Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keep Manhattan, Just Give me That Countryside…At least For Now

When we moved to our country house in Greenwood Lake, NY, we did it to save money. We had been coming up here every weekend for over a year and we loved it. We had a wonderful but expensive full time nanny in the city and between the house and the apartment; we were starting to feel the pinch. On top of that rumblings about preschool were already going full force and I just couldn’t see competing for, let alone paying for the choices we had available to us on the Upper East Side.

Realize this was not your typical move to the suburbs. Greenwood Lake is not the suburbs. It is a good 50 miles away from New York City, on the west side of the Hudson and when you are here you feel like you’re in the country, because your are. It is in Orange County, NY known for good apple picking, West Point, Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets and that is about it. There is however a commuter bus that picks up at the bottom of our hill and a metro north train that picks up just over the mountain in Tuxedo. The one-way commute is on average 75 minutes although my husband has had a few days that he was commuting for longer than he was in the office.

So how did we end up here? One night two summers ago, when GWL was in full bloom, my husband and I sat on the deck and compared our expenses living in Manhattan to what our expenses would be if moved and it was clear that we could save almost half of what we were spending if we left the city. This was before my quest for sustainability began but looking back it was definitely the first step. We weighed the pros and cons and questioned the decision many times, but we knew then that it was a temporary move to test the waters and see if we could survive life outside of the city. Two months later we were packed, I passed my driver's test and The Freen was enrolled in daycare in New Jersey of all places.

Now it is almost two years later and we are faced with the decision of whether to stay in the country, move to the burbs or back to the city. Everyday since our move, I have had an internal and external debate about whether or not I want to raise my child outside of the city. Over the past two years we’ve looked at houses in Montclair, Glenwood, Ridgewood and Ringwood, NJ, New Rochelle, Pelham, Riverdale, White Plains, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg, Eastchester, Scarsdale, Cold Spring, Tarrytown, Nyack, Nanuet, Spring Valley, Sloatsburg, Tuxedo, Monroe and Warwick, NY. To say that we’ve grown tired of the search for the best place to live would be an understatement.

Having grown up in Manhattan, I struggle with feelings of guilt that I will be depriving my son of the benefits of city living only to indulge my own selfish desire for a real home with more bedrooms than the number of people that live in it. (I know... how totally unsustainable.) I worry that the country will be too mundane, too boring, too sheltered or more importantly that he will become a teenager with rat tails and tats begging me for a dirt bike. Despite my fears, this past weekend we went looking at houses in Warwick, NY for the fifth time this summer and found two houses that we love and we finally decided we would make an offer. So to just test my convictions….

On Monday – I picked up the Freen at school and had to walk quietly past a very large black bear that was pulling its dinner from the school’s dumpster

On Tuesday – The smell in the Freen’s room took a turn for the worse and we confirmed that there is indeed a rotting mouse in his wall. (Perfect timing since we have a potential buyer coming to see the house.)

On Wednesday – The smell was still there despite our best efforts to search and destroy. It doesn’t really matter because the people scheduled to see our house canceled anyway. Then we heard from the pre-school in Brooklyn that we applied to in March back when we thought we were moving to Brooklyn that The Freen was accepted for the September 2008 school year.

So now it’s Thursday and how do I feel? Do I still want to remain out here in the boonies? Yes. In the end, I love the city and I think raising your children in the city is one of the best things you can do for them. The pros outweigh the cons in just about every area except for two… money and time. In the city everything is so expensive that you have to work so hard just to get by that you don’t have time to just live. That said, as much as I love playing in the yard, going to the farm and hanging by the lake if money were no object, where would I live?…The city hands down…New York is where I'd rather stay.

For my own personal use I’ve compiled a pros and cons list about living in the country but I want to share it and invite you all to convince me that I have hay between my ears.

Pros to Living in the Country

Fresh air
More affordable (leads to a whole host of pros like you can travel more overseas, work less, spend more time with the freens)
Very easy to eat locally and support local farming
Good affordable child care and public schools
More space and own yard
You know your neighbors (could be a con for some)

Cons to Living in the Country

No Times Square (could be a pro for some)
The Commute
Lack of cultural diversity
Fewer good restaurants
Lack of privacy and anonymity
Have to drive everywhere (becomes particularly problematic in teenage years)


Sustainable Mom said...

Country Mom 1
Country Mouse 0

Search and Destroy Mission Number II was a success. Fortunately the mouse was not in the wall or under the house just well hidden by jealous cat.

Moma said...

Well our city cat killed a mouse this week too. I can't believe the preschool thing is in play again. I think the bear should be on the pro side. We lived in Maine for almost three years and we never saw a damn moose.

Anonymous said...

So which did you decide? City or country? We can't decide, so have stayed in our (little) condo in the city and bought a (little) house in the country - DC area. Works now for 3, but any more kids and we're toast!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the country and I've got visions of my son turning into a street thug if we choose to raise him in a city. Do I want him to think cars being broken into is no big deal? That trash littering the street is just how things are? Having the curtains and blinds closed all the time for privacy is the norm? We;re in the city now and everyday I'm closer the decision ultimately settle somewhere in between boonies and the thick of it. Commuter trains and walkable towns are, for us, the perfect way to compromise.
I wish you luck

Sustainable Mom said...

So we've made an offer on a house in Warwick and we had the inspection yesterday. So commuter trains and walkable towns it is. As much as I love the city I just can't envision ever finding the space we would need in a neighborhood we would actually want to live in especially if we were to ever have another freen. :)