Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Midwestern Dreams

So as we prepare to have a baby in what is arguably (depending on the magazine) the most expensive city in the country, our thoughts have turned to daycare--and to what I will do regarding work after the baby comes. For now, I am planning a 15 week maternity leave.
My plans workwise for after the baby comes (at least in the temporary future) are still debatable. My guess is that it will shape into some combination of in office time, working from home and part-time, which is wonderful because the idea of paying $2,000 a month for someone else to watch my child even while I am breastfeeding is pretty sickening. Even part time, daycare is $1,500 a month. Who can afford this?
I am left with so many questions. How does working from home even work? Do mothers get good work done or do they hire mother's helpers? Do I have to pay this mother's helper? Okay, so I am kidding on this last question, but in all seriousness, how does all of this work?
We have one car, which is all we have needed until now since we live in the city and I take the subway where I need to go. Will I be able to take the baby to daycare using public transportation? I realize it may seem premature to stress about all of these issues. People keep assuring me "it will all work out." And I am sure it will. I think. Okay, fine. I admit it. I am an anxiety junkie. Where would I be with nothing to stress over? I am sure the Pollyannas are right: it WILL work out because is HAS to. One way or another.
Still, as midwestern transplants (I moved here in high school, R did just after undergrad), R and I often think about the way his OH friends still live: in huge houses that cost a fraction of our 1,000 square foot condo with yards and pools and enough cars to go around. Now that OH has actually redeemed itself from its shudder-inducing role in electing Bush to serve his second term, it might even be liveable. That is to say nothing of what a quality daycare in OH costs (maybe a fourth of Beantown's prices). When I think about what we could give our child just by movng to OH, I am driven to Cleveland's real estate listings. Believe me, it is frightening. Funny, the land of our childhood (that we could not wait to leave) has become the promised land--if only we would actually make the move.
Ay there's the rub: The sky is the limit as to where we might move when R finishes his dissertation. And when he asks? My answers are the same: stay here, LA, New York or San Francisco--hardly bastions of economical living. Sigh. We are doomed to life in expensive cities. Why do we do it? What makes it worth it? I love the access to culture here, the competition, the educational opportunites, the people, the public transportation. I like living so close to my family. I am a city girl. The idea of moving--even to the burbs of Boston--makes me break into hives.
When we met with our financial planner the other day, she talked a bit about what it means to move from the midwest to the east coast and the way the expectations change. It was an incredibly apt assessment. Growing up, I did not even know what there was what to want in this world and I came from a relatively ambitious family. There is the obvious: the Bugaboo stroller, Stokke cribs and Bonpoint baby clothes. But that is just the material. There are also more subtle differences, differences in the way people think, differences in the way they approach life. Yes, the (north) east coast is far FAR more in tune with the way I think politically, but the people here are also much more familiar. They wait longer to have children, they have more education, they have travelled more. Obviously this is not true of everyone. There are plenty of ambitious people in OH who have money and education and I am sure they have Bugaboo strollers there as well. But here, there is an expectation of a certain standard of living. It is an interesting dynamic because it pushes us, makes us not settle for medicority, makes us want more. But it also can be crushing and stressful when you feel behind or like you can't quite live up to what other people have. I know the material stuff is insane. Who cares whether my baby wears True Religion jeans? In some ways I like that I thought the Gap was Haute Couture until I moved to the East Coast. That makes the midwest endearing and more human.
On the other hand, the competition we encounter here is what keeps both of us alive. I am happy I do not feel like we have arrived at a destination and that we still have so much to accomplish and to learn. Being so close to so many people with so much education who are so well travelled makes all of that seem possible. Yes, it makes us want more. But it also makes us strive more. I want that for my child (minus the eating disorder/perfection striving/ivy league grubbing crap).
So, I hate that we live in a shoebox with 5,000 people on top of us. I hate that our neighborhood is filled with people whose idea of "taking out the trash" is throwing scraps to the wind and hoping some land in the truck eventually.
But I love that those same people speak 50 different languages and that our daughter will spend her early years on a multilingual playground, meeting people who are different than us. I love that she will have access to the best museums and schools in the country. I know why people pay what we pay to live here. But the coming months will be a challenge.


Mackenzie said...

if you ever buy Samara True Religion jeans, I will beat you up :)

Kristi said...

You will figure out the working from home thing, and I'll figure it out with you. :) I'm going to be working from home FT while caring for Ella beginning next week. I've been doing PT work for about a month now. And while it's challenging, if you capitalize on naptime, you can get some work done.

PS: I envy you. I'd love to be living in the city, but my husband won't go for it.