The Other Side: Are The Burbs Really Better?1

Posted by Deirdre // 12-02-2013


Welcome back to the grind! Now that the holiday season is in full swing, we’re either loving where we are (the cool holiday shops with local handmade amazing treasures! the lights on the street!) or hating it (the SEVEN HOUR drive upstate! peace and quiet anywhere else!). So here’s a taste of what it’s really like to actually live elsewhere–not just for a weekend or holiday–from someone who knows. Michele found Bklyn or Beyond when searching for Brooklyn family blogs. You know why? She’s moving here from the suburbs of Connecticut. I know many of you are considering the ‘burbs and as we know there are pros and cons to any place (see above and pretty much the entire history of this blog). Michele will be doing a regular column called The Other Side, looking at the not-always-pleasant aspects of life in the suburbs; the things you don’t think about when you have starry-eyed dreams of your kids running in a yard and an end to alternate side of the street parking. Here’s her first post!

Your yard full of leaves needs to be addressed. Your furnace needs to be serviced. Your car is in the shop, and you need to use a rental. You have to drive to get a simple gallon of milk; in fact some days you practically live in the car. Your driveway needs shoveling. Mice in the attic again? Time to call the exterminator and wait for the bill. You’re fatter than you were in the city. It’s boring. Your commute is insane—and expensive. Your property taxes are much, much higher. Wait—more yard work and house repairs. Your roof has to be replaced (over $10,000!) so you start digging into your savings. You often stop and ask yourself, “Is this really better?”

Welcome to the suburbs.

Look at all that SPACE!

Look at all that SPACE!

Hi, my name is Michele. I’m a mom of three: Mason, 6, Hannah, 4, and Ethan, 2. I’m also a city girl, yet here I am in the suburbs. I ask myself daily, how did we end up here? Why did we leave our beloved city living and move to the suburbs? It had to be that positive pregnancy test. In April of 2006, my husband Jason and I found out we were expecting our first. At that time we were living in Beacon Hill in the heart of Boston. We never consciously wanted to leave the city (maybe find a better apartment that wasn’t in the basement) but when Jason got his old job back in White Plains, NY, we decided it was the best time to make The Move. We ended up packing up when I was 5 months pregnant and heading to the suburbs of Connecticut. After renting in downtown Greenwich for a while, we thought it wasn’t so bad. There were still things to do, and it was walkable. But then, after we bought our first house (because a child needs a lot of space and a yard, ya know?) a little further out in Fairfield County, it hit us.

Get us out of here!

This was our first time being homeowners. We had a large yard and whole 1500 sq. foot house that we had to take care of on our own. We had to fix and pay for everything. No live-in supers to help, no landlord to complain to. This was all on us. You don’t know how much work it is to be a homeowner unless you actually do it for a while. It is also very expensive and time consuming. We’ve wasted many weekends on tedious house and yard work while we wished we were out exploring and having fun. Kids are enough work; there is no reason to add more in the form of a house.

How about the great public schools?

The public school my son is attending—the one our neighbors raved about when we moved here—is only rated a 4 out of a 10 on, and the districts are being rezoned next year. Rezoning does happen in the suburbs, because overcrowding can also happen here. My son’s school is being affected, but he isn’t the one to have to move to another school. Instead, our school is getting more students.

Then of course, there is the commute. My husband’s office used to be in the financial district, and then last year it was moved across the river to Jersey City. His commute is almost 2.5 hours and $600/mo. We thought about Westchester County and New Jersey, but the property taxes were jaw-dropping. Then, we thought about just moving back to Greenwich, but the commute would still be well over an hour, and then we’d still be tending to a house and yard. When it came down to it, we realized we are simply not suburb material. It took a move to the suburbs and into homeownership to be truly cognizant of this. In these past five years, we realized the suburbs are not the answer to life’s problems, and they’re also not necessarily the answer to that positive sign on the pregnancy test. The suburbs have their own set of issues as well. When comparing the suburbs to the city, I’d call them different; not better.

Our plan is to take our three kids and two cats, escape this neck of the woods and flee back to the city—this time New York City. Yes—we are going the opposite direction of the parental migration and moving back to the city with kids. Three of them. And I’m not scared. After living out here for five years, it’s the suburbs that scare me more.


Michele profileMichele Demont is a mom of three living out in the ‘burbs of Connecticut, but is still a city girl at heart. She writes about her own family’s suburban life and their plans to leave it all behind for the city at Exit Strip Mall Left.


One Response

  1. brunocerous says:
    February 19th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Wonderfully written. Thanks for your perspective!