Nov 17, 2010

From Urban Woman to Suburban Mom: An Uneasy Transition

UrbanSuburban Mom's recent post about the "dating stages" of new friendships reminded me how alone I feel out here.

I was brought up a city girl. I never lived in a suburb or a house for that matter. So when I met DH and we eventually started talking about "the future" I made it very clear that the 'burbs are not my thing. "But what about a yard and having space" DH pleaded. "Sorry, I don't get that life style," I answered.

Cut to us four years later, coming to the end of our lease and starting to look for a place to buy. We had become quite domesticated by that point -- preparing elaborate meals in our closet-sized kitchen, illegally BBQing on our minuscule terrace and hardly ever going out past midnight. So we were looking for a large, more comfortable place, with a nice big kitchen and closets (you know, so that we could finally take our wedding china out of the coat closet).

In the most bizarre turn of events, we found ourselves a long cry away from a loft in Brooklyn (that I wanted) and into a lovely house in Westchester. Yes, to my utter surprise (and that of my friends and family) I actually fell in love with a house, in a charming town in the 'burbs, with great schools and 25 minutes into the heart of the city. I was sold. Spontaneous purchases of big-ticket items is not like me -- I research and agonize over almost all decisions I make. But here, I suddenly pictured us happily living in the 'burbs with a couple of kids and a dog.

After a blissful 6 months, our infertility woes began and the next 3 years were the darkest times of our lives. With each failure and passing time, living childless in a community designed to raise a family, I hated myself for ever getting wrapped up in an imaginary life. This big house, with its four bedrooms and spacious living areas became my prison. I'd never felt this claustrophobic in my life, not even in our little apartment in the city.

Eventually, we became pregnant and the pregnancy resuscitated the dreams I had for us. I loved my house again; decorating the nursery, thinking of our son growing up in this town, and us finally being able to integrate into the community. K was born and after a few months I felt awake enough to begin the socialization process. I joined a few classes and was introduced to a couple of moms. But rather than feeling content in my new role as suburban mommy, my worries slowly started to gnaw at me -- "What if I don't make friends here? What if I start feeling lonely again?"

Meeting new moms is one thing, but connecting with them on a level that goes beyond the "how cute are our babies" conversation is another.

You see, meeting these other moms reminded me of how out of place I have always felt out here. I have been told by an older friend (a lady who's lived here 20 years, who's been a great friend and mommy-matchmaker) that the other moms find me "intimidating." I try to downplay myself and blend in as much as I can. But apparently, my urban streak is just too much a part of who I am to camouflage.

And therein lies the issue perhaps. Why is it that once people move out to the 'burbs, so many of them completely banish their old selves to morph into homely, now-that-I'm-in-the-burbs-I-don't-give-a-shit look? I'm not expecting anyone to wear a Chanel suit all day long, but there must be a happy medium somewhere. Plus I'm not just talking about the self-maintenance part, but also one's ability to have interests outside of kids. I love art, fashion, food, politics, travel. I want to talk to someone about those things too.

Back when we lived in the city, I assumed that a good chunk of city-folk moved out to the 'burbs once they had kids. But looking around me, I don't see any familiar faces (maybe because 99% of our friends are still hanging onto the city-life; raising their two young kids in a two bedroom 900 sqf apartments). Despite my best efforts to socialize, I feel like a stranger in a foreign land; unable to integrate and conform to the local customs. What astonishes me about this deep dissatisfaction is that I grew up moving around every 3-4 years. I pride myself at my abilities to adapt to new place, people and situations. And yet, here, I'm unable to feel whole.

Having a child didn't turn out to be the magic bullet to transform me from urban woman to suburban mom. Although, I still hold out hope... "Maybe next year" has gotten me to the five year mark. So, as I write the check to guarantee a spot for K in pre-school next autumn, I say "maybe next year...."

8 comments:

JJ said...

I loved living in a city environment---I could walk tons of places, had bars on every corner, great places to eat...so it was great as a young single :) Even now, Id love to live there--great sidewalks, parks, safe. I do love my neighborhood, but Ive had a hard time connecting with moms around here.

Nic said...

I keep saying, "when we move to our new house"... I have a very hard time making new friends, but the friends that I do make are friends for life. I'm also feeling in a lonely place right now and hoping that maybe once Ant starts kindergarten next year we'll make some new friends. It is so hard. I think one of the keys (for me anyway) is to throw away the fear - if I/you find someone you think might be interesting as a friend, go ahead and make an overture instead of hanging back and doing nothing. I'm trying very hard to take the 'the worst they can say is no' approach. So far it's turned into a few playdates... hopefully more in the not too distant future. But you're right, it is so hard to move past the kid talk and into other areas. I do wish we lived closer!

Flucky Mom said...

Thanks ladies for the support. Now wouldn't it be nice if we all lived near each other...

Nic, I like your suggestion to "make an overture" if I meet someone who seems interesting. I just have to find that person.

Deborah said...

Here from IComLeaveWe - Is there some happy medium? I am not from New York, but I think there must be some areas that have more of an urban feel but still have yards and more space. But I also hope that maybe you'll find someone else who is going through the same adjustment. Keeping up your interests will probalby help with that.

Ashley said...

I have always lived in the burbs. One thing that is hard for me now is finding mom friends that I really have something in common with. Most of my pre-kid friends that now have kids don't work and we really don't have much in common. As much as I love my kids, I really just can't talk about feedings and diapers and all that all the time. I need other things. I hope you are able to find what you are looking for! **Happy ICLW**

Randi said...

Here from ICLW :) Sorry you're having trouble making mommy friends, or maybe just friends in your area in general. I grew up in the 'burbs, but my family is all from brooklyn and I spent a lot of time in the city growing up. I always prided myself on those things. But now I've been living in the philly burbs for the last 10 years, and to be honest I think I've become a different person. Now when I come home or when I'm in the city I'm so frustrated by people's "cold" attitude. LOL.. I've totally turned pennsyl-tucky-an. sigh.

Hang in there - eventually you'll meet some other women you click with. They've gotta be out there.
Sending you prayers and best wishes for you and your family.

Autism Mom Rising said...

Happy ICWL. I appreciate your dilemma. I've found it is hard to make mommy friends in these times. I thought it would be like it was with my mom in the 70's....all her friends were stay at home moms and seemed to always be spending time together. Now people just don't seem to have the time.

I like how you keep your other interests alive. You are right, it is too easy for people to let those slip and everything to be only about the kids.

I hope you get to feel integrated with the surroundings soon.

MoonNStarMommy said...

I am a firm believer that if it isn't there, you can't force it....like putting a circle in a square hole....but I hope you can work through it....I feel the same way you do with making friends....we just moved half way across the country and I have one friend here now.....sigh...

Happy ICLW and A Blessed Thanksgiving

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