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...."