is it time to prioritize moving near family?
October 11, 2021 8:50 AM   Subscribe

When did you decide to move closer to family? What were the circumstances and how did it turn out? I’m going thru a kind of painful rip-the-bandaid scenario of “I love lots of parts of my life here BUT I want to raise kids near family” and would love your thoughts.

Some factors in my situation:
* I currently live a six hour train ride or 7-8 hour car ride from family. It’s… not close enough for regular visits, more special long weekend things. These have been extremely rare with family in COVID years, more frequent with friends. (My friend world is in Philly, NYC, Western Mass, and Ithaca)
* I am a single queer person (32) who wants to adopt. My relationship to mom, brother + fam, and sister is really good! I miss them all the time!
* I’m two years into my newest city home in Philly and I am hitting a nice rhythm of enjoying life here. It’s a more laid back and affordable city, in contrast to the very expensive Boston area (blah). The most offputting part of moving back to that area is the cost. I think pioneer valley would be a logical place for me, but I really prefer cities, public transit, diverse communities, city parks, etc. I grew up as a middlesex county kid and lived in Cambridge and Somerville briefly after college, and they still are appealing to me (+ other parts of Boston proper I know less about, like JP?) but honestly the thought of fitting back into that metro stresses me out.
* Everyone is regionally established. My brother returned to the region with wife and three kids and is really making a go of NH. My mom is divorced living in a studio apartment near Boston and values living near family, and is late-60s so aging is coming up. She’s likely to live with me when she’s older and I adopt. My sister has an intellectual disability and works and lives pretty happily in a group home off the Green Line. There are some benefits of being the one who lives in another place, but I want to be part of the rhythm of regular life out there again.

I guess I’ve been dealing with an intense bout of homesickness, and would love any thoughts you have. Thank you!!
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We lived a five hour drive from my parents, and five hours from my in laws, with two hours between them. When our first child turned one, we moved near my parents (and my four siblings).

Our reasoning was, we knew we wanted our children to know our families, we were tired of driving all the time, and we figured that right around the time that our kids would have things to do on the weekends/have lives of their own, my parents would be needing help. This proved to be entirely accurate - my mom passed away last August at 87, my girls were 11 and 7. Had we still lived five hours away I would have had to figure out whether to miss time with my mom, or time with my girls, and instead, my girls and I were with my mom lots through her illness - not to mention the ten years prior to that where they built memories.

My four siblings and many of their children also live in our hometown, so there was a critical mass here. My husband insisted that we be close enough to walk to see my parents, because he knew otherwise we would continue to waste time with driving. I wouldn't change any of it, not for the world. And I say this as someone who otherwise loved our life five hours away, and as someone who greatly decreased my earning potential through this move. It is invaluable to see my kids spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

My husband is an only child and luckily his parents just come wherever we are most of the time.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:59 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]

Not sure that my experience maps super well to yours, as you're talking about urban area to urban area, and I suspect that Philadelphia is on the upswing, but I'll lay it out there and you can take from it what you will:

In.... 1974 or so... my parents sold a house in San Jose California and left a job he loved (and that IPOed a few years after he left it) to be closer to family "for the kids". We ended up three hours from one set of grandparents, one or two from the other (West Lebanon, NY, just over the border from MA). Also to have a rural refuge, 'cause he wasn't sure that society was going to last.

Sure, we got grandparents, and my mom wasn't super happy in California, and it all made sense at the time... he should have prioritized the job, and his social group. He'd have been way happier, my mom would have been in a weird space no matter what. Silicon Valley would have been a hell of a lot better place to grow up than rural New York (and, later, Fairfield County CT), I ended up back in the Bay Area anyway 'cause career, and if we'd grown up in an urban environment? All the possibilities and advantages that that gives a kid vs the middle of nowhere.

Family is great and all, I'm about to fly back east to visit siblings and my mom, but both my parents needed to break free of the cultures they grew up in, and I'm damned glad my parents eventually started moving around so that I didn't feel stuck in the places I lived as a kid.
posted by straw at 9:06 AM on October 11 [5 favorites]

When w had a kid, we really moved back because my spouse needed his family (I'm not close to mine), but when my daughter came out as trans, in the middle of COVID, her grandmom has become a really crucial support for her, because she's a teenager and needs other adults to connect with.

And while I'm basically counting down to moving out of this state again once she goes to college I'm glad and grateful she has that love and support.
posted by emjaybee at 9:14 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]

For us, it was my wife wanting to be near our granddaughter, so she can be an involved grandma. It's worked out great in that regard, but it also keeps us caged in Indiana.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:22 AM on October 11

Our kid (now 2.5) was born in Philly, near where my wife's family is based. My parents are in NW WA (desirable but expensive) and Alabama (no), with extended family in Northern VA. We started considering moving as soon as she was born, looking at Philly suburbs and smaller cities all over (e.g. Burlington, VT).

When my mom (in Bellingham) heard about our plans she offered to subsidize our move if it meant being within a weekend-length trip of her, something in the range of a 4-hour drive or so. We weren't planning to move within a 4-minute drive of her, but that's how it shook out, and she's been incredibly involved and helpful, huge QOL improvement for both kid and grandma. We landed in WA in March 2020, kid had just turned 1; I'm not sure how we would have made it through pandemic in a new city if we didn't have her and her partner as a resource.

It's hard uprooting and not having friends close by, but it's working. With panini, we're still getting integrated into life here but there's a lot that's making the move feel worthwhile. It's just slow going.
posted by supercres at 9:26 AM on October 11

I am a single parent of an elementary-aged kid with no family in town. I can't move, but I can barely manage single parenting as it is and I have NO idea how I'm going to manage for the next ten years as my parents age (they're two hours away) and need more help.

Given the details you've listed, in ten years you could very well be a single parent of an elementary-aged kid with an elderly mother requiring increasing care, a sister in a group home whose mother is probably less able to visit her than she used to be, and a brother too far away to be much help with day-to-day stuff like accompanying your mom to medical appointments. You might end up needing to move to the greater Boston area at that point anyway, so why not go now?

I don't think you necessarily need to live ten minutes from your mom if you don't want to deal with Boston prices again, but I'd shoot for a transit-accessible location 1.5 hours or less from your mom so that she can reach you even if she doesn't drive, and you can reach your mom/sister if they need you and still get back to pick up your kid before daycare closes. Something on the commuter rail, maybe?
posted by xylothek at 9:46 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]

Tinkering with this problem now myself, though kids are not in my specific picture (but there are various niblings to consider). I 1000% feel you on the homesickness! Once everyone in my extended family got vaccinated we started having a couple of important gatherings again and it really brought home how much I have missed them and want to stay in their lives.

My mother flew the coop as a teenager and so our nuclear family was always about 6 hours away from the extended fam. Then all of the younger generation scattered out across the country, like you do, for college and grad school and jobs and marriages. But we have kept our connections very close; we travel (in non-COVID times) for all of the holidays, the weddings, and the funerals. We take periodic "reunion" vacations with everyone, and smaller trips with just the cousins, etc.

It's getting tricky now that the aunt-and-uncle generation is getting older, and people are starting to re-centralize. Our little nuclear pod is re-centralizing in stages. First, we all moved back to the Midwest. Now, as my mother is aging poorly and rapidly, we're looking at whether we can get everyone even closer than that.

My long-term view looks like it may be necessary, ultimately, for me to make some big-ass lifestyle changes that I am NOT relishing, if I want to stay in the regular lives of my loved ones. (I will have to learn to drive, keep a car, move to a comparatively very conservative city, and most likely go long-distance, or break up with, my current partner.) This is because I, thinking there was all the time in the world, went ahead and built up a whole-ass life in a city where nobody else in my family lived.* I think the tradeoffs will be ultimately worth it, but it's deeply sad and highly disruptive and I just have to hope I live long enough to return to my beloved home city at some point.

All of this rambly bit to say: The earlier you can start building a life geographically close to your family, the better. The less likely it is that you will find yourself very suddenly uprooted. The more likely it is that you'll see any big lifestyle adjustments coming while you have PLENTY of time to make them. The more time you'll have to see which neighborhoods and what kind of housing suit you best. To make sure transit is sorted because driving ain't forever, folks!

*And why, as we contemplate a cadre of elderly folks who cannot drive and need advanced medical care, does nobody consider moving to my mass-transit and rideshare-friendly city full of excellent senior living systems and world-class hospitals? DO NOT GET ME STARTED.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:56 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]

After 15 years in Manhattan, I was ready to go back to the South to be closer to my Mom. We are very close, and she's very fit in her early/mid 70's, and I wanted to be able to spend time with her now, while she's well, and not wait until it was an elder care necessity. I don't have kids, so that wasn't an issue. It took about 3 years to convince my partner, and get all the moving parts aligned (jobs, selling apartment). The other thing was figuring out exactly where we would move to. I wanted to be max 4 hours from where my mom lived. Nashville was our original plan for job and friends reasons, but unchecked growth and popularity transformed it almost overnight. We considered Knoxville and Asheville, too. But ultimately, we ended up in the small town/city I grew up where my mom still lives.

By and large, we are very happy with our decision. The town has had a bit of a cultural renaissance, with more things to do. We got a fantastic house for a great price. Most importantly for us... we cultivated a friend group before we moved down. It was a little bit of luck, but if we hadn't connected with a group of progressive-minded peers, I'm not sure we would have moved to this very conservative area. And, I'm loving every minute I spend with my mom, aunt and uncle. I don't regret the move, and while it was a little more difficult for my partner, he has also grown to love our new home.
posted by kimdog at 11:59 AM on October 11

It sounds like moving closer to your family, while there are certain downsides like a higher cost of living, will have far more upsides for you! I will say this as a fellow queer person who has lived in different places: small towns generally suck for dating for adult queer people due to far fewer options so, if you are looking to find a partner to adopt with, then I'd be hesitant to live too far from a big city. (Again, this is my speaking from personal experience rather than saying what you should do! You surely have already thought about this a lot!)

After twenty years of living away from family, from 1.5 hours away to on different continents, I can say that living nearby (20 minutes from home; 10 minutes from work) is super awesome!! I do plan to move from my (liberal, diverse) suburb to into the city in a year because I have missed city life, high rent be damned. Philly is still a bit cheaper than a lot of East Coast cities so prepared to be shocked to see how high rents have gotten even higher while you've been gone.

Being close, especially during COVID, has been amazing: ideally, I see my parents once a week although I'd love to go 2-3 times. It's so cool being able to just for dinner and then head home or stop by after work to say hi. I think it'll be especially nice for you to be closer to your sister, how lovely!

The one downside is that you are exposed to more family drama. It's not bad but the fact that you are closer and around a lot means you experience more of people's everyday life and the ups and downs. However, you recognize it, find new ways to set boundaries for yourself, and you're fine.
posted by smorgasbord at 2:19 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]

If Pioneer Valley looks like a good fit for you, there are several cities there: Springfield, Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke, and others; all of which have universities or colleges which tend to lead to gay-friendly environments.
posted by TimHare at 3:20 PM on October 11

I don't think you should move to western Mass if you're a city person. Better to be a bit further in someplace you like. If you're not going to live in Boston, what about NH, near your brother?

But here's my question/suggestion: you said that cost is the big issue, and you think that your mom will eventually live with you. What happens if you all decide to live together sooner? I don't know the cost of her studio, but I'm going to guess that you all could afford, between the two of you, a two or three bedroom place more easily than you could pay for two separate places.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:32 PM on October 11

My brother-in-law and his wife recently did a move much like you're proposing this past summer. They were in Chicago, about a 3 hour drive from the smallish city where his parents live. They ultimately decided to move because said parents are in their 70s and one is starting to have some health issues and they were ready for a change of scenery. They don't have kids but most of their Chicago-area friends do and were increasingly busy with kid sports and other activities. Oh, and they lucked out and managed to convert both their jobs to remote - being able to keep their careers intact I think was the deciding factor. They seem very happy with the decision so far.

I personally would love to make a move like that as we are on the East Coast even further from family: both sets of parents are a 2-3 hour flight or a full two days of driving away. We don't have kids but still feel like we're missing out on a lot of things - seeing family 1-2 times a year isn't the same as seeing them on a regular basis, not to mention eldercare concerns. Unfortunately my job does not allow remote work, and changing jobs isn't an option right now - but we're still considering moving closer longer term.
posted by photo guy at 8:30 AM on October 12

I moved back home after university. Unfortunately my home city is a large and expensive one. When I had a kid, I was happy to be close to family and I do still value that highly. But sometimes I struggle with feeling a bit like a geographical prisoner here. I’m a single parent now and this is a very expensive place to live, but I can’t really move because all of my family support is here…
posted by ficbot at 9:18 AM on October 12

I'm late to this question, and this is a perhaps unhelpfully specific answer, but have you thought about Worcester? I'm a 39-year-old partnered queer person, moved here two years ago from Philly (which I moved to from Ithaca!), and really love it. It has a bad rap, but it's a surprisingly chill little city, quite affordable, and a 90-minute train ride away from Boston.

It doesn't have the everyone-is-queer vibe of some of those towns in Western Mass, but there is definitely a queer community, and it is more diverse in other ways than those towns are, plus it's just bigger and closer to Boston.

To answer your question as stated, I moved here for a job, but am also two hours by car from my family (which is the closest I've lived to them in my adult life), and it feels like a good distance--spontaneous visits are possible, and we can even meet up for an afternoon if we want, but there's still enough distance that I feel like my life is separate and whole on its own.
posted by dizziest at 11:50 AM on October 17

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