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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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Let's Panic

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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. → 

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Questions, questions.

How can you tell if a place just isn’t right for you?

When do you decide you’ve had enough?

At what point do you tell yourself, I’ve given this a fair shake, and I don’t like it, and at least now I know?

We don’t like it here. We just don’t. It’s not the house. We love the house. It’s everything else.

We’re terrible homeowners. The constant deterioration of one’s home and the resulting need for regular maintenance fills us with panic. We resent the weekends being used up by trips to Home Depot or the nursery.

We’re farther from both our families. Our days of getting free babysitting from the grandparents are over. Henry misses them.

I never realized how much I would hate not being able to walk to something.

There’s so much else. But in the end what it comes down to is: it’s not Brooklyn. Which I knew, moving in! Didn’t I know that? Why am I so surprised? I suppose because I lived in the suburbs growing up, and thought I knew what I was getting myself into.

We’re thinking of returning to Brooklyn and renting. Finding a place we can afford in a good school district may actually be impossible for us, but we’re looking into it.

I feel like a failure. We will undoubtedly take a loss on this place. All I can think is, why did we move? Why did we listen to everyone else telling us we had to leave the city, and not to ourselves?

Or are we being premature? Should we tough it out? When do you really know something isn’t right?

Reader Comments (160)

I have read your posts about moving from Brooklyn to the 'burbs with empathy. I moved from Oregon to Germany eleven months ago, with stars in my eyes, thinking I would learn a new language and travel and of course it would be the right thing to do. A year later, I am miserable and feeling like a failure for doing what sounded like the right thing and the cool and adventuresome thing but which just made me feel sad and alone. I had lived overseas before and thought I knew what I was getting myself into. So, know that you are not alone in your homesickness for your old home, and (this is what I keep telling myself) that making a leap is important, even if you end up having to leap back.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBlythe
I hated it here in NJ when I first moved here 3 years ago. I still hate the driving everywhere. I miss Manhattan. I can still feel it like a phantom limb. I will always love NYC. It's in my bloodstream, it's my essence.

But I know that I could never live there again (partly because my husband is not a city person). I've made my peace with NJ. Just in time to realize we can't afford to buy a house here. So I'll be blogging from PA next year. I think I'll cut and paste your post and change "Brooklyn" to "Middlesex County" and "NJ" to "PA"

Hey, I'll buy your house....what are you asking?
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterType (little) a
Hmmm. So if you ask the internet a question about what to do with your life and then sit back and read the comments, how do you decide who is right? The range of responses is fascinating to me. And, of course, I agree with almost all of them! Give yourself a year. No, life is too short. Go with your gut. It reminds me of when I was dating my husband and we spent all of our time discussing big issues that would basically determine whether or not we could make it as a couple, and we almost never laughed or had any fun. Finally, he said, "Can we just agree NOT to break up for one month and enjoy each other and then pick up the discussion at that point." It was a huge relief. To decide not to decide but to give ourselves a deadline. And, of course, you are parents so you will face those questions of "How long do we want Henry to stick with baseball/gymnastics/kindergarten that he claims to hate until he can see if there is a learning curve, an adjustment period?" And you probably want to set an example for him about how some things seem hard at first but you can end up loving them. UGH. But really, what I wanted to say was take a day to read Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist who does research on happiness. It's not about city or suburbs but about how human beings make decisions and how remarkably bad we are at predicting our outcomes and why. It's fascinating and funny and a great read. It just might help you in your discussions with friends and family who know you well, to figure out just what the critical issues are for you. That way you may have a clue whether you need to undo a bad decision or stick with it and make it a good decision. I certainly want you to be happy. Happy and free to blog more. Good luck.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPam
If you have the finances to move back, then do it. If you can't move back, then stay. Most people live in the suburbs and they aren't heros or brave, so I'm not going to say that you're a hero or brave: living in the suburbs is no hardship. If you wanted better schools, private school is a good investment.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterB
We moved to Maryland, in large part to be closer to my family. We actually lived with my dad and had IN-HOME babysitting. I can't tell you how much I miss that.

But it was cold. And his place was in the dead center of 100 acres surrounded by people in the middle of 100 more acres. Lonely. Did I mention the cold?

We promised ourselves a year before we would make a decision, and we actually waited that long to make it official, although I think we knew sooner. (The year we were there was colored by a tiring pregnancy and then a barfy baby in a tiny house with too many people. I'm still not sure the next year wouldn't have been better, but I'm pretty sure it still wouldn't have made it right.)

Personally, I would give it more time. But in the end, you have to do what's right for you and your family. Sometimes that means you have to suck it up and admit that you were wrong.

Keep in mind that great schools in the suburbs can't make up for parents who fundamentally unhappy.

Heh. That's pretty personal advice from someone you've never heard of :)
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
I'm sorry to hear you're feeling so rotten about this. I can empathize, I really can. Some days the transition from exciting Central European capital to sleepy semi-rural Montana is almost unbearable for me, even with the nice house.

Some others have mentioned it, but I've always believed in giving anything a year. It may sound like an eternity, but I don't think you can really get to know anything about a place without being there for a full year. Brooklyn will always be there. Your friends and family aren't going anywhere. If I were in your shoes, I would try to stick out the year and see how you feel at the end.

Good luck. Keep us posted.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
A year, feh. I spent four years being miserable and finally moved. That place and my heart just did not go together. I went back to my hometown (where I hadn't lived for 25 years). Never been happier.

Good luck, no matter what happens.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob
Be gentle with yourself. That is all. :^)
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranne
first off: stop and breathe! next i highly recommend the power of the list. so make a list of all the reasons you decided to move to the 'burbs and a list of all the things you liked about the house that it made you purchase it. then make a list of anything you see as a plus in your new neighbourhood. then lastly make a list of what makes you want to move back to brooklyn. then put the lists aside after reading them over, take a quiet walk and listen to your heart. then you'll know!
Having moved 9 times in 11 years during one segment of my adulthood, I know full well how chaotic a move can make your life. It has alway taken me 6 - 12 months to start feeling at home in a new place. A few times, I knew it sucked right away and was happy to leave when it was time.

However, 3 months is probably jumping the gun in terms of doing something about how you are feeling. You may be dead on about it not working for you, but I'd hold on for a while before dumping the suburbs for good. Things are going to change a LOT for your family once Henry gets to be school age, and I'd recommend positioning yourselves for where you want to be in 2-3 years. Once school begins, it becomes such a large part of your lives, and that isn't something I gave a lot of thought to before my daughter started kindergarden.

For all the advice and opinions out there, it really comes down to the three of you. You guys will figure it out.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVelma
Oh dear. I was so excited to see that you had a new post up. And then I was sad to see that you are sad. And I don't even know you! Ah, the wonder of the internets. Anywho. My knee-jerk was "wait until Henry starts school and see if you can see yourself as part of the community of parents at his preschool - if not, then go and don't look back." I think I am sticking with that. But regardless, go easy on yourself!
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Wow, I have to admit that I was delighted -- not that you're unhappy, of course -- but that you're thinking of going back. It's not like I know you at all, really, but based on my own feelings about cities and suburbs and all, it just seemed like an oh so bad, even if for all the right reasons move.

I agree with the lots of posters who say it hasn't been long enough, yet I lived in Ann Arbor for three years and hated it. I'd always thought I was someone who could live anywhere, but that place was NOT it. Pittsburgh on the other hand, I'd live here forever.

Maybe you can use weekends to look for someplace to move, thus achieving both the seeing more of friends and family, getting free babysitting and missing out on Home Depot all at the same time. Take your time and that gives you more time to be where you are, giving it a little longer.

Could you rent out your house? I'd suggest a mgmt company, since your desires to maintain a home seem similar to mine and dh's, so the thought of having to maintain it for someone else is really horrifying. But if you could swing that, it would again give you a little more breathing room for either waiting and getting a better price or giving yourself time to make sure about the move back.

But, me? I'm excited for you to be back in the big dirty bustling city!
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Gosh Alice. I don't envy you this.Sometimes I feel better when I think of what I DON'T miss in Brooklyn, like mice and small, damp apartments and the waterbugs...

It's really obvious, even from a standpoint this far removed, that you're unhappy. Whatever decision you make, I hope you figure out not only what's best for your family, but what makes you happy. IMO, that's really all that matters.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKim

My girlfriends and I have a rule of 6 months for any situation that we plan out and make a goal to do. I think your situation fits into our citerea; mostly we have applied it to career related things.

I'm not sure if relocating/buying a house requires a longer trial period, but I still recommend six months - has it already been six months? If so, time flies for a finslippy reader and must have been excruciatingly slow for you.

On the other hand, I admire you for facing what may have been a mistake so quickly instead of looking the other way for 5 years (um, something I did).

Jenn Bo
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJenn Bo
I am going to be totally presumptious, and say I know how you feel Alice. I am trying to sort out my jumbled up emotions about New Jersey, moving far far away from my family and being in the land of grocery stores that close at 6 pm on Sunday, and don't sell liquor.

I don't presume to tell you however, what is right for you three. I have moved A LOT in my life- and it always takes me close to a year to feel like I actually belong. This may or may not be the case for you guys.

I can speak to the market right now, as I am in the thick of it at the moment. It's slow the prices are dropping slightly, there is more inventory and things are staying on the market a bit longer in this area. You might want to consider waiting a bit (maybe until spring when perhaps it wil pick back up again?) so you don't take quite the financial bath you'd take right now.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJ
Good luck. I'll be thinking good thoughts for you as you try and figure this out.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLizRM
It really can take a couple of years.

And if you truly hate where you are, then sticking it out is unnecessary torture.

Could some of your current discomfort stem from other issues, though? Like the new job? Or figuring out your meds? Is it the chicken or the egg?

Homeownership is just another set of skills, like learning to write in a different voice or take care of a baby. Once you figure it out it's not such a big deal. But it takes time, and with a house time is measured in seasons.

I moved to MI under duress. I did NOT want to come here, but my husband did, so I agreed to try it. It will never be "home." But I have learned to be patient and flexible, and to have faith in my own abilities. And that we're a good team. And that I really can leave everything I know behind and start over where I don't know a soul and thrive.

I have also learned I can give ultimatums, and mine is that we'll be moving again in 3-5 years, closer to family and the part of the country I love.

Because a house is one thing. Home is another.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterH
You are, of course, the only one who can decide but you knew that when you posted. I think all the points of view are exactly what you were looking for with your questions. So, here is mine.

It sounds like all of you are feeling like you belong in Brooklyn. If that is true than you need to start looking. Odds are, you will not be able to run up to Brooklyn this weekend and find the perfect place at the right price. Just starting the search will tell you a lot and help a lot though.

If you find a place that is exactly what you want then your questions will be answered. If it takes you a bit, you will still feel better knowing that you will be going back. As long as you make sure that you don't settle for something that you don't really like or that will eat you alive just because 'At least we will be back in Brooklyn'.

As to the failure part -- what would you say to Mir about getting so sick she couldn't do her walk? You make the best choices you can, you take a few steps and then you choose again. One of the best things you get for your nickle in this country is the right to change your mind.

If, while you are looking for just the right place, you find that you have fallen in love with where you are, there is that changing your mind thing again. Oh, and the reason why you decided to make the move is 'Because.' Glad I could help there.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGillian
3 months is not long enoughfor some people3 years is not long enoughfor other peopleif you and hubby agree, then do what you want!damn the interwebs and all of us beautiful, intelligent people giving advice to a strangerfollow your bliss
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlyce
My parents relocated our whole family from NY to the deep south 34 years ago. I was 17 and hated it so much I refused to switch my watch over to Central Time for a whole year. It was my own little personal protest. I went to college in the midwest for a year, and whenever someone asked me where I lived I was so conflicted. I still "felt" like I was a NY girl. But I was physically living in some godforsaken hillbilly city. My reply to, "Where are you from?" would take FOREVER. "Well, you see, I grew up in NYC, but we moved, blahbitty, blah, blah..." Guys would just look at me like, "Christ. Sorry I asked!"

But you know what? I transferred colleges to said hillbilly city the next year, made friends, and began to feel more at ease with my geographical location.

Now it's all these years later and I can't imagine living anywhere else. This is my home, my husband's home, and my children's home. I still adore, and will alwyas adore NYC, but whenever I visit I am always glad to get back here.

So to sum up, it took me a full year to realize that my life was not over and maybe this new place had some redeeming qualities. Therefore, I'll have to side with the "give it some more time" contingency.

(She said, as the lilting sounds of "The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow" are heard wafting in the background...)
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGina
Just give yourself permission to be totally 100% unhappy with it and be confident in that - it'll save years of vacilliation. You hate it (I hate it too). Go back to Brooklyn NOW.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I think you should wait a little longer than three months.

Twelve weeks.

If I were you, before you sell the house, I would definitely rent it out, and rent yourselves back into Brooklyn. Maybe it'll come back to you, why you wanted to move away. Maybe not. Maybe you'll sigh a deep sigh of relief and think, Ah, I'm home now.

But I wouldn't sell just yet.

I agree, taking care of a house is a hassle. And next time I buy, we'll definitely get a smaller lot.

Also, why did you move? Did you have a vision of a certain kind of life? Was there a reason you thought you had to move to attain it? Are you sure you can't have it in NJ? Are you sure you can have it in Brooklyn?

I'm going through the same worries: we're on the brink of a move, and now I'm wondering, why did I want to do this, again? But I think it's worth a little change, if only for a year or two.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjulia
I know just how you feel. I am in the same boat. We lived in the most wonderful town and I wanted to trade it in for the big city. My husband was not in favor, but of course supported me and off we went to city life. Or so I thought. All we could afford was living in a suburb. I cant begin to tell you how much I hate it. There is no culture here. Our subdivision is safe, but has the same house over and over again, (but of course painted different colors cause maybe no one will notice they are the same house if they are different colors, Right?)

Going on 4 years that I have been in hell. I knew within the first month that I hated it. First impressions are lasting...

Take the financial hit. "Two tears in a bucket, fuck it." I say it's a small price to pay for happiness.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbellabugs_mom
If you don't mind 2 cents from a lurker.

I have lived in Los Angeles since 1987. And when people ask me where I'm from, what pops out is "The Bay Area".

When you live someplace you don't fit in, you do less. Not just because there's less to do, but because there are fewer things that call to you. That feed you. That give you energy rather than draining it.

I do less in LA, not because there is less to do by any means, but because I don't fit in. Noone makes me feel uncomfortable. I doubt they even know I'm there, most of the time. But noone gets me, either.

Don't spend decades someplace you don't feel like you get to be you. A lifetime can feel so short, will fly by so quickly.

On the other hand, Brooklyn will be there next month and next year. If you can get yourself back "home" without shooting yourself in the financial foot, maybe you can take a deep breath and take your time.

When you know you're not stuck, you can get through "just for right now" a lot more easily.

As my friend used to say, "There are ways, and then there are ways."

Which sounded a lot better when she said it, come to think of it.
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPandaWriter
My mom always tells me that making a money mistake is one of the cheapest mistakes one can make. Take from that what you feel works for you.

I'm sorry you're having a rough time of it. :(
August 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

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