Dianna Sawyer shares the thinking behind her family’s decision to relocate to the suburbs—and why she doesn’t regret leaving the city behind.
When we talk about becoming Grownups—taking back the word “Grownup” itself—we talk about how financial planning can help us live life on our own terms. We talk openly about how Grownups shouldn’t have to subscribe to traditional timelines, prescriptive plans, or boring budgets. (We prefer “exciting spending plans” instead.)
One of the most traditional, prescriptive, possibly boring moves out there? Buying a house in the suburbs when you have a baby.
Which is exactly what I recently did.
With some trepidation, mind you. What does this mean? Am I becoming boring? Have I given up adventure? Has the exciting city girl I’ve always fancied myself died inside?
But rather than let those thoughts take control of my Grownup decision—a decision that only affects my husband, daughter, and myself—I decided to not just own a house, but own the experience of making a major life change on our terms, a change that ultimately was the best decision for us.
We wanted to feel a part of the community where we lived, instead of just another renter on our block. We wanted to put down some roots, instead of always keeping our moving boxes, perfectly intact and labeled, ready for another move at a moment’s notice. We wanted to stop questioning where we’d live next, and just commit.
We also knew we wanted space—not living space, but breathing space. We wanted trees and air and quiet.
So we packed up our things, traded our lease for a mortgage application, and moved an hour outside the city.
Our street is quiet. Our neighbors are friendly. Our mortgage is less than our rent used to be. We have logical storage space for our belongings, and our dog gets to explore new smells without being jerked away from yet another take-out box or ripped-open garbage bag. While our daughter is napping, her room is quiet, suddenly free from the sounds of sirens, buses, and the downstairs neighbor building a table in the basement.
We also have new adventure: a hiking trail and conservation land near our house to discover. New people interested in getting to know us—from original homeowners who have been here more than 60 years to new families like us. We’re now much closer to another major (but smaller) city further south, which we’re eager to explore. I’ve always imagined cities like a rock thrown in a pond, with concentric rings of different towns surrounding them. We’re getting to know a whole new ring, a new landscape, a new community.
This is not to say that the suburbs are better than the city, or that we’ll never become frustrated in our new town, or that this is the best plan for all young families. No. We still love the city. And prior to having a baby, we likely wouldn’t have considered leaving. And even after having a baby, we could have stayed, like so many families do, and made it work.
We just didn’t want to.
We determined that for us, having a baby made our lives complicated, stressful, and unpredictable enough (all in the best ways of course, I assure you, as I hear my daughter crying in the background while I write this post). We wanted to minimize any ancillary stress, frustration, and uncertainty we could. For us, this meant choosing a place to live that calmed us, that winds down at night instead of ramping up, that makes it easier to shuttle our daughter in and out of the car without carrying her down three flights of stairs and outside in the cold to a car parked on the street.
It also meant choosing a neighborhood, in the truest sense of the word. In our last home, our neighbors passed by without a glance. Smiles and conversations were rare. At our new place, we’ve already exchanged baked goods and phone numbers with half the block. This new location provides a community—something I hadn’t realized I had missed.
So when we made the decision to move, I stopped caring about the raised eyebrows, wrinkled noses, and flat smiles I imagined I’d receive when I told people we were ‘burb-bound. I focused instead on our family. On what made the most sense for us. On what we could reasonably afford. On how we wanted to spend our mental energy. And that, as it turns out, is part of living life on your own terms—not just being able to choose the most exciting, most unexpected, most glamorous option. Sometimes, being a Grownup means making a decision that might seem a little cliche. A little tried and true. A little boring.
But if that decision makes you happy, who cares?
You’re the only Grownup living your life. Whatever it looks like, own it. And enjoy.
While working on the curriculum for Society of Grownups, Dianna can usually be found listening to Motown and taking up all the white board space.
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