Need some input on navigating course corrections during Big Life Changes
September 14, 2019 9:41 AM   Subscribe

During some interviews for jobs out of state, we found out we've got a baby on the way...I still would like to move, but it doesn't seem feasible - I could use some ideas on how to best deal with this, or at least some opinions from the neutral hive.

I've been on the job hunt, because of several factors: my current gig is stagnant, non-challenging and routine (after being there over a decade), I'm unhappy with management, and I'd really like to get out of our town/state to relocate to greener pastures.

We live in a 'coastal elite' area, so the rent is too damn high, the crowds/people and traffic can be very terrible. It is great when you're in your 20's or 30's (if you can afford it), but I am in my mid forties, and my wife is in her late thirties.  The local and state politics seem to be getting insane or more extreme, take your pick, and while that's not a deal breaker, it doesn't help.

I've been interviewing for a couple of positions that would be lateral moves for me, one in the same state, two others in neighboring states (I'm pretty sure one of these is about to fly me out for the in person interview). Right in the middle of all the multiple interviews I've been doing, we found out our first child is on the way! :D this is great news for both of us. But now the idea of relocating is either off the table completely or would take a lot of convincing my wife.

She has lived in our current area her whole life, but she agreed with me about looking to relocate and branch out on our own. Her parents did the same thing 40-50 years ago when they moved here and started their family (much easier and cheaper back then!) Her immediate family are all here, though not necessarily next door....all of her siblings (and their families) are spread out within 10 to 60 miles, her parents are ~20 minutes down the road from us.  All my family resides on the opposite coast. I moved here 15 years ago, so another move for me isn't as significant, but I understand my wife's reluctance to uproot with a bun in the oven. (is that a totally not PC term nowadays?)

While having family and friend support next door is a BIG deal, I am looking more at the long term. The housing market where we live is pretty bad. We make good money, but good money does not get you much. It would take a huge chunk of our assets to put down a convincing down payment, let alone finding a worthy property in the right location. Then you're competing with the token multiple offers from parties with much greater resources. I have owned homes previously, and I'm not settling for a fixer upper, etc. because even 'distressed' properties are way over-priced here. A third to half of what you'd spend here would buy you a TON of house for the money in the two other states.

The job locations out of state are 1) a small beautiful town with a population under 100k, and 2) another major metro city with the same problems we see everyday, though lesser to a degree. During my interviews, I have been doing my homework on the small town, and it sounds just about perfect for us. While I would make less money in this small town, we would not pay nearly as much taxes, and overall living costs will go down too.  All the money we saved would be set away for our child, reinvested for retirement and whatever else, like plane tickets to visit family more often.  Speaking of our kid, I'm pretty sure that the small town would be a better place to raise them, educationally speaking too.  Ultimately, the small town move seems like a no brainer, it is right next door to huge national forests, parks/trails, tons of nature, mountains, rivers/lakes, scenery, has a relaxed pace of life, more breathing room, etc. and they get very decent weather too.  We're outdoorsy, so it seems like a good match (wife is a trail runner), and the town's not totally backwoods, there is yoga and a Whole (paycheck) Foods there for my wife ;)

I think ultimately, we're not going to relocate, which is very disappointing to me. I don't want us renting anymore, so we have to figure out and really knuckle down our search for a home to buy here, and that's a whole other thread right there.....I hate spending so much money on such over-inflated and underwhelming real estate. I feel we're going to have to purchase pretty far out to get the kind of home we want. Both our commutes would increase significantly, but my wife would only be affected for a few months, she plans to stop working for a few years once the baby arrives. Would the quality of life improve or worsen? We wouldn't be 'house poor' but it would take some adjusting to being a single income family here. Am I a cold, logical bastard for looking at this financially? We wouldn't have a big mortgage payment, a gnarly commute or all the rat-race stress in a small town, but grandma and grandpa, etc. wouldn't be nearby either. Nothing stopping them from visiting us either....! One upside is that unless the whole area falls into the sea, the equity built up even after a couple of years would not insignificant.

I'm glossing over a lot of other stuff so that this doesn't turn into a the fact that over half the time I've lived here, I was in a very unhealthy relationship with a borderline who nearly made me commit suicide, so I've got a somewhat tainted lens from my history here. THANK GOD for my wife and her family (and therapy).

I understand the huge reservations from my wife, and this decision is something we would both have to agree on obviously. Thanks for reading and if you have any pearls of wisdom to help navigate the shifting currents here, thank you for your reply in advance.
posted by kilohertz to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Being close to family when having kids is huge. Huge! If your wife is close to her family and wanting their help (and loving connections) in raising the kid, don’t move. Even if you convince her she will resent it every time she’s alone with a screaming baby or whining kid in the perfect small town you moved to. Parents *can* visit, but not all the time and especially if the whole family nexus is elsewhere.

Focus your energy on finding a better job with more pay in your area.
posted by permiechickie at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2019 [14 favorites]

Yeah, I think you are underestimating a few things in your current location: the immense value of having family and established friendships when you have young kids and the immense shift in moving from a big metro area to a small city (no matter how beautiful).

If your wife was into it, she could establish a new set of friends through her pregnancy in the new town. But if she hates and is lonely and miserable and missing home... you will all be miserable.

Sounds like you have some trauma associated with your past relationship and I think you should continue to work through that. But also... don’t make this move if your wife isn’t on board. I get the sense that you’ve been pushing for this and she’s reluctantly agreed to consider it. But you married a hometown girl. Those grandparents are your future babysitters. You will have a higher quality of life with family nearby.

What would it take to learn to like your city?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I sympathize -- there was a time when I badly wanted to relocate also, and we ultimately decided not to because our kid was small and my partner wasn’t on board. I saw some reference on another partner AskMe to “two yeses, one no” and this is exactly the kind of situation it’s meant for, I think. I know that’s hard to swallow when you’re a lone yes.

Something that’s hard to get across to people who aren’t (yet) parents is that so much of society just ... assumes that you have people you can call to watch the baby/kid when some emergency happens, whether that emergency is a snow day at school/daycare, or the kid has a fever, or your boss suddenly needs you to drop everything for two days and stay late. (Regarding the workplace end of this, AskAManager has covered the topic a few times; as a professional you’re just expected to figure something out, even if you’re a single parent and the work emergency is, like, leave town overnight on short notice. This feels incredibly inhumane to me, but that’s the world we live in.) Mr. eirias and I don’t have that support in town, precisely because we don’t have local family, and have suffered for it — I mean, we get by because our bosses love us and so we can afford to spend a little workplace capital in this way, but it is a constant stressor and will be until Little e is old enough to mind herself all day. Having grandparents about two hours away, as we do here, at least allows us to handle “planned emergencies” like winter break; if we’d relocated when I wanted to, we would not even have that.

I understand the property dilemma. One solution that friends of mine in an expensive area came to: they bought a two-flat with another family and condo-ized it. They did have to settle for an older home that needed some work. There’s not a perfect solution, I fear.

For me the adjustment-to-disappointment happened when I found another solution to the problem my proposed move was really trying to solve: I was unhappy at work and I needed a better job. It took a couple years, but I found one, and I haven’t looked back since. I hope you can find another way to solve your problem here so that it doesn’t sting so much. Best wishes to you guys with all the changes to come.
posted by eirias at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

It doesn't have to be a "do it now or never do it ever ever" type of situation. Can you give it another year or two in your current location, and then reevaluate?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:31 AM on September 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have five grandkids who live within 20 minutes of each other. Their lives, and their parents', have benefited enormously from having family and family friends nearby. (I, unfortunately, am not nearby but plan to move closer when I retire next year.) Not only do the kids have a wealth of loving adults in their lives but they also have strong relationships with each other. I wish I could share a picture of my oh so cool 18 year old grandson entertaining his 10 month old cousin.

For your child's sake and your wife's sake find a way to stay close by. Is there some area that's still close to family where housing is more affordable? Can you stay put and find a better job? Can you put the desire for homeownership on hold for a couple of years?

Your wife is in her late thirties, this alone makes her pregnancy somewhat high risk. You don't need the added stress of major life changes now.
posted by mareli at 10:45 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I also live in an expensive coastal city and want to move so I can buy a house, so I sympathize. I work remotely, and it might be worth searching for a new job that's remote, so that you have more flexibility (if it's based where you are now, you'll also end up with a better salary if you move). Maybe also consider more unusual living arrangements. For example, do her parents have room in their backyard for an accessory dwelling unit?
posted by pinochiette at 10:49 AM on September 14, 2019

I agree that having family/relatives available locally to help you, at least for the first few years, will be invaluable. Unless you can afford a nanny in a new place you move to, I would make that help from family among your most heavily weighted decision-making factors. Having to make trade-offs in life can be a bummer, but I don't think that's one you would regret (although you may never appreciate just how good a decision it is unless you don't make that decision and decide to raise your child without that help).
posted by Dansaman at 11:28 AM on September 14, 2019

You say you "don't want to rent" but having a baby shouldn't necessarily mean "buy a house now." Sometimes renting just makes sense - maybe a different property than the one where you reside now - especially if the market isn't great AND you value the flexibility.
posted by nkknkk at 11:50 AM on September 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

So, OK, I can see I'm in the distinct minority on this thread, but. When our first was born we lived near family in a place my husband really, really disliked (for similar reasons to you - high prices for crap properties, terrible commutes, plus he disliked the culture there). He resented that we were there because of my preferences and he was just unable to make his peace with it. We argued about it all the time.

After a traumatic event, I agreed to move away with our 1-year-old to a place where we could afford more space and live closer in to work. I had a HARD time for the first year or so, I won't deny it. But five years out? I think this move saved our marriage. We are both happier and less stressed out because we're not stretching to pay a mortgage for a place that was always going to require a ton of upkeep and annoyance. We've been able to take big career risks that paid off because we felt secure that we could survive on one income. And weirdly, I hadn't realized how much tension being close to my parents was causing for ME; maybe your spouse's parents have great boundaries but mine were often underfoot in ways that in retrospect made me a little mental. I just had never really lived far from them and didn't realize that tension existed until it was gone. I think my relationship is much better with them now than it was when we lived closer. I've also grown up a lot - I have had to put on my grownup pants and deal with a lot of crap on my own where before I'd have called my parents to help. I feel self-assured about my ability to rise to challenges in a way I never did before.

Is it easy not having family nearby? No. It's hard, for sure. We're expecting kid 3 in a few weeks (good luck affording THAT in Overpriced Coastal City) and having them come to stay because it's really really tough getting anyone else to be on call when you're about to give birth. But I feel like whenever people ask questions like this, everyone says nearby family is SO SO CRITICAL that it trumps all other rational considerations, and that just isn't true for everyone. (I sometimes wonder how many people answering these questions have actually tried both living near family and living far away. I know I thought "How can we possibly manage without my folks in town?" before I tried doing it. Turns out we were more capable of taking care of ourselves than I'd ever imagined.) We have so much more disposable income here we can hire help to do a lot of what my parents were doing, and they do it on our schedule and without a bunch of second guessing and editorializing. And we're able to be our own people in a way I just wasn't when my parents were around all the time. It turns out I'm very different from my parents, and I raise my kids differently, and when my mom is here she's always questioning my choices and getting lowkey offended when I do things she wouldn't have done.

I love my parents to bits. I really, really do. But it is a lot easier on me having them a two-hour flight away than a half-hour drive, most of the time. My kids are the exotic out-of-town cousins that everyone comes to visit in the summer. And we actually have a house big enough for a guest room where we can put people up. In emergencies do I sometimes wish my folks lived nearby? Oh yeah. But would I trade that for all the benefits I've gotten from moving? Nope.
posted by potrzebie at 12:43 PM on September 14, 2019 [12 favorites]

Having family close by is a big deal and probably worth making financial sacrifices for. But the things you say could get from living in the smaller town are also big. A shorter commute so you can be less stressed and spend more time at home, a nicer/bigger house and yard, better schools, a more pleasant environment, better nearby recreational opportunities, more money saved for your kids or retirement. Those could have as much effect on your family's happiness as living near relatives, maybe more.

I think you and your wife need to spend a lot of time talking about what you each value most, what will make you happiest, and what you think will make your kid happiest. Look realistically at what support and/or interference you can expect from her family and the impact it's going to have on your lives. Talk about what kind of place you each want to live in and how important that is to you, what kind of environment you want your kid to grow up in and what aspects of that you think are most important. Find out just how unhappy your wife thinks she would be about moving and let her know how unhappy you think you would be about staying. And remember that whatever you do now doesn't have to be forever.
posted by Redstart at 12:50 PM on September 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Just speaking statistically, the odds that your wife will want to move when it becomes time to send your kid to school are...not small. And if you end up having another child, the need for space will add pressure in the same direction. A decision to stay does not have to be forever.
posted by praemunire at 2:39 PM on September 14, 2019

Moving to be a SAHM is socially risky. She will not have a job to meet new people. Kids are great for meeting new people when they're in school and you meet other school parents, but the baby years can be INCREDIBLY isolating even when you have friends and loved ones nearby. When the only way you get adult interaction is by actively choosing to get up and leave the house (which is an enormous undertaking with a newborn--diapers and feedings and nap schedules, oh my!), and then it's not even close friends you can bond with but tentative new acquaintances...ugh.

I agree with others that not moving now doesn't mean not moving ever. Keep renting. In a couple of years when your first is going to go to preschool, the structure of having a school system to move into will make a difference in her ability to quickly embed in a community--which you'll be doing through work.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:51 PM on September 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

My kids are 3, we’ve been raising them without family help, and honestly I’d kill to have local family. You’re going to be so lucky. Embrace it.
posted by studioaudience at 10:52 PM on September 14, 2019

We have a 10 month old and live in a big city with not a lot of family around. I would also say, stay put.

If you were moving to another city I might say go for it. Being a new mom has felt incredibly isolating for me and the only thing that saved me is because this city has so many options for me and baby to go out and meet people - play groups, sensory and music classes, museums, etc. If we had family 20 mins away that would have been even better!! They are at a minimum 1 hour away, which is nice for weekend visits but nothing more.

But to be in a small town and no family and don’t know anyone as a new mom? Nnnnooope. I personally cannot imagine going through this first year like that to be honest. But this is taking my own personal experience, personality and family life into account.

However, I would def consider it if our baby was two years old!
posted by like_neon at 2:38 AM on September 15, 2019

Moving right now seems like it would be really, really socially isolating for your wife. Why not move in a few years when it's time for her to start working again?
posted by geegollygosh at 5:33 AM on September 15, 2019

We moved across the country to a small town when our first child was 4 months old and I found it easy to meet other parents, even though I'm a huge introvert. In a way it's easier in a small town because there are only so many places for people to go. If you go to your town's playgroup or library story time, all the other new parents are there too. (But my town is probably much smaller than your "small beautiful town.") Anywhere you go, there are going to be playgroups and activities set up for babies/toddlers and their parents and other new parents who are looking for people to hang out with. Sure, it would be easier to have people you already knew nearby, but even if you stayed where you are now I bet your wife would want to meet other parents with babies around the same age and would go out and do the kinds of things that would lead to her meeting them. It won't be that different in a new place.
posted by Redstart at 7:01 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

But in support of the "family is important" side I guess I should include the fact that the town we moved to is the one where my sister lives and having her there for support and practical help was really good. It would have been a more difficult experience moving to a place where I didn't know anyone at all. But her kids were quite a bit older so I did need to meet other people with babies. It's not like having family in town meant I didn't need anyone else.
posted by Redstart at 7:24 AM on September 15, 2019

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