Should we move neighborhoods for more friends?
October 28, 2019 7:04 AM   Subscribe

We live in a neighborhood where we haven’t made friends and where our kids have not made real friends, despite there being lots of kids! We are considering moving to a more expensive home in a neighborhood where we already have some friends and where we know they regularly get together; however, we aren’t sure if “moving for friends” is going to be worth it or smart. We love our low mortgage, our yard and our location, but the other neighborhood would surely improve both our social life and our kids’ chance of making friends. Would you move for friends?

We moved to our current house about 4.5 years ago. We loved the location, the price was right (lower than we expected to pay), we have a wonderful yard, and we liked the neighborhood and appreciated that there were sidewalks and lots of kids.

However, we have now spent the last 4.5 years trying to make friends with the neighbors and it just hasn’t happened. While some we simply have nothing in common with, others just don’t seem to care to become friends. We have invited many people over but the invites haven’t once been reciprocated!

We are frustrated with our neighborhood in general, but even more so because of what we hear from many other friends in the area about their own neighborhood experiences. These friends live in neighborhoods where they have made great friends, where there are regularly neighborhood events and get together and, most importantly, where their kids have made best friends. I always feel so badly that my kids have no neighborhood friends of their own when ever friend at school seems to have their “neighborhood best friend.”

Therefore, we are considering moving to a neighborhood where we have a couple friends that live and that love the neighborhood. The house will be significantly more expensive, but we “can” afford it. We had been happy with our current cheap house and how it enables us to save more aggressively so this would require adjustments on that front, but we are starting to feel it would be worth it for quality of life.

Have any of you moved for friends? Would you move? A friend did it a few years ago and said it has been life changing since it affects their almost every day, but it is a big decision and I am just not sure. Thoughts?
posted by flower777 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I moved back to the midwest from the east coast because this is where my support network is. This was vital for me as a single person who has a hard time dating. For you, the question is less "where can I go for any kind of support" and more "do we want to be totally self-contained" but I think moving to be where your friends are and where you can make friends is smart.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:18 AM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think it's a good move. Right now, I'm in a place where my kids don't get to randomly hang out with neighborhood kids. I have to plan play dates with their school friends.
I think it's great if they can just ride their bike, oor walk over to another house to play with other without lot of pre planning.
posted by WizKid at 7:27 AM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Assuming that the financial strain means less travel, older cars, and slower-but-not-nonexistent retirement savings, rather than living close to paycheck-to-paycheck, yes. Quality of life is important! You should still be saving and have the income and savings to pay the bills for six months if someone loses a job, unless you're in super secure industries.

If it will be more financially difficult than that, I'd think harder about it.
posted by metasarah at 7:29 AM on October 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

We did this. We were over our old house for a number of other reasons (it was way too small; we hated the location), but when a house became available within bathrobe distance of friends, even though it increased our mortgage by 50%, we bought it.

It was the best decision we've ever made. Our quality of life has improved dramatically. The kids walk out of the house and into friends' houses. We have potlucks and Easter egg hunts and Hannukah parties. I can just go over to a neighbor's house with a bottle of wine after dinner and chill out. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
posted by linettasky at 7:34 AM on October 28, 2019 [12 favorites]

Start the process! If you can find a house in a price point that works, then you’ll have a real decision on your hands. I’m jealous af of my friends that have what you are talking about. If I could afford the neighborhood where I’d want to be to have similar, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
posted by amanda at 7:40 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you should consider doing it if it's going to significantly increase the quality of life for you and your spouse. I'm not sure that selling and buying and moving into another house is really that worth it if your motivation is primarily your kids - it sounds like your kids are pretty young and they really will start to build stronger social networks through school and activities, it isn't going to negatively effect their childhoods in any meaningful way if they don't have a friend living right next door.
posted by cakelite at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

I think my answer would depend on the ages of your kids, your work/home balance set-up, and your financial situation, as well as a bit more intel from your friends.

If your kids are young, it may just be their ages, especially if your neighbour skews slightly older. As an example, I organized a big parent group when I was a new parent with my oldest son. With my younger son, I have all those parents as friends, so I have done less organizing for him. In his earlier years this meant way fewer play dates, but now that he's more self-actualizing, his social life is catching up.

In some affluent areas, there are more neighbourhood things going on because there are more stay-at-home parents, and if you are in that category it goes really well. But if you're not, you may not end up the beneficiary of all the neighbourhood events. If you're not a SAHP, I'd ask your friends a bit more about timing of all these joyful things as well as who organizes them.

Financially, a point made in The Millionaire Next Door is that we often measure our success by those around us (and my kids are not immune to this either.) So if you're moving into a neighbourhood where everyone else is doing ski vacations and summer jaunts, and you won't be able to, you may find your happiness goes down.

Having said all that, community and connection is one of the biggest bringers of happiness so I think it is definitely worth considering.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I can’t figure out how to respond to individual comments (if that’s a thing) so I’ll try to answer some questions here.
My kids and 5 and 7. I do worry that my kids will soon start to outgrow the need to make friends just in a neighborhood as their involvement in other activities increase and they make friends in sports, school etc anyway, so I don’t want this to be the only driver for the move. However, I assume there would still be some benefit to having friends in the neighborhood even when they make them elsewhere...right?

I work from home but most of the friends I know in the new neighborhood also work. The types of activities the neighborhood does are things similar to those mentioned above...Easter egg hunts, Halloween parades, etc and then also some general hanging out. We have one set of friends that we are already close to in this neighborhood that we are looking at and some very good friends in the next neighborhood over and we could walk to their houses so this is a huge plus for us, already having friends!

Financially it would just mean slowing down savings but wouldn’t drastically hurt our financial situation at all. We would still go on vacations and be able to do the activities we love! We would just have to be more cognizant of our budget than before!

In terms of our house we love the yard and the location in our town, but the hose itself is already starting to bother us in terms of not having a few things we really want (dedicated office, bigger closets, basement, etc).

There is a house in the target neighborhood that is coming up for sale in the next couple months, which is what has us really considering this now.
posted by flower777 at 8:14 AM on October 28, 2019

I’d go for it in that case - why not?
posted by warriorqueen at 8:37 AM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

do it! it's a huge quality of life factor to have friends right nearby. While it's a nice "everyday" perk, it really comes into focus when there's a crisis of any sort.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sorry for the slightly pithy comment but there is REAMS of evidence that the one thing that contributes most (and almost without limit) to happiness is social contact. Start by reading the Happy City by Charles Montgomery if you're interested. You have tried and your attempts have fallen on stony ground - you're surrounded by the wrong sort of people for you and your family. In my view you should certainly move.
posted by fishingforthewhale at 8:48 AM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you're in a similar age/life stage to me, and I frequently make decisions based on what will [probably] work well for me when I'm older (like in my 60s or 70s) and having a walking-distance social network would be massively important on that scale.
As to kids getting older and having more opportunities to make friends outside the neighbourhood... Do you want to spend a lot of time chauffeuring them back and forth to friends' houses until they're 16? Do you want them to need a car to hang out with their friends after age 16? Because that could be the future if they have farfriends.
posted by dotparker at 9:29 AM on October 28, 2019

For whatever it’s worth, I grew up in the literal middle of nowhere. I had friends through school activities, but any getting-together happened by someone’s parents driving us around, or later, is driving around, once we had cars. My parents were a good deal more introverted than you are, it sounds like, but just food for thought.
posted by Alterscape at 9:31 AM on October 28, 2019

We live very near to some dear friends and it is the BEST. There is nothing more heartwarming to me than walking down our little central street and saying hi to folks we know, or being able to do an impromptu potluck on a weeknight. DO IT!
posted by Bebo at 10:03 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

We live where my kids have close-by neighbor friends, and it's a strong enough factor in our/their wellbeing that we've nixed moves to other cities where we couldn't be sure we'd find similar neighborhoods, even when those moves would have included very significant raises. It's not the specific kid friends, those have changed over the years -- it's the culture of kids being out and about and running from house to house. I don't believe we could replicate the positive effects of this with, frankly, any amount of money. (Money matters for other things, of course! But this specific wonderful feature of our life can't be bought.)
posted by wyzewoman at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Our kids are the same age as yours and in the last year have discovered the wonder that is neighborhood friends. It is amazing. If we didn't have it, I would move for it. It feels similar to what I remember my childhood in the 80s being, where the kids roamed the neighborhood without supervision until dinner time.

Most of the kids in our neighborhood go to different schools (and ours are homeschooled) and it is absolutely fantastic to have a built-in group of friends who you can play with without relying on a parent to drive you around, so even if your kids do make school and sports friends, I still think there is a large value in right-up-the-street friends.

Since it sounds like it won't really stretch your budget, I would do this in a heartbeat.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

How far away is the new neighborhood? Also do your kids attend the neighborhood school, and do most kids in your neighborhood attend the neighborhood school? And how about in the new neighborhood?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

My opinion is that you should move because you want to.

That said, for a lot of different reasons, neither I nor my kids have had many friends in our neighborhood and still we love it. I love the economic freedom of living in a big home with a low rent. My kids feel they belong here, in spite of most of their friends and family living in other areas. I hated that I had to drive them everywhere when they were small, but I'm proud of their ability to navigate public transport, walking and biking now.
Right now in these months, more of our family are moving into our neighborhood, and my girls are proud to welcome them here and show them around.
I'm getting to know some of the younger families in our block, and even though we are in different life circumstances, I really like them, and they are becoming friends.
posted by mumimor at 1:27 PM on October 28, 2019

Just yesterday afternoon I was trying to quantify the value of four neighborhood kids (siblings from two different families) playing with my youngest on the backyard playset. Nothing like the sound of laughing kids on a lazy Fall afternoon.

We've lived in several neighborhoods after our transplant from several states away, so no relatives or relatives' kids to bring over like other families have. Each neighborhood has had different experiences - and can relate to your current situation, having invited others over myself without ever being reciprocated. In our current neighborhood, it happens all the time.

There are tangible and intangible reasons for property values - whether strength of the local schools or the relative involvement of the people who live there.

Another vote for you to make the move - I'm super-happy where we are, and you can't measure many intangible in strictly dollar terms.
posted by scooterdog at 2:24 PM on October 28, 2019

I lucked into living near friends and it's great for all of the reasons above. In my stage of life, where my friends aren't quite as firmly planted yet, I wouldn't make any permanent decisions based on that but it's definitely a bonus that I'd take into consideration. For you, it sounds like there are lots of reasons you'd like to move and this would be an overall improvement for your family.

I am curious however about why your current neighborhood isn't working for you. The thing that caught my attention is that your current neighborhood already has lots of kids, but your kids haven't made friends with them. I can think of lots of potential reasons why, some of which could be improved by moving, others which would not. Maybe they're the only kids who don't go to the local school, and they never see the neighborhood kids because they're at violin lessons when everyone else is running around the park (or vice versa). I don't think the occasional egg hunt is going to make a huge difference if you move and that's still the case. On the other hand that might matter less if there were more kids around going to different schools with similar schedules and activities. Same general idea goes for your grown-up neighbors.

Don't get me wrong, you sound excited about the new neighborhood and I think you should definitely pursue it as an option, especially since you do have an inside scoop on the intangible aspects of the neighborhood's character. I would just take a moment to consider what you're actually trying to change and whether they are things that moving can realistically change.
posted by yeahlikethat at 7:04 AM on October 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

The new neighborhood is a few miles away, about a 10 minute drive. My kids go to the public school, as do most of the kids in the current and the potential new neighborhood.

My husband and I also question why our new neighborhood doesn’t work, since on paper it should! There are lots of kids, but many a year or two older or younger than my kids, or girls the age of my son and boys the age of my daughter, and they just haven’t bonded. It is also due to the parents, as we just don’t seem to have anything in common with the ones we have tried to hang with (we often invite the whole families over), or they have their own friends nearby and just don’t reciprocate to ask us to do anything. Also, in amongst the houses with kids there are a ton of houses with older parents whose kids have gone to college, as the neighborhood is just starting to turnover, so some kids are on the other side of the neighborhood and it ends up very separate. The new neighborhood is in an area with all new houses and almost every single household (and there are tons in this area) has young kids, so it’s just night and day different.

The move would be in part for the kids, but also for us adults. We moved to the area to be near family, who is 40-60 minutes away (we had to be that distance due to work commute); however we had no friends when we moved. We are very social people and love to entertain but it’s been hard as adults to build a network of friends more than the superficial chatting at kids sports, etc as everyone already has a crew. My husband is always jealous of the other guys neighborhood poker nights and me the girls wine nights, etc.

I appreciate all the feedback! We are almost sure we want to do it, or at least run the numbers and seriously work through the financial impact to us. The money, while doable, is the only real negative but still stresses me out!
posted by flower777 at 4:03 PM on October 29, 2019

My husband is always jealous of the other guys neighborhood poker nights and me the girls wine nights, etc.

The only thing I will say -- and I might be totally wrong -- is that there's no reason you all couldn't be invited to this sort of thing now, and you might be careful not to assume you would be if you moved nearby. It sounds like these are good friends, but I've made the mistake of assuming that a farther away friend would become a closer friend if I moved closer, and I was wrong. It's such a big change that it's worth thinking through this before all the upheaval. (And I hope I'm wrong!)
posted by bluedaisy at 4:13 PM on October 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

> I've made the mistake of assuming that a farther away friend would become a closer friend if I moved closer, and I was wrong.

Same. It turned out fine in the long run, but it was dispiriting at the time. Remember: no matter where you go, there you are.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:36 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

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