How Do You Know If You Should Move To The Suburbs?

Burbs or Bust

BY Patrice Poltzer

Well isn’t this just a topic that gets people ALL riled up. The article last week about Jess moving from the city to the suburbs only to return to the city a few years later garnered a ton of responses and a lot of opinions. Here are a few:

In the suburbs you can leave flowers at the front door…and they will still be there. But is that reason to move?!

In the suburbs you can leave flowers at the front door…and they will still be there. But is that reason to move?!

“Omfg. The article about moving back from the burbs. I'm in tears while reading it while half listening on a conference call. These are all of my fears she's talking about!!”

“The thing that resonates most is the wear your money on your sleeve thing. I hate that about the burbs. Don't want my kids surrounded by wealth and aware of it.

“I could’ve written this myself. My husband and I moved to the burbs pre kids to test the waters and lasted for about 10 months. We broke our lease and came back. We now have two toddlers in BK and it’s def the right place for us (at least for now). And we definitely came close to consciously uncoupling from that damn commute!!!”

“Love this! I am constantly trying to talk my husband out of his desire to move to the suburbs. Sending it to him now.🙂”

“Super interesting, and really hits home. I agree with many of your points completely, with differing views on others. Great story, thanks for sharing. Signed, Once-Brooklynite-Now-Suburb-Dweller.”

Joselynn and her family moved from the city to Greenwich, CT and did not move back to the city!

Joselynn and her family moved from the city to Greenwich, CT and did not move back to the city!

What was interesting was many of the responses were people who had decamped to the burbs and could still relate. We wanted to hear from people who moved to the burbs and didn’t move back to the city so we reached out to the founder of basically the Citykin of the burbs….Suburbs 101, which is an online lifestyle guide for the New York Suburbs of Westchester County, Long Island, Fairfield County and Northern New Jersey. The brain child of former Manhattanite Joselynn Chua, she moved to Connecticut after she and her husband outgrew their one bedroom NYC Upper East Side condo.  Like many New York couples, they moved to the suburbs because they were ready to start a family and she is still kicking it in Greenwich, CT with her husband and two kids- ages 7 and 10.

Were you unhappy living in the city?
Quite the opposite! I loved living in the city!  My husband and I are foodies so I miss all the restaurants.  I even miss walking everywhere.  I'd love to one day move back to the city.  Perhaps when my kids are in college, I'll move back to the city! 

Why did you decide to leave the city?
My husband and I both had jobs in the suburbs so we had to do the reverse commute! I worked in NJ and my husband worked in CT.  We lived in Manhattan because that was mid-point for both of us. Eventually, we got tired of the reverse commute so we decided to move to the suburbs.  We looked everywhere but ended up in Edgewater, NJ because it was closer to my work but also did not take us too far from Manhattan (just a 15-minute ferry ride to the city).  However, the NJ to CT commute for my husband was brutal.  I eventually left my job, so we packed up and moved to CT.   

Was there a part of you that was not wanting to leave or were you like get me the hell out of dodge!
We love the city! I think if we both worked in the city we wouldn't have moved out of the city so early.  We would have waited until we had kids before moving out.  

How did you end up choosing your BURB? 
We knew we wanted to live close to my husband's work which was in Stamford, CT at the time.  We looked all over Westchester, Greenwich and Stamford.  We did not know anyone living in the suburbs so there was no one to guide us.  In fact, we found our real estate agent randomly by visiting an open house.  I wished Suburbs 101 existed when we were looking to move!  It was a difficult search because there weren't a lot of resources, it was as if we were going in blind.  We eventually picked Greenwich because we loved the beaches and the town.

Did you settle in right away or was there a mourning period of the city life you left?
I moved to Greenwich when I was pregnant with my first child and did not know anyone and was not working at the time.  Those first few months were a rather lonely time for me.  There weren't a lot of social opportunities for me to meet people.  I did miss living in the city.

What was the biggest shock moving to the burbs?

I think the biggest shock for me is that everything closes really early.  I remember going out with some of my newly met girlfriends and we wanted to get drinks after dinner and it was a struggle trying to find a place that was open late. 

Did you find it easy to find your people? 
When I first moved to Greenwich (pre-kids), I did not make any friends.  Once I had my daughter, it opened up a lot of social opportunities for me.  I joined a new moms group and the Junior League of Greenwich.  I got involved in my children's school.  I met so many wonderful people through my kids.  I felt that most of the moms I met were also looking to make friends because they just moved from the city.

Jess mentions a few things that drove her back to the city such as the commute schlep and that she felt like everything was hyper focused on the kids with no regard to identity of the parent …oh and the fact you had to drive everywhere. Would you say these are typical or atypical suburban experiences?
I can totally relate to the commute and know how difficult it can be.  But I think a lot of people who do the commute into the city are OK with it because I don't hear it as a common complaint.  In fact, I've heard some of my working mom friends (especially the sleep-deprived ones with infants and toddlers) actually look forward to the train ride as a quiet time away from kids and as a time to catch up on their sleep.  With regards to "city self was M-F", that is interesting and I have not heard that as a complaint.  I agree that there is a lot of focus on kids but I think it depends on how you met your friends.  I've found that if I met someone through my children's schools or activities then we do usually talk about our kids.  But if I've met them through volunteering or Suburbs 101 then the conversation is not about our kids.  I've met a lot of very interesting, highly accomplished and entrepreneurial women who are working moms or moms starting their second career.  

Any advice to parents who are exploring moving and not sure it's the right move for them? Is there any sort of checklist you should have to understand if you should be burb bound?!
I think moving out of the city is a personal decision.  It depends on your priorities and how you envision raising your children.  If you envision your children living in the big house and running around your backyard then you should move to the suburbs.  But if you like the idea of walking everywhere, living a few blocks from the Natural History Museum and not having the long commute, then I'd stay put in the city.  I think at the end of the day, it also comes down to your budget and schools.  If you can afford to buy the spacious co-op or condo and have found a school for your kids then I'd stay in the city.  But if you wish you had more space but find that moving to larger co-op or condo pricey then perhaps you should consider moving to the suburbs where you can find good schools and get more bang for your buck.  

GAH, the CT beaches…… Definitely a selling point for the burbs!!

GAH, the CT beaches…… Definitely a selling point for the burbs!!

Why did you start Suburbs 101?
When my sister moved to Westchester I found her asking the same questions I was asking when I moved to the suburbs years ago! Questions about the commute, schools, taxes, country clubs, etc. I thought there must be a resource out there to help people looking to move to the suburbs. Surprisingly, there wasn’t one so I started Suburbs 101.  I wanted it to be an insider’s guide to the suburbs- interviews with locals, recommendations from locals and my contributors are all local suburbanites.  My content has since evolved to include lifestyle content that appeals to not just people looking to move to the suburbs but also people who live in the suburbs.  Such as Seriously, Sam? a monthly column by a local Greenwich mom that takes a lighter look at suburban life- have you read her latest post?  If you haven’t, you should read it! It's Laugh out Loud funny!