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September 20, 2011

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Someone Else’s Dream (warning–long)

I feel like I spent the first 1/2 of this summer deep in pro/con land. Should we move? Should we stay? I’m not a person who makes decisions quickly. This has served me well in life. But more than that, it’s simply my nature. I research, I ponder, I examine the line-by-line financial picture, I make pro/con lists and then I think some more.

We had a running joke for most of May. At the end of the day we would say, “Was it a Florida day or a New York day?” It went back and forth for both of us–sometimes multiple times a day.
The trip we planned to take–meet with the realtors, house hunting–kept getting pushed back and back.

And then….there were more and more New York City days. Now, of course summer had something to do with it. The weather was (mostly) gorgeous and there are tons of things to do each and everyday. But more than that, things just became…easier.
I realized that big decisions should never be made while developmental milestones (learning to walk) are taking place! The ‘should we move to Florida’ came directly upon ‘twins are now walking and life is crazy!’
Now, they are practically running, but life is not as crazy. The novelty of walking wore off. They stopped throwing their shoes at the door at 8am every morning. They became better listeners and learned to hold mommy’s hand outside. They know that if mommy says she is going to count to 3, mommy means business and I rarely get beyond counting to 2.

So yeah, things changed.

But what hit me in mid-July….was that I was trying to live someone else’s dream. This big house in Florida was never my dream. I’m a ‘downsize’ kind of girl, not a ‘3,000 square foot house’ lady. I’m a ‘less is more’, not ‘buy into the American dream that bigger is better’. We both were seduced by the idea that we could afford a house like that. A house we could never buy here. A house with a pool and a yard and a playroom.
But a pool and a yard and a playroom doesn’t solve problems. Living close to the ocean or having a swimming pool if you can’t take two toddlers there by yourself doesn’t solve problems. Living half the year with oppressive heat is almost as bad as living here with the crappy, freezing winters.

I don’t want to be tied down to a house. The housing market in Florida is complete shit. If we bought something there we had better be ready to stay there for 10-15 years. I’ve never stayed in any one place that long in my entire life. We want to travel, maybe move abroad or do a sabbatical. We need the freedom to do that. And I’m not saying it can’t be done if you own a home, but it’s sure a lot easier to change things and take off when you live in a small apartment. Not to mention the direct flights NY offers to oh, just about anywhere.

We don’t know jack shit about working on a house or fixing anything more than a burnt out lightbulb. I am not fond of painting or spackling or mowing lawns or sanding or cleaning pools (or huge houses). I am not very good at those things (and Chicken only used a hammer for the first time last year), so together we’d be spending a chunk of change to pay someone else to do all of these things. That doesn’t make financial sense and it certainly doesn’t sound fun.

And speaking of finances–after calculating the moving costs, the new furniture, etc (um, we don’t have enough stuff to fill a house!), the car/s, the myriad of insurance policies, the yearly flights to visit both sets of parents, the cost of private school (because the public schools are crap)….well. Well. We certainly wouldn’t save any money and in fact, we’d be spending more. Potentially putting ourselves in debt. We worked hard and saved for too many years in order to achieve zero debt. I really have no interest in going back to a shaky finance lifestyle. The paycheck to paycheck existence and constantly checking balances was a life lived with great stress and not one I care to re-visit.

Yes, Chicken has a great internal work-from-home job. For now. Will she always want to do this? What are the options for her in Florida? Not many. And what about me? I’m not always going to be a SAHM. And I don’t have a clue what I’m going to ‘be’ next. I’ve always been good at reinvention but NYC has definitely made that an easy option. I have no true career. I need a place with many choices.

After walking around day after day trying to imagine what my life would be like that day in Florida, I realized that I really, really like my life here.
Sure, the winter sucks. I don’t like it. Walking around in the freezing wind and rain with your stroller wrapped in plastic sucks. But I love the summer and fall and spring isn’t bad. Yes, winter with infant twins was rough. But this winter will be different because they are walking and running and capable of so much more. Every winter and every year will be different whereas my life before children was pretty much the same season after season. That is exciting and that sounds fun.

Life in NYC with twins can be hard. You have to walk pretty much everywhere (at least I do) and getting off this island can be time consuming and expensive. But I’d much rather pop the kids in the stroller and go across the street for milk everyday (in the heat or cold or rain) than deal with getting them in and out of a car and then into a shopping cart and back into the car and meltdowns while you drive and you can’t do anything about it….
I’ll take walking and stroller pushing thank you very much. It keeps me fit, it’s interesting for the kids (they are excellent in the stroller), I can do all of my errands with them and I can be right there for them and pull over any time (although I’ve never had to–unlike the car!).

NYC gets me outside multiple times a day whether I like it or not. I don’t have the option of staying inside all day long. For someone who is prone to depression and can easily stay inside for days at a time (pre-kids), this is an excellent set up. If I had a big house and yard and pool, well…..I can see myself sending Chicken for milk and not leaving because ‘it’s too hot and it’s too much hassle’. I can see it and it would not be good for me at all.

This past Spring/Summer we’ve established a wonderful community of moms in our neighborhood. We have a FB group and we get together weekly if not on a daily basis. We share ideas and strategies. We make play dates for certain playgrounds/sprinklers. We meet up at the indoor kids space when it’s too hot or rainy. We have 4th of July picnics and pizza parties on the lawn. We bring toys outside and pool them so that all the kids have a toy buffet. We share our snacks (OK, I don’t like that part so much…), loan books and give away too-small shoes. Sometimes we even get a babysitter and have a girl’s night out just to talk about the kids while drinking beer:). I even started a babysitting co-op so that we swap out free babysitting insuring we all get a date night–which all parents need.

Some of these new friends have really surprised me. I didn’t really expect 90% (or more) of my mom friends to be 100% straight. And a fair number are church/mosque/temple going religious types. But you know what, they have accepted Chicken and I and our family without hesitation and I have found myself questioning how I feel about religious people much as some of them have probably found themselves thinking a bit harder about gay/lesbian families.
I do wish we had a few more lesbian mom friends we hung out with regularly. But none of them live close to us and getting together and connecting with children in tow has proven to be extremely sporadic. We mainly stay in our neighborhood and have a new set of friends I never expected but in fact, had always hoped for.

When we were thinking of moving out of NYC, we said the only thing that might make us stay is if we found an affordable 2 bedroom with some outdoor space. Guess what? Our name came up on a brand new building housing lottery–a 2 bedroom, rent-stabilized apartment on a high floor (25th floor) with a terrace and a view and a rooftop outdoor space. Just what we thought would make us happy.
But the rent is over a thousand dollars more and the building is next door to the projects and we can’t even use the area parks because they are so filthy and crappy. The neighborhood is great if you are young and single or childless, but after walking about a few times, we realized that while we’d be adding square footage ‘space’ to our lives–we wouldn’t be improving the quality of our lives in this neighborhood.

So we are staying. We like it right here. In our cozy (rent-stabilized) one bedroom with our bed in the corner of the living room. It’s nice. It’s really, really nice. Maybe we’ll put up a wall eventually and have a real bedroom. Maybe we’ll move into a true 2 bedroom. Maybe we’ll end up in Brooklyn with tons of other lesbians.

But for now, there’s no moving anywhere in our future. We don’t obsessively talk and ponder it anymore and my GOD that is nice. Things are damn good and I feel more hopeful about raising kids in this city than I ever have before. We have made friends and have the sense of community that I was so longing for. I think my Vitamin Z also helped me come out of my funk and depression and negative state so that people wanted to be friends with me. I’m pretty sure I’m a nicer person now.