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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« The Verdict | Main | In which I don't bother coming up with a conclusion. »

I leave the tough decisions up to the Internet.

I can’t stop thinking about real estate, Internet. Specifically: should we stay in Brooklyn, or should we beat a shameful retreat to the suburbs? I need you to tell me.

We bought our two-bedroom apartment a few years back for a quarter and some old gum wrappers, and it is now worth billions. While this is lovely, it also means that if we hope to buy a larger space in our neighborhood—well, we can’t; it’s not even worth talking about. Our space is not quite large enough for us, and will definitely Not Work if we have another child (NO I’M NOT PREGNANT). With the crazy inflation of real estate prices in NYC, we will only be able to afford a lean-to on the banks of the Gowanus, and Henry and his imaginary sibling will develop extra limbs from all the fumes coming off of the fetid waters. So that’s probably not the best option.

So it comes down to this: either we stay in our place, which in addition to being on the small side is dark and loud (we’re on the first floor on a main avenue—in the summer people walk up to our window and ask for money. We’re like an ATM! An ATM for crazies!), or we move to an As Yet Unnamed Suburb. We’ve found a couple of areas that seem to suit our needs: we could probably afford a smallish house in one of these towns, which are close to the city and artsy/liberal. However (need I add this?) they’re Not Brooklyn. We would not have the library, the museum, the park, and the Botanic Garden all within a few blocks of our home. We would have to own a car (gasp!). On the other hand, we would have a backyard. And a decent school district. And amenities within walking distance. On the other hand I will be dead inside (probably). My youth gone, I will spend the days watching soaps and drinking Chardonnay; when Husband arrives from the city I will greet him at the door with pies made of Play-Doh and cigarette butts. Isn’t this what you suburban types do? Yes?

In a nutshell, I am driving myself bonkers. One moment I think I can never leave Brooklyn how could I even think such a thing and then in the next moment I’m dreamily picturing mornings with Henry and Scott in a sunny breakfast nook instead of our dank living room/dining room/kitchen that is periodically infested with vermin. I would give up a lot to never have to worry again about stepping on a waterbug on my way to the bathroom. And don’t try to tell me about the cicadas or grasshoppers or whatnot you have in the suburbs--they are not the same thing.

Basically what it comes down to is there are many pros to moving, and one big con: we wouldn’t live here anymore. We feel superior to you non-Brooklyn people. Now you know.

Opinions. Yours. Let me have them.

EDITED TO ADD: Before I get more defensive comments: do I really have to say that I'm being facetious when I say I feel superior? Do I have to say that? I guess I have to say that. Sigh.

Reader Comments (203)


We moved from Los Angeles to Charlotte, NC. Actually from Santa Monica to Plaza Midwood in Charlotte. (I moved from Greenwich Village to Los Angeles, btw)

We sold our 1250 sq foot condo and bought a 1500 sq. foot house with a 1000 sq foot garage-remodeled-into-an-office on .5 acres of land for $200K less than the selling price of the conodo.

Here's where it works: we have a savings acct now. Never knew what one was before this! We moved near the center of the artsy/liberal section of Charlotte and are only 2 miles from its official downtown. We're saving buttloads on mortgage and the quality of life is higher even though we're not in a big city any more.

I once knew a man who was buddhist (sounds like the beginning of a joke!). He had a whole parable that I'm too lazy to type out, but basically, your happiness doesn't change. If you like your place and your surroundings now, you'll like where you move. Happiness is more you dependent than location dependent.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
Alice-Ah, how I feel your pain. We live on the other side of Flatbush from you and have already run out of space and our babe is not yet one year old! Sounds like you bought several years ago and will make a nice profit on a sale. How about a building with rental income on the border of some of the 'nicer' neighborhoods? You'd get space, a yard and offset some of the mortgage with the rentals. A lot of those areas have pretty active community boards working hard to improve the schools. You'd be a pioneer and Henry would have small class sizes.

Good luck!
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJodes
Seems as though you and I are in the same boat. Although since you own and I rent, mine's more of a dinghy.

I've consulted many friends who made the move out of the city, and their testimony has been the same: "We missed our old life for a while, but we grew to love our new one." In fact, a few came back to the city and were freaked out by all the freaks to whom they had grown unaccustomed.

We need to be near a city, but my gut (stop looking at my gut!) thinks we're going to search for a nice community with good schools and bolt.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
A building! Ha ha! On the border! Hooo, that's rich. We can't afford any of those places as they are so expensive that to look upon their prices means certain death.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAlice
Oh no. Don't do it. I'm a city girl and have always been, except right now I'm trapped in suburban hell. We are beating a retreat back to the city in a month or so and I am SO, SO, SO happy. Don't do it. You'll find another way, with or without a second child. DON'T DO IT.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
don't do it! i grew up in a lovely suburb in westchester because my well-intentioned parents wanted me to have a yard and trees and friends to play with in the street, and i had all that, and i hated it and moved to new york city immediately after college. my dad commuted 1.5 hours each way and i never saw him except on weekends. i live in your same neighborhood in brooklyn - trust me, if you dig deep enough and believe in fairies, you will find a larger, less dank, non-infested apartment in brooklyn and will sell your ground floor ATM for the billions you deserve to some poor schmuck escaping from the suburbs of new york.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJackie
i take it you're thinking jersey? i can't comment on jersey since i was born in nyc and grew up in westchester (my parents made the decision to go for the burbs) and so i have that whole predjudiced against jersey thing going on.

but! i think the suburbs suck! they are soul sucking. i'm a careful reader, so i got that commute isn't a thing for you right now- but will it ever be? because we live in beacon right now (and if you're set on suburbs you might want to investigate beacon because every one who moves here is from park slope and it's environs. beacon is hip! it's artsy! it's up and coming! snore.) and the commute quite frankly is hell. we are itching to get outa dodge and rent someplace in brooklyn. and we don't care that it will be pricey (the economist just had an article about renting being better than buying these days anyway).

do you like to drive? because in the suburbs, you will drive a lot. do you like yardwork? and home maintenence?

westchester is snobbish and overpriced and awful in so many different ways. waaay up here in dutchess i may hate it even more, because aside from all the brooklyn expats everyone is a republican.

obviously, as someone who is itching to move where you are at this very moment living, i'm not too objective. nyc is superior.

i vote stay put.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersantosha
I faced the same dilemma as you a year ago. I loved my hip, trendy downtown lifestyle and swore up and down that there was no way in hell I would live in the burbs and own a car. We tried everything short of selling organs to purchase a house in our area but couldn't afford it.

However, in my attempts to hold on to everything and resist change I missed all the beautiful things in our new area. I still miss living downtown but I also love walking in the evenings in the woods, the silence at night, the view of the mountains and the fact that I don't worry about being stabbed or shot when I go out.

Other than my own experience I can't give advice because I know how tough this decision is. And, whatever you decide will be the right decision for you and your family.

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersharbean
I grew up in the city and on Long Island-product of a shared custody divorce arrangement, and though I see you're looking at Jersey, I have to say, DON'T DO IT. Or maybe do it, but it took me a while before I found my group of girls that likes to make fun of the suburban moms and the little girls who wear headbands bigger than their heads, because of that I no longer feel dead inside. The yard, yeah, it's nice, but having to get in the car just because you want some chuckles (the candy, not laughs) at 10pm, that part sucks.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSam
Is there no possibility of you moving to a better (bigger, less dark, non-ground floor) apartment in the building you already live in? That seemed to work for a friend of mine. She didn't want to leave the convenience of the city, either, or have to buy a car. You guys are saving a bundle by not having a car. It'd probably equal what you're paying extra in rent by living in the city.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBren
My husband and I lived in Hoboken for five years, then moved to Summit, New Jersey, and lived there for nearly three years. I highly recommend it, as well as nearby Chatham and Madison (with a kick-ass restaurant/jazz bar called Shanghai Jazz). SUMMIT PROS: you could EASILY find a house close enough to the train that you wouldn't have to own a car; great library in a cute downtown/Main Street setting with its very own cheese shop; lots of little parks; awesome school system; The Mall at Short Hills; an annual Main Street festival and a Santa parade; there is a botanic gardens, but not quite the same scale. CONS: definitely a snob factor, but for you maybe that's a plus. Summit residents definitely feel superior, but in a very welcoming way. [Note: We also lived in Stamford, CT, which I DO NOT recommend. Snobby in a very unwelcoming way.]
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
Just an observation . . . that's what I do. From what I've read, city-folks think we suburbanites are bland at best, soul-less at worst. On the other hand, suburbanites have stated that you MAY be confronted by a "crazy" in the city.

Really? My soul has been sucked? Or did I not grow one in the first place, being suburban born'n'bred?

And, are the city-commenters the "crazies"? Or, are they the victims of drive-by (oops, I mean walk-by) crazying?

Simply observations, people. :-)

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Move to New Jersey! In addition to boasting prestigious alumni ranging from Felix the Cat to Jon Bon Jovi ( it is also home to enough bizarre goings on ( that it should keep you plenty entertained when you are not busy making Playdoh pies. And if you do run across the Jersey Devil (, yes of course you can punch him, though he might flap his wings or shake a hoof at you in response.

Finally, aside from the wonderful education Henry may get in school, he might be able to work on extracurricular projects like finding out to where exactly that darn Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjerseygirl
I, like Wenchie, live in the Chicago area (west, Wenchie). We moved from a really wonderful Chicago neighborhood to suburbs for work reasons, and there are several things I miss that this particular suburb doesn't provide: being able to walk to local merchants, very excellent pubs and music venues--essentially, everywhere without looking like a mutant alien (ours is not a walking community); rapid transit and so only one car; Chicago Public Library and the check-out-able free passes to museums. However, our suburban community has a wonderful park district that offers great programs for kids, which the entire community uses; top notch public schools; an incredible library with great programs for kids. More personally, my neighborhood is a terrific little community--the two warm Friday afternoons we have a year find everyone standing outside, kids playing in the network of backyards while adults have a beer and shoot the shit. My kids are happy: they have good friends and run of the neighborhood. And there is very little that gives me more satisfaction than the kids and dogs running in and out of everyone's houses on those two warm weekends a year. We do get in the city regularly--we have memberships at the museums, we go to kids concerts at Old Town (the official motto of which is, "Where everyone wears natural fibers") and attend city festivals. As soon as the last one is safely tucked away in college, we're headed back to the city, but it is possible to have a fulfilling life in the suburbs. Good luck.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSuzyn
I thought Pretty Rambo was feeling mighty exuberant today.

And alice chardonnay/bloody mary/beer sipping is just so much fun when you do it with other mothers, there's the joy of suburban-ish living!

I'd be hard pressed to leave my urban-ish suburban existancen and contribute to the urban sprawl eating up this area so I can feel your pain. I love walking to do all the things we like. But then a more close knit 'hood with families and other children would be nice so I don't know. Look I just wrote a bunch of words but then I didn't really say anything!

Give me another glass of wine.

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMelissaS
Congrats on the pregnancy!
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDave
We moved from San Francisco to LA about 5 years ago. This is the same thing as moving from a city to a suburb since LA is just the largest existing suburb in the country. And if your random suburb is soul-less, than just imagine how far you have to dig to find one here. Also, a bonus: while you don't have to pay 2 million dollars for a 1100 sq. foot apartment, you do have to pay 1 million dollars for a 1200 sq. foot house. What a deal!I was soo sad to leave the city and everything it offered. We'd have to buy TWO cars! We couldn't walk to the corner store! There wouldn't BE a corner store! If we went out drinking, we couldn't take a cab home! All the restaurants would be shit!But we were thinking about getting pregnant, we wanted to buy a house, and we were cold. So we moved, and now we own 2 cars. We own a small house, with a small yard, in an old neighborhood, that is FULL of kids under 5. We drive to the grocery store. We are no longer cold. It's actually really nice.I DO miss the city, long for it, really. But its more a nostalgia for my old way of life. I absolutely don't wish I lived in the city with my two kids. Kids make the logistics of living in the city difficult--and living with kids is hard enough, why not make your life a little easier and buy a place with parking, and a yard, and a park down the street.If you can find a place that has a lot of young couples with small children, that's even better.Okay I am losing focus, must go now.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
We're lowly renters here in Brooklyn (you know what my job is, I believe . . . not so high paying), but we've tried living elsewhere and found ourselves back here again. There are lots and lots of disadvantages to living in Brooklyn, but we missed it terribly when we were away. Not the water bugs, though. There's no missing those fuckers.

However, a back yard is an awfully nice thing to have. I still pine for more nature and a backyard . . . and the thought of navigating through the public school system makes me want to drink heavily. Kensington is a great area though, and if/when we can buy a house here, we will. Because our daughter is adopted transracially, the diversity of Brooklyn is the biggest reason for us to stay.

Sigh. Good luck with your decision.

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBrooklyn Mama
I live in in a Midwestern suburb, but so close to the highway that I can reach downtown in about 10 minutes. I love the downtown art scene, restaurants and other fun stuff, but I'm already so close by that the only thing I'm missing out on is the opportunity to have my car stolen regularly. Yes, I keep eyeing the ever-growing condo selection in the city, but I think I have the best of both worlds already. After all, I barely know any of my neighbors despite 10 years in this neighborhood and occasionally a crazy person knocks on the's the city experience with a lawn and a back deck!
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJane
What are "boonies"?
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKaterina
I am with "E" way up there... since I moved out of the city and into the 'burbs, I have not had a single regret. I shop easier (and in BULK -- they actually let you bring the cart out to your CAR!), I jog easier, and I love the nice big place we were able to afford. The benefits are still there, they are just different is all. I mean, we have a fireplace now, for crying out loud!

I still get to the city when I want to. But most of the burbs now have great restaurants, libraries, all that stuff with less of the, you know, robbery and peeing in the street and stuff. Not that I've stopped peeing in the street entirely, of course.

Anyway, I've always been a little more country and a little less rock-and-roll... but that's my opinion!
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterGina
Screw the burbs. Move to Philly. It's got all those things you love and it's affordable to live in.

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCecily
It hurts to say this, being a new and extremely happy Manhattan-dweller, but I think you should do the move. We (hubby and I) lived in San Francisco for five years before this and I adored the vibe and energy of the city: the restaurants, the museums, the parks. My husband grew up there and I'll admit, I had a little envy hearing his colorful tales of kiddyhood spent boating on the bay, weaving through Chinatown etc. compared to my comparatively uncool childhood of kick-the-can and greenbean casserole. But I also heard about some of the realities of growing up where there isn't a lot time for innocence. We started talking about it again this past weekend wandering around West Village -- a gaggle of preteen girls walked by, all on cell phones, all dooded up, and already perfecting the bored, hard banter. Yipes.

But here's the thing -- you'll find a great community anywhere you go (believe me, I survived Dallas for a year and surprised myself with the seriously weepy blues when we packed up our home to come to NYC) and having the space and great schools and a little breathing room can be great. There is not the constant buzz living in the suburbs, but home is where your community is -- and that's friends and your family. Plus, you're not considering a move to North Dakota or anything; the city is still right there to be enjoyed and for Henry (and YOU) to explore and relish.

The bad news about this post: we always figured we could mosey to affordable ol' Brooklyn when we decided to have kids. GREAT.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNancy
Yikes, 73 comments, I've read none of them so forgive me if I'm repeating.

Give up your bohemian idea of a cool lifestyle. Seriously. It's VERY hard to do but you will realize that you can live anywhere, that there are wonderful people anywhere, that the suburbs are not inherently soulless. The car thing is the only real issue, a necessary evil. If you will be close to NYC, consider yourself lucky.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersac
Alice, I feel your pain, as a Manhattanite who also lived in Park Slope as an adult (President St/PPW and then 12 btwn 7/8) We moved out to the burbs 7 1/2 years ago when our second child was born. We no longer fit into our 850 sq ft apt, and the owner we were renting from wanted to sell. We ended up in Chatham NJ (folks here think Summit is snobbier, Hi Laurie!), and I will tell you that it was not an easy adjustment. When we first arrived on Aug. 1st, I immediatley joined the town pool and tried as hard as I could to make some friends. What I heard from people over and over again was "I hated Chatham the first year, now I love it." So, I decided not to judge for the first year, and wait it out. The transition is tough, the burbs are not better or worse, they are just different. Every neighborhood has it's own personality and that matters. Slopers tend to go to Maplewood or Montclair, if you are thinking about Jersey. They to be more integrated, creative type neighborhoods. My 12th St next door neighbor, also a native NYer, moved to Maplewood, and never looked back.

Also, look carefully at what realtors mean when they say a town has a good school district, in Chatham we have a "great" reputation, but that means that the kids read, regurgitate, and repeat until they have it all memorized, and do well on standardized tests, not that they love learning, or are encouraged to explore and question the way the world works. At first I couldn't imagine meeting like minded women to bond with out here, but slowly and surely I have amassed a collection of remarkable women, who inspire me.

Being only 20 miles from the Holland Tunnel, makes the city very accessible. I often go into the city, and spend the day with family, shop, visiting museums, etc...

Remember, just because you live out here, you can still dress all in black.
March 22, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteramy

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