What is that on the baby?

Some of you have asked what was all over the baby -- finger paint. Yes, finger paint.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Should I stay or should I go?

I moved away from the city of my birth when I was 16 years old, and other than the odd holiday or family gathering I didn't go back -- that is until I bought a house there. When my daughter was about 8 months old, my husband and I suddenly and unexpectedly found ourselves looking for a new place to live (long story). We had already made the commitment to being a one income family, so we had to find something that we could afford on my salary alone. And, despite what the republican demagogues would have you believe, school teachers aren't in it for the money.

We decided that we didn't really want to rent for several reasons: 1. our huge moron of a dog, 2. the frustration of spending without equity, 3. rent is as expensive in our area as most mortgages, 4. the American dream of a little house with a yard, 5. wanting to provide roots for our kids, and finally 6. fear of being displaced again with at least one baby (we ended up pregnant again 3 months later).

After an exhaustive search for an affordable neighborhood with decent schools and a reasonable commute for me, we settled on my home town. It was a mistake. The schools are fine but the town itself is in a massive depression and has serious self-image problems. The parks suck, the politics are kind of shady,  the people are xenophobic and many are racist, and the renter to owner ratio is way out of whack.

At the same time, the commute is as good as I can afford, the schools still have strong art and music programs and free preschool for all. The shop owners are friendly and warm -- they stop to smile at my kids and give them treats. It is a 15 minute drive to the ocean, nicer parks, the woods, swimming ponds, and the city. People stop on the street to talk to you, the library is welcoming and family friendly, and the food is great and affordable.

The town tries to make itself something better, but almost everything they do makes no sense. Do we stay and try to make this a better place? Do we go and find something closer to what we want? I feel like a quitter if I cut and run, but at the same time I have no idea what one person can do to change a whole town. Any ideas? What would you do? Seriously, I'm at a loss, and I want your opinions.


  1. This sounds exactly like the town we live in. It's my husband's home town and it's growing too fast to keep up with itself. Things are a mess and priorities are not where they should be. There's even a guy that stands on the corner with his anti-mayor protest sign. I don't know how you go about changing a whole town...right now, I've decided just to go with it. As long as my kids are doing well and I'm happy with the school, I'm not going to worry excessively about anything else. Or try not too anyway! :)

  2. Just depends on what you can tolerate. You are a school teacher and you do make a difference....probably on of the biggest differences in the town. Sure it wont be seen for years to come (since its on kids) but stil.....

    Some people can tolerate small town mentality and be the liberal and inspiring one and some people need more. If you need more, get out!! Dont wait for things to change just go and take the leap and you will find youself feeling at home, financially stable, again....someplace else.

    Do you have family there that are a part of your everyday lives?

  3. The problem with this post is that it states our problem succinctly interestingly, and accurately. What I am supposed to do with that?

  4. I've tried to comment twice now, and now I know why I keep losing them...I forget to wait for the word verification. Duh!

    I have never lived in a small town. Growing up, we lived in a middle, middle class neighborhood. It was diverse. When we moved, it was to an upper middle class neighborhood in an even bigger city. That neighborhood was not diverse, but, my school was.

    I place a lot of emphasis on the best school environment for my children, and as a result, have sacrificed quite a bit to keep my children in an advanced school district (like my husband for example) because I feel like they deserve the best education...that we can't afford to give them otherwise. For us, the answer was to, 'go with the schools.' What we could have afforded where my husband lives, would have resulted in 'C' and 'D' schools for the children. Not to mention neighborhoods that I would never have felt comfortable letting them play outside in. The home we live in now is crap, but, the location is right.

    All I can suggest is to weigh your options fully. (Duh! You knew that.) Would you be willing to teach at another school if you decide to move, to alleviate the problems with a long commute? What kind of time can you invest in community meetings and the like if you decide to stay?

    I don't envy you guys, that is one of the toughest decisions we've ever had to make, to try to do the right thing by our children.

  5. You know what my advice is =) Then again, it sucks everywhere. We can't even find a person to move our deer.. Good Grief.

  6. I think you should move to Madison, WI. Small city that's pretty liberal. ;)

    Seriously though, I grew up in small towns -- like generally 400 people or less, usually unincorporated. Honestly what I remember most about it is hanging out with my brothers, roaming around freely, exploring and having a grand old time by ourselves. When I became a teenager somewhere around 13 or 14, it began to suck and seriously was a lot of sucking by the time I was 16 at which point my mother moved us to a bigger city a population of 15,581 and had a small University -- then it wasn't sucky. I went from a graduation class of 47 to over 200.

    What am I saying... I am saying that if it doesn't suck that much -- stay there for a couple more years. The kids will benefit from the freedom and nicities that small towns offer and then when they are older -- just as they are starting Junior high -- then move. Or move when the oldest is in 6th grade...so that they have a chance to make some friends before entering Junior High.

  7. First of all, thanks for your comments. And please feel free to keep 'em coming, as this particular topic keeps me awake at night. Well, this topic and my kids' SEALS training (see HM's post).

    Secondly, I guess my post was sort of misleading because I've left you all with the flavor of a small town. But it isn't really a small town.

    It's a dirty, noisy urban suburb of the capital city (where we use to live until we bought the house). There are about 40,000 people here and we border an industrial section of the capital.

    The population is mostly blue collar Irish, Italian, Black and Brazilian. There is a lot of industry (Teddy peanut butter, Monsanto chemicals, and GE for example), but there is little of it is white collar.

    Honestly, I wish it was a small town.

  8. I'm beginning to wonder if you are living where my husband grew up!


Subscribe to updates