decisions, decisions, ramble ramble ramble

When Stuart and I first moved to Wisconsin nearly 10 years ago (!!) we had no idea we were going to stay this long. We knew people who had lived in Madison and raved about it, but both of us at the time were freshly out of college, ready to start graduate school, and bound - we thought - for careers in academia. We'd live here for five years, we thought, and then find jobs and professors elsewhere. As often happens, our path diverged from those original plans. After finishing my first masters degree, I decided to change direction somewhat and studied a different area of music, then continued for my doctorate. Then I had babies and became a housewife. Stuart, on the other hand, got four years into a science degree before deciding that brain research was just not his thing, and pursued a career in IT instead. He's doing pretty well with that.

So we stuck around. We even bought a house. That was a little over five years ago, and at the time, it was perfect for us. Our house is small, about 900 sq feet, though it has 3 bedrooms and an unfinished basement. For a young, childless couple used to apartment living on a grad school budget, the house felt spacious, even a little luxurious. But less than a year after we moved in, I discovered I was pregnant with Daniel, and suddenly we had a whole nuther person to think about. A baby doesn't take up much room by himself, but the crib and the diaper pail and the clothes sure do. Not to mention all the out-of-town visitors (namely grandparents) who are suddenly more willing to come and stay with you every few months, even for holidays. With one kid, though, the small house with guests was manageable enough. But then of course we had Anya, so in the last four years or so, the size of our family has doubled, while the size of our house has stayed the same. There are times it feels downright cramped.

There are many things I love about this little house. It's very well-built, we like the neighborhood, there's a large backyard (even if it's too shaded to have a good garden space), the kitchen is retro in a good way (metal cabinets painted white with metal details), there are hardwood floors, and there's a nice big deck in the back. But many things about this house also make it less than ideal for us right now. There is no dining room, so we cram in the kitchen for every meal. We have no garage; in fact, we share the driveway with the next door neighbor. There is only one bathroom. I could go on, but you get the idea. We're growing out of it. And yes, every time I bemoan these things out loud or privately, I do remind myself that we're lucky to have it, lucky to have a warm house in good condition, lucky we can afford it, and plenty of people around the world live with much, much less than we have. (Like New York. How can people with kids stand those tiny apartments?)

Even so, we're getting a little ancy for change. Daniel just turned four, so in a little over a year he'll start kindergarten. He and Anya share a room, which is working well for right now, but in a couple or few years they'll need their own rooms for space and privacy. It would be nice to have a second bathroom (or at least a half bath), and things like a dishwasher and a garage. It may be wishful thinking, but the other day, on a whim, we started looking at real estate listings online never know...maybe we could afford a bigger house, if we could sell this one without losing money, if we could find one for not too much more than this one cost, if if if.

All that, of course, is contingent on our long-term plans. And just like five years ago when we bought this house, our long-term plans are up in the air. We could stay right where we are and do what we're doing. We could try and find jobs elsewhere and move closer to family. Because sometimes it is really, really hard to live so far from everyone we grew up with (and sometimes it's okay.) There are definite pros and cons for every possibility, but there is no certain answer, no clear direction to take. It's the slow shock of adulthood to me, this realization that no one will answer for us what we should do or where we should go, if anywhere. It is highly unlikely that a bolt of lightning will strike with sudden clarity and make it obvious what we should do.

I know this is kind of rambly and boring, but all this has been on my mind a lot the last week or so. Thanks for reading.


Oh, I know the feeling! The lease on my house is up about the same time Jamie's braces will come off. At that point do I look for jobs in a location closer to friends and family? Do we stay here so Jamie can stay in his awesome magnet program? Do I go ahead and go to grad school down here or do I wait until we get settled somewhere else and start there? Sometimes, being an adult downright STINKS. So, this was a rambly comment, but I just wanted to drop a little note letting you know I know where you're coming from!
Pam said…
"It's the slow shock of adulthood to me, this realization that no one will answer for us what we should do or where we should go, if anywhere. It is highly unlikely that a bolt of lightning will strike with sudden clarity and make it obvious what we should do."

Wow, Suze. That is so true.
Rosemary said…
Good luck finding clarity. D and I have been in much the same place a few times during the past 10 years or so. Sometimes the right thing to do is make the small change and other times you need to close your eyes and make the big jump.

Every now and then you get the lightening bolt of clarity, but even that can open more doors or create more options than you expected. And it usually strikes when you least expect it.

We are wrestling with some of the same questions right now. David is at a point where he needs to decide to push for partnership at his current firm or jump to somewhere else. If he jumps, should we stay where we are (lots of jobs) or move to be closer to friends or family? Or go someplace else entirely.
Jessi said…
I honestly don't see how anyone manages to raise children without grandparents nearby. But, that's just me. I often think about how much I would like to live somewhere else (like Canada) but I just can't imagine leaving all this family behind.

All this is to say that I'm sure that you all will make the right decision for you. Not because you're a genius (although, obviously, you are) but because whatever choice you make will end up working out for your family. It's a difficult set of choices, but don't worry about them too much.Things will turn out.
Animal said…
Tess and I just moved into a new place, for many of the same reasons you list. Although, at 1500sf, our old house wasn't so much "too small" as "not organized properly." On top of only 1 bathroom and no garage, we also had a leaky Michigan basement that was good only for storage, zero closets, and the background stress of living in a 110-year old house. Our new place is tres faboo, but we agonized over the exact same details you did: can we afford it? Are we being greedy? …And the like.

The upshot for us was the tax credit and depressed housing prices. We didn't "force" someone out of a home through foreclosure, but we did end up doubling our living space, spending as much on the house as was paid for it 12 years ago. (!!) The debate over "Will we stay?" was solved easily enough: we made the decision to upgrade houses, so now we're staying. One decision removes the debate over another, I guess.

Good luck!

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