I grew up in a local Madison area suburban neighborhood. It had sprawling houses, similar families, organized events, and plenty of neighborhood ordinances to keep it aesthetically pleasing. You recognized whose car was pulling into the neighborhood on the commute home. There was no outside traffic, no real crime, and neighbors saved our favorite candies for us on Halloween. We had neighbors with kids my age, parents that had similar professions to my parents’, and I always knew that we were lucky to have a nicer home.
While we were lucky, I also remember envying my friends with smaller homes. When we had space and separate rooms, the majority of my friends had one living room that forced their families to agree on one channel. They couldn’t avoid conflict with their siblings by retreating to their own space because the entire house belonged to everyone. It’s hard to put into words, but it felt more like home.
I’ll admit that this feeling could boil down to family dynamic. A family in a smaller home can still feel separated, or a family in a larger home can feel close-knit, but as a kid, that’s what I came up with.
Fast forward twenty years, and I can articulate this feeling with a little more logic. It’s been proven that shared living spaces and bedrooms teach children conflict resolution at a young age. But do you know why that is? It’s because they fight. A lot.
So, with my twenty additional years of wisdom, I can’t deny that I get starry eyed at these new Veridian craftsman neighborhoods with the cohesive palette and no dead trees spray painted to look like a Simpsons character. The lure of a neighborhood curfew and watch excites my helicopter mom tendencies. A newly built home with the soft-close everything… I can smell the newness. It sounds almost perfect.
It sounds perfect until my inner 10-year-old tugs at my sleeve.
That naïve someday-mother reminds me that my DREAM was to live in a home where we had no choice but to figure out our problems. My dream is to fill our house with love and coziness and the smell of fresh baked cookies and country air. The joy of watching my husband turn an old house into a beautiful home with his bare hands has made our house even more perfect- custom designed just for us. It’s a place where we have touched and fixed every single nook and cranny. We were married in the backyard. My babies were brought home here. It’s gorgeous, I mean, really. I blog about how beautiful our home is all of the time. It speaks to my soul. It is so much a paramount part of our family that it feels interwoven and inseparable to us as a whole. Best of all, we aren’t a slave to our mortgage—in fact it’s one of our lowest expenses.
So then why do I feel the desire to move to the suburbs?
When I worry about sharing bedrooms and growing boys—I feel like we are running out of room. The suburbs call me on every drive through town. I know that it can be viewed as the “better” option to our friends and families. The suburbs don’t require a preface text before a first playdate explaining that where we live doesn’t have a high crime rate or that yes, you really do have the right road. If I’m being totally honest, my top motivator is the outsider impression and approval. It’s the cool thing to do. My pearl white Toyota Sienna minivan would look great next to a new blue vinyl and stone siding. That’s also probably the worst reason to move—the benefit of others, and not myself or my family.
People naturally assume that the grass is always greener, no matter how green their own grass is.
And while I still feel this tug, I know that I’m not alone. Whether it’s out of financial reach or personal decision, there are plenty of parents outside of these perfectly presentable neighborhoods. Everyone wants to look like they are keeping up with the Joneses. It reminds me of grade school when you want to belong to the inner circle if only you had cooler clothes. That reminder keeps me grounded in my love for our home—because real friends enjoy your company regardless of your location or your clothes. We’re just a little older now.