And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here? Letting the days go by…
Every time I hear this Talking Heads song I find myself silently responding….I’m not really sure.
I’m a “stay-at-home-mom” to four kids, living in the suburbs of Chicago, but deep down there is still a very real, and very much alive, part of me that wants more.
And I find myself wondering; how did I get here, and where am I going?
JonPaul and I are getting close to finalizing some plans on a home here in Wilmette. Like really close. And it’s stirring up a lot of emotions for me that maybe I’ve pushed aside for too long.
It has nothing to do with the house. The house is “the one”. I’m crazy about our house. It’s more than that. It’s the idea of settling down again. Committing. And even more, the final decision to create a life for us and our kids in the suburbs.
Choosing to raise our kids in the suburbs wasn’t something JonPaul and I ever really “decided”. It was more something that just happened.
We moved to the suburbs of Chicago (Wilmette) after our second child, Lillian, was born. It made sense. It was the logical next step. But as I reflect back, I’m not sure I was quite ready for suburban living at the time.
A few years later we moved to the east coast, and my love for the “city” was reawakened. Living so close to Manhattan, JP and I spent a lot of time together in New York. I would always comment to him that I felt “at home” in NYC. I felt myself there. Not as a mom, or as a wife, but just as me, individually. There is something about the energy, the people, the vibrancy. It comforts me. I’m a girl who loves to explore, to see and do. And New York (and Chicago) make me feel both alive and at home.
So as I find myself sitting here today, back “home” in the Midwest, about to settle our family down once again, I’m replaying a lot of the choices that have led up to today.
The last time we were in New York we had dinner with friends who are raising four kids in Tribeca. I’m so in awe of their story, and so inspired by the choices they’ve made. The commitment to make it work. It was an option I had never even considered. And it got me thinking about my own choices.
Each small choice I’ve made, one after another, that at the time seemed logical, or made sense on paper, but as I look back now may have led me down a path that wasn’t as true to my heart as it could have been.
I think at some point in our life we go so far down one path, whether that’s with a career, and loved one, a friendship, that it seems almost impossible to change the trajectory. The snowball effect of changing the course seems too all-encompassing.
So we keep going through the motions, moving forward, each small step, at times forgetting to ask ourselves if this is what we really want. As if our only option is to stay the course. Forgetting that we always have a choice. We can change course at any time.
When I was 16 I signed on to a modeling agency in New York (think less cover of Vogue, and more cover of JoAnne Fabrics ;). A 6-foot-tall knock-kneed girl from Ohio who had no business being in New York. I can remember the summer before my senior year of high school traveling back and forth to NYC with my mom as I went on my first “calls”. When the idea of me moving into the “models apartment” was brought up, my mom, of course, had no interest (rightfully so). That was not going to happen. I had school and a family back in Ohio.
We chose the practical route. The safe route. The one that made sense. I had a trajectory to follow. School, get married, have babies, live in the Midwest. That was the plan.
Today, over 20 years later, that memory feels just as vivid because in many ways I still feel like that 16-year-old girl. Still making the practical, logical choices. Still playing it safe.
I wonder sometimes what it would be like to have my kids take the subway or bus to school, instead of riding in the heated seats of our suburban. What it would be like for them to be in a classroom filled with diversity (ethnic, social and financial diversity), instead of one that can often feel one note. What it would be like to live in a community where I felt creatively inspired to push my own personal boundaries, instead of second guessing myself because I don’t think I quite fit the mold.
And then I think of all that I would be giving up.
My friends, who would do anything for me and are my tribe. My children’s freedom to ride their bikes at will looking for a “friend” to come out and play. The ability to run the streets, our yard, and the gorgeous beaches with ease and safety. And the community that has been like family to us since my early days as a mother.
All of that goes away if I change course now.
In many ways, “staying the course” has brought me the best things in my life; my husband, my children, my family, and friends.
But I still find myself wondering, how do I reconcile these two different worlds? These two different sets of desires between my family’s and my own, and two very real parts of who I am.
I share this with you now not because I’m looking for advice on where to raise our kids, or where to “settle down”. I have a feeling deep down I already know how that story will go.
But rather because I think we all feel this way at some point in our lives.
We all have internal voices and desires, that at times feel in conflict with one another. For me, it’s my desire to always feel creatively inspired and driven, while at the same time being a mother to four little ones who I want to protect, keep sheltered, and provide a storybook childhood for.
And while I don’t necessarily think it matters which desire you prioritize over the other, I think the importance is in recognizing both voices are there, and both matter.
I think it’s ok to be a “stay-at-home-mom”, but still wish you had a career. I think it’s ok to choose to raise your kids in the suburbs but still long for “city life”. I think it’s ok to question the choices you’ve made, but still love the life you’ve created.
For me, as we’re finalizing this next step for our family, I’m working on giving myself a little grace as I allow ALL of these voices and desires to resurface. Recognizing that they are all there for a reason. Maybe my time to live in the city isn’t today, and maybe my time to pursue a career or my passions isn’t today, but their time will come. So for today, I have patience, faith and grace, keeping both voices inside me very much alive knowing that one day they will each have their time.
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Thank you so much for sharing you story! I’m a new yorker now living in Chicago for almost 5 years and I’m expecting my first child in a few weeks! I absolutely love Chicago but I often long for that NY life that I once had! As I grew up I seeked friendships with NY City kids because I found them to have more culture. But I also learned that they hardly had childhoods and many of them were a classic case of ‘only child’. The next step in my Midwest life would be to move to the Chicago suburbs. It sounds absolutely nice because I too grew up in the suburbs ( but in NY) and am so thankful for that experience and access to parks and nature. But do you find that there is any culture? It sounds like a great home base if you had the option to travel a lot and give your children other experiences. I guess my point is I wish Illinois was more diverse? How do you cope? Again, thank you so much for sharing this. It’s nice knowing Im not alone with this feeling
First off, congratulations on your upcoming arrival. What a blessing. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts for a smooth and healthy delivery.
I’m so glad you could relate to my story. I’m sure the change from coming from NY to Chicago is a lot. It was a lot for us as well, with both transitions (there and back). The good news is, you have experiences to compare. I think the problem is when we get too comfortable in our “own world” that we forget there are other ways to live/raise kids. It sounds like you’re already so aware of what you want, see the differences both lifestyles have, and will find your balance.
As far as diversity goes in Chicago suburbs, I totally hear you and get it. When we were living in Westchester County (in Mamaroneck) my son was the only Caucasian child in his class. Total opposite of how it is for him now. I don’t think either is necessarily “better” for him, but rather the importance is that we’re aware of it. We make an effort to travel with our kids as much as possible. We take them into the city (both NY and Chicago) for different events/musicals/art exhibits/etc. You CAN have a wonderful life in the Chicago suburbs AND understand diversity and experience culture – you just have to work at it.
I have a feeling you are going to do great wherever you raise your little one – and you will find what works for your family. It just takes time. But it’s amazing it’s even on your radar. I love that and give you a lot of credit. Keep it up. Your little one is lucky to have you 😉