her wanting to have you closer, especially if said childcare will take place at your parents' home rather than yours, and/or if her job is closer to their home than yours. And there can be a financial argument for paying into a mortgage rather than paying rent, though that's a big It Depends. But it sounds like you'd rather stay in the city a little longer, and as someone else in a similarly pricey area also ttc, this kindred spirit says *stay*.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:23 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

You don't need a house with a baby. In fact, it's more to clean and care for and childproof. Being in an area where you can walk to coffee shops, libraries, parks, and other parent+baby-friendly areas is awesome.

Childcare is the budget and schedule killer though for sure. So if you are sure a house is the goal, one reason to wait would simply be to pare anything in your budget you can and pile up cash for like...6 months. Then start trying to have a baby, and then when your current place starts to feel way too tiny, you have some means to do whatever comes next.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have two little kids and live in a 3 (small) bedroom rented apartment in a tumbledown old house in DC. It's not perfect, but it works most of the time, and we like the neighborhood and the elementary school - and, honestly, don't have the $ for more in DC's berserk housing market - so will likely stay put for the foreseeable future.

IMO nothing - NOTHING - brings out people's desire to lecture you about their received ideas and values than parenting. Especially more square, conventional, bourgeois people (you *have* to move to the suburbs once you have kids being a big one among many of the people I grew up with). It's all bullshit and you should feel free to reject it all out of hand and find your own way. Starting now is good practice, because deflecting it seems to be a regular feature of parenting.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

We live in an area where housing is pricey and people have long commutes. Currently we live in a 1 bed+den that's in the city and 10-20mins door to door from home to work.

Assuming you could figure out the childcare wrinkles, if your housing situation is the only reason you have for waiting, I am on team Baby First. Babies really don't take up much space, and a smaller apartment makes for easier toddler corralling.

How about a compromise -- form babby now, and look to move to a larger apartment in the city when your current lease ends?
posted by sparklemotion at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well, this dad is sick of the high costs and constant maintenance of home-ownership -- my wife and I have our house on the market and are excited to be going to go back to renting after 14 years! Let the landlord fix the sewer, we'd rather spend more time with our kid.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have the kid now -you don't know where you will work in a couple years, maybe you will have a job in a more suburban area. One bedroom place, from what I have seen with city friends with toddlers is fine, go for it.
posted by kellyblah at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2017

BTW, by childcare being expensive I mean $1600/mo - so that's the minimum amount I would start saving a month. When both my kids were in care -- one just in aftercare as they are 5 years apart -- our daycare bill was $2300/mo. This varies wildly by where you are, etc., but this is why to ask. Assume full-time care because with relatives it just takes one medical issue and that's where you are.

I know this is sideways to your question but it impacts on what affordable means. Biggest mistake is to get a big mortgage and /then/realize childcare is insane.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:37 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

You won't need the schools until the baby in is kindergarten, so that shouldn't be a short term consideration.

Frequent help from your parents with a newborn would be excellent, but not necessary. A shorter commute while the baby is little is, I think, more important.

As a mom with two small children, space becomes way more important around the age of 2, when toddlers are going to start driving you out of your mind and room to hide the explosion of toys and coloring supplies and puzzles and and and becomes a psychological necessity. Babies? Not so much.
posted by lydhre at 8:37 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think small apartment is fine, but it is nice if it's small to have access to parks, libraries, cafes, YMCA or something. In some ways, to me that's more important that big house in suburbs, because I wanted to get out with my infant, and now even more so with my 18 month old, because she is full of energy and gusto! I just can't contain her in my house all day (though you may be in day care all day, so that's different.)

It is nice around age 1 to have them have their own room or something, but that's just me - I know many other people all over the world sleep together in much smaller spaces. But you know, a small den area like you have might just be fine.

Just remember, getting pregnant can take awhile, and then even if it happens right away, that's 10 months of pregnancy, plus at least 6-9 months while they are super small and mostly immobile. A lot of things changed for us in that first year - we had no baby room set up until around 11-12 months, my husband quit his job & started a business, I decided I wanted to return to school and switched gears while also being a stay at home parent, grandparents stepped up -- just lots of changes happened the first year of our child's life, and it feels like a constant juggle. I guess I'm saying, it's great to prepare, but you my find yourself adjusting accordingly when the baby actually arrives :)
posted by Rocket26 at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Where are the doctors you'll be seeing if you get pregnant, and where is the hospital/birth center/whatever you'd prefer to use?

As a largely healthy cis lady, I was totally unprepared for the sheer number of doctor visits and testing that I had, particularly late in the pregnancy when I was going two or even three times a week for dilation checks and fetal monitoring. If I had a 45+ minute drive back to the suburbs afterwards, it would have been intolerable, particularly since I couldn't sit for more than a few minutes at a time/couldn't buckle my own seat belt/was having trouble reaching around my giant fucking belly.

Similarly, I think Mr. Machine is super SUPER SUPER SUPER glad that he did not have to drive 45+ minutes, possibly with traffic, to the hospital when I went into labor and was whimpering in pain. Similarly, we know somebody who was due the weekend the Pope came to town, and they ended up booking a hotel room next to the hospital because that late into pregnancy, because standing in line to get through a security cordon while in labor? Yeah no.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:52 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: In order to thrive, an infant does not require a suburban yard. In order to exist, an infant does require two parents who are not too exhausted from their from their commutes to fuck in the first place.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:06 AM on January 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

My parents lived in an apartment like that when I was born, and I grew up in only a slightly larger one. I loved growing up in the city so much, even as a really little kid.

Also that sounds like an amazing commute, which will make all manner of things easier for both you and your partner during the pregnancy.

(Also I might be projecting but doesn't really sound to me like you're all that eager to move to the suburbs on the whole. If so, you might want to think about that.)
posted by ferret branca at 9:12 AM on January 11, 2017

As an additional anecdotal point, Samantha Bee and Jason Jones famously choose to live in a one bedroom apartment with their children. They certainly have the means to do otherwise, but are happy with their arrangement.
posted by goggie at 9:15 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Babies don't need much space at all for a year or so -- pre-walking, they need a crib and some storage space, not a room. And even when they're a little older, you can manage with them sharing space with adults very easily. That's 21 months between when you know you're pregnant and when there's much of an argument at all for needing a bigger space, which is plenty of time for buying a house.

(While the kid will probably need their own room, or you will need for your own sanity for them to have a room separate from yours, by the time they're three or so? City living with kids is awesome. My fifteen and seventeen year old children have thrived in a slightly too small apartment in upper Manhattan since they were born.)
posted by LizardBreath at 9:23 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

If the choice is between staying put and moving to the burbs, stay put for now. You don't need much room for a baby and having a ton of activities/other families in walking distance is a huge advantage. If your choice was between renting and buying a condo in the same location, my answer would be different.

There are some things that are worth looking at in your home before you have a baby: the laundry situation in your building (you will be doing a LOT of laundry the first year), lead paint if it's an issue in your city, how close you are to parks/playgrounds. But those are current apartment vs. potential future apartment issues, not current apartment vs. buying a home in the suburbs.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

phunniemee has this question answered so well that adding a +1 to it did not seem sufficient. I nearly quoted the whole entire thing, adding only an italicized FUCK YEAH, but instead I'll say this by way of agreement...

Ignore those people. Seriously. The entire world will get all up in your business the nanosecond you start planning a family. They will set up camps in your business. They will build roads and bridges across your business. They will fit your business with powerlines and telephone lines and libraries and recycling centers and they will never fucking leave.

Having the wherewithal to say, "Clam up, fuckers: I'm doing it my way" is step one toward being a good parent, because no matter what kid-related issue is on the table and no matter what you choose to do about it, a sizable contingent of people will insist emphatically that You Are Doing It Wrong and Failing Your Kid. Pleasing everyone is never on the table. You can either go crazy or trust yourself. Those are your choices.

Fuck those people. Fuck 'em in their ear. Seriously. You sound like you know what's important to you and you should go with that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: We had the baby first, and I'm so glad we did. There is absolutely no way we could have correctly predicted pre-kid what our finances would be like and what we would want in a house post-kid. Also, as others have said, a short commute is really helpful if both of you are planning to keep working outside the home. The kid won't take a bottle so you have to run home to nurse him on your lunch break; the kid pukes on your shirt during daycare drop-off and you have to run home to get a clean one before your work meeting; the kid's daycare closes at 2pm on Fridays for no apparent reason and you have to tote him home to the sitter and run back to the office, etc.

Plus, staying put also allows you to focus on your kid, your health, and your marriage rather than devoting energy to all of the stupid little things you have to do when you move, like figuring out which bills aren't being forwarded to your new address, locating a decent dry-cleaner, learning where everything is in the new grocery store, making friends with new neighbors, etc. That stuff gets infinitely harder post-kid, and I was so thankful for everything that I didn't have to think about during my kid's first year since we decided not to move.
posted by xylothek at 9:43 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have a three week old at home. I can say that the most important thing is that you set yourself up to spend as much time with your baby as possible. I would be going out of my mind if I spent two extra hours per day commuting instead of being with my daughter. Second most important thing is to be close to grandparents or other support, if possible.

We have a house and the daughter has her own room, but she hasn't slept in there once. We prefer to have her in a bassinet in our bedroom. I imagine it will be that way for some time.
posted by aliasless at 9:48 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

IDK. My kiddo started her life in a small apartment, and while she's still sleeping with me at 3, the amount of frustration I experienced from the age of crawling (9 months) until we moved out was huge. She started walking at 15 months, the same week we moved out of our absolutely claustrophobic apartment into a house where she actually had space to pull up and walk. Also, kids bring with them a lot of (yes, in some ways unnecessary, but if your families are like ours, you'll be bogged down with it never-the-less) gear. It's not really about just having a pinteresty nursery. It is really, really nice not to have to play constant belonging tetris every time some well-meaning relative gives me a gift.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, step 1 here is that literally no one's opinion matters here except you and your partner. Say that as a mantra to yourself, believe it, and act on it. Your parents and really anyone else doesn't and shouldn't get a say in your reproductive decisions.

But, you say your partner also wants to buy a house first. So, I'd be having a serious talk with him about whether he's just worried about the logistical stuff (which you guys can then hash out) or whether he's not actually ready to have a kid right now, and that's the real reason he's coming up with various milestones he wants to hit first.

Another consideration is how old you are. While you might know intellectually that many people don't conceive right away, it can be hard emotionally when you wait wait wait for the perfect moment to have a baby and then find you're one of those for whom it's more difficult. (I say this from personal experience.) It could be you end up in a position where it takes you a year or more to conceive, or where you end up wanting to use some of that "down payment" money for fertility treatment or adoption. Really it depends on your priorities -- if having children one way or another is a 100% must have in your plan for your life, then it doesn't make much sense to prioritize a fancy house.

Obviously this also might not happen and you could get pregnant right away! But I think when dealing with this area of life that's really not so much in your control, it's good to think about the less-ideal scenarios in your planning. If it turns out you get pregnant easily, you can always still move to the suburbs at some point before the kid starts school.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also: starting at 4 months, my husband slept on our futon bed, because of co-sleeping. When we had relatives visit to help they either had to get a hotel room or kick my husband out of his sleep space where he would sleep with us and not get any sleep. We now have a house with more beds than people and it is wonderful. Is it a luxury? Yes. But it has improved our lives immeasurably. My husband sleeps in a bed, I sleep in a bed with kid, grandma has an actual bed to sleep on, too. It's great.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just as an FYI but the recommendations currrently say that babies should in their parents bedroom for the first year of at all possible. So the baby won't need his own room for quite some time.

We live in an apartment and it's actually bigger than the houses of several people we know. It has a park right next door, three public library branches within a bus route that is steps away from our door, and is near shops and other amenities. Best of all, we can afford it and still have money for other things. Our baby is having a good life here. Do not buy into the myth that a house is by any means necessary now, or ever.
posted by ficbot at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feel like I'm missing something. What's the argument in favor of waiting to have a kid until after you move? Just that it'd be nice for the kid to live in single-family house? That doesn't sound very convincing to me. And, like several other commenters, I'm maybe a little more qualified than the average internet rando, because my wife just had our first kid, and we live in an apartment in a fun neighborhood. Like yours, our apartment is big enough that having a house would not give us any marginal benefit in space. As others have said, the baby will sleep in your room for quite a while at first, so s/he won't need a nursery for at least several months after birth (meaning well over a year, and possibly over two years, from now). And if you do somehow find yourself in need of space, is there some reason you couldn't move to another, two-bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood?

One thing I'll add, as a new parent, is that the commute time is more important than you realize. When you don't have kids, commute time is a convenience. It's nice not to sit in a car or on a bus. When you have a kid, though, every minute you spend commuting is a minute you don't get to spend with your kid. If you work until 5pm, and your kid goes to bed at 8:30, you're only getting three hours a night of quality time already. Why cut into that even more? Time with your kid is more valuable than anything else, so minimizing commute time is very important.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:48 AM on January 11, 2017 [9 favorites]

My kid was born into a small 2 br apartment, then we moved to a 4 br house in the boonies, and then at 18 months we moved back to a small 2 br apartment. My wisdom is: you, your baby, and you childcaring style will all adapt to whatever reality the kid is born into.

There are a bazillion pros and cons for each of your options, and whichever state your waveform collapses into, you'll be thinking about how much better it could have been if you'd gone the other way. But realistically, you'll make it work.

I think the bigger thing is that you don't know how long it'll take you to get pregnant, so take advantage of and enjoy the situation you have now and sort it out later when your needs are more real and you know what your parenting is like and your childcare is like and your kid is like. We moved interestate with my daughter when she was 8 weeks old, and internationally when she was 18 months old, so moving with a baby is a thing that happens and which is not impossible to do.

I would say that for the first twoish years I think we could have gone either way pretty comfortably, but now that she's just over 2 and we're in this apartment, I really wish we had (1) a back yard, (2) neighbors that didn't live below her elephant-herd stomping around the place, and (3) floors and ceilings that weren't super thin and allowed her noise to travel (or the upstairs neighbors' noise to wake her up, which it does). A single-family house in the 'burbs is not necessarily the solution to that, but it does require careful apartment selection.
posted by olinerd at 10:54 AM on January 11, 2017

I don't think anything in the known universe could convince me to triple by commute while (a) pregnant or (b) busy with a newborn. Also, since you'll have a lot on your plate, I think it would be a good idea to stay close to the things you like the most so they're there for convenient access and enjoyment.
posted by delight at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Get baby first. Homeownership is a PITA and not in a good way, like babies. Babies don't take up that must space at first and you can enjoy them more if you're not also responsible for a giant project like replacing the water heater, roof, etc.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

We looked and looked for a house, then bought it in the '80s, then had a child a year later. It was lovely not to have the stress of moving out of an apartment, because we were in our own little nested space with no noisy neighbors and a big backyard. If we wanted to put a nail in the wall, or when our daughter cried every third night going to bed for the first six months, then it was our business, not the building manager's. Two grown kids later, we still live here.

That said, we thought long and hard about what we wanted in a house with our imaginary "two children and a pet." This can change radically. You won't know until you are doing it what your child's unique needs will be.
It could be physical limitations. It could be special schooling. Luckily, our preschool program caught something early and our public schools are awesome. But you don't know until you are there, and then you will have to go where your child's needs are best met.

Stressful as moving would be, dealing with a mortgage and selling your previous unworkable house will be even more difficult. Not impossible; people move frequently even with children in tow. But a mortgage is a major headache with other life changes piled onto it.
posted by TrishaU at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also agreeing with the stay in the city and move when the kid is young. Your job situation (or desire for type of job) may change and affect your housing budget or what you want in a house (e.g., with one you may decide just one, or you must have two kids, etc).

Seconding the commute time as important at least in the early years when sleeping schedules are go to bed early get up early (e.g., baby/toddler sleeps 6:30pm - 5:30am often).

You can wait until at least 2 to start researching and deciding on preschool and kindergarten even in areas that take a lot of thought/research.
posted by typecloud at 11:40 AM on January 11, 2017

We've got a six month old (got her shots today!) in a one bedroom with den. She slept in our room for a while then moved into the den recently, which is set up as a nursery with a crib and changing table and sea creatures on the wall. We downsized from a rental house to save money (we ditched our paying roommate for one that costs money) and we couldn't be happier with the choice. Everything is so close together! When she poops all over everything in the middle of the night, the walk from the nursery to the washing machine is ten feet.(Your laundry situation may be different). We're not going up and down stairs all the time with her or figure out who is going to watch her while another person goes to the kitchen. We haven't had to shovel snow. It's hands down the best choice we could have made.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm in the camp of: get pregnant, have baby, then decide where you want to move and how much you want to spend and what kind of schools you are looking for. Many things can happen in your world before you actually need to make those decisions. It could take you years to get pregnant then you'd be doing a stupid commute for no good reason. I'd focus your energies on being in good health and getting your financial lives in tip-top shape and saving for the house so that you have more flexibility in where you go. Keep "leaning in" to your life until things change.

Here's how much time you have before your place starts feeling "too small." First, get pregnant. Let's say it happens this month! Then you have 40 weeks before baby comes, so about ten months, give or take. Then baby sleeps in-room with you in a co-sleeper, bassinet or whatever for about six months. Then maybe you transition to a crib. You've got at least a year in the crib. Most likely, though, your kid may start climbing in and out of it before that. And, maybe you start thinking then about another baby? Or some other circumstances in your life point you in a certain direction, then you've saved yourselves a full two years in your space getting the hang of things, figuring out how the baby fits financially and what you want to do. That's a huge savings.
posted by amanda at 12:14 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Currently we live in a 1 bed+den that's in the city and 10-20mins door to door from home to work. ... And plus, I love where we live.

A helpful therapist once encouraged me, every time I saw her, to "use what you know." You know that you have a short commute. Do you also know how important short commutes are to both physical and emotional well-being?

You love where you live. Some believe that "People and the places where they reside are engaged in a continuing set of exchanges; they have determinate, mutual effects upon each other because they are part of a single, interactive system."

You and your husband currently have something that millions of people long for: a short commute to work from a place you like in an area you (if not your husband) love. My apartment, in a small town, is within walking distance of two movie theatres and a public library. My location makes me happier than I can say.

Nthing everyone above who pointed out that you have to make this decision for your family based on what's best for your family, not on what your parents think. Moreover, I think you should make this decision based on what is best for you personally. Who will be popping out this (thus far) imaginary kid? You. Of course your husband's opinion matters. But who is most likely to be isolated in the suburbs? Traditionally, the mom. Whose happiness or unhappiness has the greatest impact on the family's well-being? Traditionally, the mom. I'm not saying that's how things should be. I'm saying that's how things tend to be. And regardless of what your parents say now about what they are willing to do, that could change due to health or other reasons.

You can always move later. If you love where you are now, stay there. Stay there because you love it. Stay there because it's close to work. Stay there because you've built a life there with your husband that can easily accommodate a baby and perhaps even a toddler and older child. In European capitals, plenty of families make small centrally located apartments work for them. You can, too.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:02 PM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to say something that doesn't seem to be addressed above. You may not get pregnant quickly, or easily, or at all. Even if you do get pregnant, it might not go to full term. So I don't think it is prudent to make a major decision like this on the grounds of having a child that has yet to be conceived, let alone born. I'm sorry if this sounds dark or grim, but I really think it would be extra shitty to be struggling with infertility if you'd already run down your reserves of money and energy on a house you don't need and a commute you could have avoided.
posted by bimbam at 1:03 PM on January 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

One other thing to consider: the longer you wait to move, the more time you have to save toward a down payment. Even if you've got enough money saved already, it never hurts to have more.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:37 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is something about the older generation. Even though both my parents started out in small apartments or houses in cities when they were children, no house or car was big enough for us once we got married and started thinking out loud about all these things.

My parents shake their heads, but we brought our son home to a medium sized condo near the subway. We bought a small house in the city once we could afford it. We love living in the city. We are members of the art museum and the science museum. We can walk to a pharmacy and grocery store and park, and we do it routinely. We walk to the pizza place on friday nights, and to friends houses on the weekends. We put a seat on my bicycle for the morning commute to daycare. Having a smaller living space forced us to avoid buying lots of stuff we didn't need, and also kept us handing stuff down once we outgrew it.

The suburbs is car, car, car. They're expensive, they're bad for your health, and commuting is brutal. Time is more valuable than space. I treasured my 15 minute walking commute when my son was little. I could grab him at daycare and we could nip over to the park for some slides before heading home for dinner. It really shapes your life. I worked with a couple of parents with long commutes, and I could see their eyes bug out sometimes when I told them stuff like that. Leaving work and making a stop for groceries or a bottle of wine on my way home, and still being home in 30 mins. I made less than them - they could have moved to my neighbourhood too. It's totally a conceptual thing.

Look into changes you might make to your current place to optimize for having a little one. Replace bigger furniture with smaller pieces. Better shelving/storage. Declutter. Maybe get a small storage locker for the occasional use items like skis or whatever. Map out how it would look with a crib, etc. Then maybe the space will start to look to your partner like a place to have a baby. Recognize that your parents may never understand it. My parents live alone in 3000 sq feet in the suburbs. Anything we could possibly buy looks like a shoebox to them.
posted by thenormshow at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

We lived in a 1 bedroom (just living room, bedroom, kitchen, bath) until my first son was a year old. It was totally fine. It got cluttery, but that's going to happen no matter how much space you have. The layout of our second apartment was such that we effectively had the same set-up, even though it was bigger, so when baby #2 came along all four of us slept in the same big room and until we moved when he was about 16 months old. People live in small spaces all the time with babies. You don't need to live in the suburbs to have happy children. (Full disclosure: We just moved to the suburbs from a tiny walkable town and I hate it.)

Some things to consider:
1) You never know how long it's going to take you to conceive and/or have a take-home baby (sorry to be grim).
2) The partner home on parental leave will not want to be waiting for the working parent to come home on a long commute, especially on trying days.
3) Once both parents are back to work you'll want to have as much time as possible with the baby, and less time commuting. Having childcare near your office is ideal.
4) Houses are expensive. So are children. Minimize the time you're paying for both.
5) Getting small children in and out of cars is obnoxious. And then you load them up to go to an activity and then they fall asleep and you end up driving through Starbucks and driving around for an hour listening to podcasts so they get a good nap in, because god forbid you try to get them to have a decent nap later when they're actually supposed to. It was a glorious day when I discovered the library story time within walking distance.
posted by apricot at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2017

For the first 13 months of my kid's life we lived two states away from our entire family in a rented apartment and it was wonderful. My husband could walk to work, we had lunch together some days, went to the library at the half way point, and palmed off all repairs to landlords.

Then we moved back to the townhouse we own, closer to family, and it kinda sucked. Commute went up, family interference skyrocketed, and we have to spend a couple of grand on the house (outside repayments) to repair, maintain, and pay fees and whatnot.

Long commutes suck and if there is no reason to do it now then don't. I wish we had stayed two states away for a lot longer.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:20 PM on January 11, 2017

I wasn't trying to be clever by saying it's your decision. It's important to your mental health for you to feel as comfortable and secure as possible throughout your pregnancy and during the newborn phase. If you're happy where you are, that's an extremely good reason to stay there.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:47 PM on January 11, 2017

We owned a house when my son was born and stayed there the first year of his life. Then, there was a job change that required a move out of town and we hesitatingly moved into an apartment. It was awesome! Half the house to clean, single floor living, no lawn mowing or repairs, the complex even had a pool. The best part was a much shorter commute, so I was able to spend a lot more time with him. A year later we ended up back in another house because we needed more room, but I still look back on those apartment days fondly. A house is a huge hassle- save the money for daycare.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 5:02 PM on January 11, 2017

We lived in a pretty small 2br apartment with no dishwasher or in-building laundry when my youngest was born -- in fact until he was 5. Worked fine, saved us a lot of money. You should do what makes sense to you.

I think one thing that may be going on, with your mom at least, is that if the plan is for her to spend a lot of half-days providing childcare for you, she's doing you a gigantic favor, and it's a lot easier for her to do it in her own neighborhood than to drive 30-60 minutes each way. I still think staying in your apartment makes sense for you -- but I think you should be open with your mom about the fact that you're aware this decision makes what's already a very big ask of her even bigger, and that you're grateful.
posted by escabeche at 6:07 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. My partner and I have been reading and discussing this evening. I appreciate the thoughtful questions raised. Family and friends I've talked to about this have basically been appalled so it's nice to hear some different perspectives--basically that I'm not crazy/a bad mom already.
posted by inevitability at 6:29 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

A lot of people I know waited to move to the suburbs or at least out of high-density urban neighborhoods right around kindergarten time. If not before, then right after kindergarten. It's fun to have a baby in the city - if you're in the 'burbs you'll be a lot more isolated those first couple months (and beyond) and the ability to walk out your door to find people and good coffee when you've been trapped inside with a cranky baby is super valuable.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:01 PM on January 11, 2017

Just to speak to the logistics of buying a house and moving - we bought a house and moved when our kid was about 8 months old. Was it a pain the ass to move with a 8mo old? Yes. Was it do-able? Why yes, it was. I mean, it's not FUN, but it's not a nightmare, and your reasons for not moving now are excellent. The only reason I would say move before a baby is if your apartment is actually unsafe. Is there lead in it? It sounds to me like you might live in Boston/NYC/DC, all of which are notorious for lead in apartments. But if there is you could certainly just move to another apartment, not like you need to buy a house.
posted by john_snow at 10:17 AM on January 12, 2017

Think of this as good practice for parenting. ;) People love to share their experiences and tell you what to do, even when it has no relation to what is best for you and your family. Trust your instincts and remember you're better at this than you think!
posted by apricot at 1:58 PM on January 12, 2017

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