Ask the grumpies: Spouses with different wanderlust

scantee asks:

My husband and I are in our mid-30’s and live in a mid-sized Midwestern city. We’ve been together nine years, married for six of those, and have two children, ages three and five. We are done having children. My family is spread out over the country and the world so while we’re emotionally close I don’t get to see them frequently. Husband grew up in a small town about 1.5 hours south of here and most of his family still lives there. While they are close enough that it is an easy car ride to see them they are not close enough that they provide us (or us them) any day-to-day support; seeing them is still always a planned event.

I have been working as an education researcher for a non-profit organization for a little over a year now. Prior to my job switch, I did similar work for a Large Flagship State University (LFSU). I was never really happy or had many career plans when I was at LFSU but that has changed quite a bit with my current job which is both challenging and enjoyable and holds a lot of career promise for me.  Husband has worked in IT management for LFSU for almost ten years. He used to love his job but in the past year has grown more dissatisfied with it and with the work environment.

There was a lot of change in the early years of our relationship: we met and moved in together rather quickly, bought a house, got accidentally pregnant and had a child three years in, and had another child two years later. When my youngest child was around two, I started to really think about what our lives would be like during the up-coming life stage of being middle-aged and having two school-aged children. Most of our big milestones as a couple were behind us and I wanted to focus on making the most of the next decade and a half for us as a family.

It was around this time that I really started to think about moving away from our current city. It’s a nice city and I’m not unhappy here but I don’t want inertia and habit to be the main things keeping us here if there is a better place for us to be. When I thought of places where we might move that would be good for us individually and for our family unit, the Bay Area was the obvious choice (Portland and Seattle were the other two contenders). We’ve both spent considerable time there and really like the area. It is close to all sort of fun and interesting opportunities that we don’t have here. It’s not freezing cold seven months out of the year.

I had been processing our options for a few months when I was included on a work call where it was announced that they planned to open an office in the Bay Area. They encouraged anyone who wanted to move there prior to the opening of the office to do so and to work from home. I had already casually raised the idea of moving to my husband but this was the event that pushed me to have a more serious conversation with him about the idea. We talked about it and it was a big surprise to me that he was not into the idea at all.

I guess I had always pegged him as a go with the flow kind of guy, not necessarily pushing for change but not resisting it either. In the many conversations we’ve had since then (that initial conversation was not quite a year ago) it has become clear that he really feels fine living in the same city, in the same house, and keeping his current job indefinitely. Moving seems like a hassle to him and everything and everyone he knows is here, so, why change? I am pretty much the opposite; I love to try new things and if the opportunity presents itself, why not?

So it seems we are at a bit of a crossroads. My husband is still open to idea of moving (or says he is at least) but it seems all we do it talk about it and nothing ever happens. For this move to be possible he will need to do a serious job search which he has not done yet. My first question is: outside the specifics of our situation, would a move to the Bay Area be a smart move? The reaction I get from 99% of Midwesterners is “it’s soooooooo expensive!” but I just assume they’re being old fuddy-duddies. We are debt free, have substantial savings, and live frugally so financially I think we’ll be fine. It will be more expensive of course but we will still be able to live comfortably there.

My second question is: if we don’t move how do I stay happy/sane here? I love to travel and husband is supportive of me doing it alone but I fear that it is just not enough for me. I want to live somewhere else AND travel. Other than travel, what options are out there to scratch my wanderlust itch?

Well, the Bay area *is* more expensive.  Your taxes alone will be going up substantially.  But it’s not prohibitively expensive so long as you’re open to the idea of renting instead of buying for a while or even longer.  For that reason we encourage you to check out the salary differential they offer between the old and the new office.  You should get a hefty cost of living raise or it isn’t worth it monetarily.  Check out prices of housing and so on and compare them to what you’re paying now and get an estimate of how much more you’d have to make to live the lifestyle you want or at least are used to (or would be willing to drop to).  There are cost of living calculators all over the internet, but you know more about your lifestyle than they do.

Your DH should also check out what his options are– check out Glassdoor for published salary information and Craigslist and the uni webpages to see if places are hiring.  This, with info about your salary and estimates of your costs, should give you an idea about the monetary feasibility of the move.

The 30s are a good time to move– employers like hiring people in their late-20s to late 30s.  (They’re not supposed to care about age, but they do.)

As for the emotional questions:  that’s something you’ll have to work out with your spouse.  We’re totally sympathetic with wanting to live in the SF Bay area, and we’re also totally sympathetic with being homebodies and not wanting the hassle of moving.  (#1 loves sabbaticals because she loves going someplace new and living there for a year, and then returning to home base.)

re:  how to get excitement in your life:  Can you get travel in for your work?  Can you force the family to do a 2 week vacation every year?  What is it you like about travel?  Could you focus on that aspect in your area (for example, cooking if you like trying new foods)?

#2 chimes in:  There is nothing at all wrong with your current situation and if hubby doesn’t want to move, that’s hell on wheels.  Subscribe to the Travel Channel, go on Smithsonian tours of the world, etc.  Travel all you want…. moving just because you feel like it might have negative consequences.  I don’t see a reason to move in your letter other than “Bay area is Soooooo cool”, which, I admit, IT IS!, but that’s not a good reason to uproot your family, take your kids away from friends, etc.    Moving is expensive, time-consuming, and stress-producing.  Even the happiest of couples will argue during it.

If you stay where you are now, you’ll have much more money saved up to travel the world, with or without hubs & kids.  If you move to SF you won’t have as much travel budget [unless you get commensurate raises and don't buy a house, notes #1], and you’ll have to plan family cross-country flights to see the grandparents.  Both of us grew up in the Midwest and I guarantee you don’t have 7 months of winter per year [not even in Minnesota?].  Also, did you know it’s freezing cold in San Francisco in the SUMMER [#1 notes:  sweater weather is not the same as freezing, also if you go inland it's warmer]?

#1 has never argued with her partner during moving, and the kids thing argues for moving now before they have close friends.  (Daycare, though, is also more expensive in SF– we’re talking well over 1K/month for full-time care.)  The cross-country flight thing is also pretty expensive and a hassle, but when you live in an awesome place, often the parents will visit you rather than the other way around (I haven’t been in my hometown for at least 10 years, though my partner has a need to see his entire family, not just the parents, so we visit his hometown at least once a year).  But yes, additional hassle.

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59 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Spouses with different wanderlust”

  1. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I live in a boring Midwestern town, and yes, I feel like moving sometimes too. I can relate!

    I personally wouldn’t want to move to the Bay Area, though. Way too many people. I like to have room to spread out.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      They do spread out in the SF Bay area, just not indoors. #1 loves it. (#2 is allergic to the sun.) It’s a different lifestyle– you don’t have much stuff and you spend a lot of time outside. The national parks are just amazing.

  2. GMP Says:

    I have a situation somewhat similar to scantee’s. I would really like to move to a different city and university just because. I also want to move houses all the time because ours is boring (it really isn’t).
    There is definitely an itch. I totally get the feeling of living somewhere and trying hard to find ways to convince yourself that this place is cool and livable, but not being able to shake the feeling that you are just fooling yourself and that not being where it’s all happening (i.e a big city) does in fact mean you are missing out. I don’t feel particularly tied to the midsize city we are in (been here 9 years), I have moved a few times before settling here so don’t feel this to be home (don’t have particularly close friends that I would miss), but it is the home to the kids, this is indeed their city. I would love to just get up and move away, and I have offers, but I am well liked and respected and professionally supported at my job, hub loves his job, we have a big house that is affordable, it’s safe, public schools are really good… This is one of America’s most livable cities, even if I generally find it boring. I do hate the long winters (there is snow Nov through April, so maybe not 7 months, but 5-6 for sure) and the general absence of things to do unless you are very outdoorsy.

    When I get all anxious to move, my husband says to chill, we are not going anywhere, and reminds me of all the great things we have. But he promised me on more than a few occasions that, when the kids are in college, we can go wherever I like. That won’t be for another 16 years though.

    I realize that just because I am bored or have a wanderlust itch, that’s not a good enough reason to move. We have a really good situation here by all objective measures. Sure, there may be better or more fun places, but there may be a majority of situations that are worse in many ways, so I recognize that this is where being satisfied with what we have is perfectly fine. I am an academic so I get to travel A LOT, more than I enjoy really, and that does help rejuvenate me. I have also been happier since losing some weight, rejoining my kickboxing program, and working through a midcareer slump.

    To scantee, I would just say take all the time you need (months, years?) to work on you and tuning into what makes you happy in the life you have now, with slight modifications. Would you like to get together with friends more? Have more time for hobbies or try different hobbies? (E.g. where I live there are beautiful lakes, I really think one day I may want to own a boat, which I never thought I would.) Plan two really fun-filled adventurous weekends a month?

    Good luck!

  3. plantingourpennies Says:

    We have differing levels of wanderlust in our relationship and it took some time to figure out why. In general, the mr thinks that no matter how much travel he does, he’ll be able to pick up right where he left off career wise. On the other hand, I don’t want travel to impede on my level of security. So we talked about financial milestones that we need to reach and what level of savings, etc would be needed for me to feel comfortable taking a leap or traveling for a year. It took time to get to that point, but was worth it to try and figure out what emotions were going into our differing priorities.

  4. scantee Says:

    Thanks for your responses so far. Another important thing about me: my family lives all over the country and the world. My father is in South America, my sister is in Europe, my brother is on the east coast, and my mother is getting ready to move to the south. To see my family will involve air travel no matter what. My sister and her partner also used to live in the Bay Area so they travel there quite frequently and we would probably see more of them if we lived there.

    I feel like my desire to move is more than just boredom although that might be what first sparked the idea for me. There’s also the overall lifestyle which I would prefer greatly as a person that is very active and loves to be outdoors. There’s also my career and that I would have many more opportunities there than I would here.

    As far as my kids, they are adventurous and resilient and I think they would do well almost anywhere. They are at an age where I feel like we could do something like this but that window of opportunity will be fairly short. Once they are both in school i know we will be here until they’ve both graduated high school.

    In moments of honesty, my spouse has admitted that he would enjoy living there but that he also finds the idea scary because he’s never lived anywhere but here. I don’t know if that is something he can get over.

    If we do stay here, I feel like I’ll need an all-encompassing hobby. What will it be? Model trains, marathon training, adopting six dogs?

  5. Scooze Says:

    May significant other just moved from the Bay Area to the Midwest to be with me last month. We chose to be near family in the Midwest over the climate in SF. Family and long-time friends are important to have meaning in your life. As to the prices… your careers sound great but not high-flying enough to live in cities with great public schools like Palo Alto. So then you may have to pay for private school. Those run about $30k a year per kid. Or youbhave to compromise on other things – a condo instead of a house, a very long commute for one or both of you. And the truth is that you can go to SF or Napa for vacation and experience all the thinfs yiu dream about. I guess my bias is showing but I think the lifestyle of the midwest outweighs the mostly nice weather and culture in the Bay Area.

    • scantee Says:

      I think it is a bias that most Midwesterners share! Any decision we make will involve major compromise from someone so I guess the trick is to find the set of compromises we can all live with.

      My husband is very adventurous in other ways (he is on a multi-week, solo, physically challenging vacation in Europe right now) and I think that has added to my surprise that he is resistant to making this kind of change.

  6. First Gen American Says:

    I know a lot of people who moved to the bay area from the Northeast for job reasons.

    The pros: there is WAY more industry and opportunities in CA. That coupled with the great climate is the reason why it’s so expensive. When no one was hiring, there were engineering jobs in CA to be had. House prices are still insane, but not nearly as insane as they used to be. It may not be a bad time to move if you want a house there. Most unskilled working jobs that you may hire out (like lawnmowing, painting, etc) are cheaper than they are on the east coast because there is more supply of people doing those things. So, if job security and career growth is something that’s important and you don’t have it in current place, it’s a great place to be. The lifestyle improvements are obvious, so I won’t go there.

    The cons: Your commute will suck..period. Unless you have $750K and up to spend on a home, you’re most likely going to be an hour away from your place of employment. More if there’s traffic. Yes, there are affordable homes in CA, but the price is the proximity to where the jobs and cities are. The affordable homes are pretty far out, generally speaking. Do you want to give up 2 or 3 hours of your day to sit in traffic? If you can work from home, it’s a non issue, but most people in CA spend a lot of time in traffic. Although you may not have winter, you do have things like wildfires and mudslides instead. The cost of living is a lot higher, but most people adjust to that eventually. It’ll sting at first, but you’ll get used to it. I’ve only ever met one person who’s gone there and ever come back. Some say they’ll come back and then 20 years goes by and they’re still there. I think some of the schools may be pretty sketchy too because of the crazy way California is run.

    I have a job with lots of travel and nowadays probably travel less than I should, so I get my travel bug sated with my job. I also traveled extensively (filled up passports and needed extra pages) in my 20s and early 30’s before kids both with and outside of work. I feel like I got most of my need to travel out of my system before having children and that definitely helped.

    However, when you travel ALOT..like waking up and not knowing where you are travel, you can burn out and get sick of it. I also eventually came to the realization that it’s not the place that matters, but the people. The most enriching travel experiences I’ve had was when I was able to connect with interesting and like minded people. Once I realized that it was the people that drew me to travel and not the place, my need to see the world kind of stopped. When you are visiting someplace, you take the time to stop and explore your new environment and people. How many of us can say we seen all the sites of our little communities? Probably a lot of us. I still haven’t been to some of the museums and performance venues in my community and I’ve lived here for 17 years.

    Perhaps you need to invest some time into exploring your current community and engaging in something that’s meaningful and important to you. It’s so easy to get lost when you have a full time job and 2 small kids. Carve out some time to do something that is just for you. Now that your children are out of diapers, it should get a little easier to be able do that. I personally do community outreach with a bunch of different non-profits for my “fun” activity. My need to be part of something bigger than myself is pretty strong, so that satisfies most of my adventure urges and I’ve met some pretty amazing people doing it right here in my backyard. I don’t live in a big city but am a city person. I’m still happy.

    Those are my 2 cents. I hope it’s helpful in some way.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You don’t have to have a long commute if you rent instead of buy. Similarly with good schools. Although we’re still talking over 3K/month in rent even for a smallish place.

      • oilandgarlic Says:

        Yes, if you’re not rich but willing to rent, you can live closer to your work. That’s what my husband and I did (in Los Angeles) in order to cut my horrendous commute and have more family time/ sanity. The schools in this area are fairly good, and my family is not too far from here. We can (barely) afford to rent but could not afford to buy for sure. Two houses sold within 1 week here due to high demand and at /above a high asking price!

        For many people, ownership is a big issue though. I would love the security of owning a place but sometimes you have to make choices.

        As for the wanderlust question, I think the big issue is whether your husband can find a good job there and if the spouse is willing to shoulder the burden should the spouse be unable to find something new. Changing jobs can be scary for many people.

  7. bogart Says:

    My experience of living away from a geographically concentrated community of family (like your DH’s) is that one then spends all (+/-) one’s vacations traveling to see them, often during holidays when everyone else is traveling, and that this is NOT GOOD. I think (though I cannot say with certainty) that having kids in K-12, assuming a traditional (rather than year-round) school calendar, would only exacerbate this problem. Plus, does staying in the Midwest give you enough resources (allow you to save enough) that you could travel that much more, even independent of the scheduling/seeing family issues?

    OTOH, I have to figure that the experience of growing up in the Bay Area would be very different from the experience of growing up in the Midwest, probably in ways that would favor the former. Should this be the deciding factor?

    Is there a middle ground? If your current employer has a Bay Area office, could you e.g. volunteer to spend one or more summers there (with your kids, again, assuming traditional school calendar) as part of your work responsibilities?

  8. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    Total introvert here: all the people-people-people family-family talk comes from extroverts with nice or at least tolerable families. If you have a family with some sort of dysfunction, getting AWAY from family may be the best thing you ever do for yourself and your chosen family. It doesn’t sound like that is the case for scantee, but I do want to point that out just as a general thing. Also, if your family is scattered all over the world or not living close enough to see without a significant drive, then that reason doesn’t signify.

    Moving from family to people-in-general, again, if you’re an introvert, people don’t make that much difference. I’ve lived on both coasts and in the middle, and in terms of “niceness” or “friendliness” it’s all pretty much the same to me. Political and philosophical viewpoints do vary, and if you want to be around people who think the way they do in large swaths of the Bay Area (not all of it, though—there’s a big difference between, say, Berkeley and Danville), then much of the Midwest will feel like foreign territory.

    So if you’re someone who doesn’t care that much about people, the physical surroundings and lifestyle assume a lot more importance. What would I like about living in the Bay Area? I just want to BE there. I want the views, and yes, those views in particular, not just A view. I want the climate. I want not just hills but hills with those particular shapes and those particular plants growing on them. I want to walk outside my house and smell eucalyptus in the morning—because it’s growing there, not because I bought air freshener or something. Trying to introduce the stuff you like into the place you live is not necessarily the answer. And vacation experiences are not the same as just living in a place.

    But I have no idea how to get a stay-at-home (or at least, return-to-home-base) type to be more adventurous. So I guess I’m just being contrary. I do think that if you want something, then you want it, and you shouldn’t try to talk yourself out of wanting it.

    • scantee Says:

      I love to travel but I agree that it’s not really a good substitute for living somewhere. It is very different experience to be somewhere temporarily as opposed to permanently.

      Even though we decided on the Bay Area as the place for us (and my husband agrees that if we do move, that is where we should go) I am really open to moving all sorts of places and doing all sorts of different things. Working for an NGO in Africa? Sure, sounds interesting! Spending two years in NYC for a specific project? I would love to live there for awhile! I guess the reason this has been so hard for me is that it feels like we’re making a decision to cut off all future opportunities like these (which may not be true but that is what it feels like) not just a decision to forego living in the Bay Area.

    • bogart Says:

      Introvert here, but blessed with a sane — well, maybe not sane, but those who are not sane tend to be funny in a good way, and most are generous and kind — family, so, right, that is a good point that didn’t even occur to me though I am aware of it. There are families for which there are good arguments for running as far away as possible and staying gone. Though unless one plans to stay gone (or visit VERY infrequently), I do think it can be easier to be close by (and visit casually and occasionally) rather than choosing to come a distance and stay awhile, possibly with the not-so-sane, not-so-kind variety of family.

      Yes, though, to a sense of “place.” For me, it’s more the clay soil, the sound of the cicadas, and the kudzu that defines what feels like “home” (so less defensible on aesthetic grounds) but it is a real and, to me, important feeling.

  9. oilandgarlic Says:

    If you’re not rich but willing to rent, you can live closer to your work even in CA. That’s what my husband and I did (in Los Angeles) in order to cut my horrendous commute and have more family time/ sanity. The schools in this area are fairly good, and my family is not too far from here. We can (barely) afford to rent but could not afford to buy for sure. Two houses sold within 1 week here due to high demand and at /above a high asking price!

    For many people, ownership is a big issue though. I would love the security of owning a place but sometimes you have to make choices.

    As for the wanderlust question, I think the big issue is whether your husband can find a good job there and if the spouse is willing to shoulder the burden should the spouse be unable to find something new. Changing jobs can be scary for many people.

    • scantee Says:

      We are both open to renting and are don’t romanticize home ownership at all. We sold our house in the spring (for unrelated reasons, because our local school options were not very good) and are renting now and I think we both are kind of loving it. Even if we stay here, I don’t envision that we’ll be rushing to buy again soon.

  10. rented life Says:

    We’ve moved 7 times in our 11 years of marriage. If it really matters, you can always move back. People act like moving away is awful and permanent, but it’s not. We’ve moved back to our “home” area twice. (Different parts of the same area so it feels a little different but familiar enough that we don’t have to wonder which grocery store to go to.) Your spouse’s fear is pretty common for what we hear people say in our area, so I’d present the reminder that if it sucks, if he can’t adjust and becomes really unhappy, you can talk about moving back. Knowing that no move ever has to be permanent forever has helped us a great deal.

    Things we’ve regretted: 1. moving when neither has a job lined up (that was our first move and we were over-confident one would find work),2. financial losses because of moving, moving without realizing what the real problem was (really just bored and needing a change, or relationship problems which can’t be fixed in a new area), 3.moving and not realizing job lined up was a bait and switch.
    Things we’ve not regretted: 1. We’ve learned how to really function without ANYONE else for support. Two of our moves put us so far away from any support system and it was trying but we grew a lot. 2. Moving away period: we have experiences that most people in our area don’t have (most don’t move), simply because we have lived in other places. New foods, new ways of living, new appreciation, just new experiences that to others sound hard but really are part of the adjustment package. For example, we can get around most new areas because we’re used to the idea that it means you might get a little lost. (we don’t do GPS.) 3. Figuring out what we really want. We’ve lived in enough of a variety of places that we’re narrowing down what type of area we’d like to “settle” in. 4. Knowing that travel is always going to be easier than moving, we’ll keep traveling when we get bored.

    • scantee Says:

      For this move to happen, my husband would have to have a job. We wouldn’t move without it. And while I think he could get a “good” job there I don’t think it would be a job that would pay amazing. We are both quality of life people and would trade a lower salary for a position with more flexibility.We’ll bike and live in a small place to avoid long commutes.

      • rented life Says:

        We’re the same way–I prefer quality of life over pay. My husband’s in an industry that exists in any city so it’s really me that needs a job before moving. (I have a work from job now, so it’s a non-issue, but for years it was crucial that my work was lined up first.)

  11. Perpetua Says:

    I’ve undergone four major moves (that is, the entire household, lock stock and barrel) in seven years. I wouldn’t recommend that pace, but my marriage has survived just fine, and as a result I have a much more blase attitude about moving than most people I know, for whom it is unbelievably stressful and scary. For us, it’s just like – oh, we’re moving again. Here we go! We’re great at it. Your kids are the perfect age to move. They won’t miss their friends too much and they aren’t embedded in their own lives. You’re nearing the end of the sweet spot for moving with kids, and the opening of the job opportunity in a place you’d love to live is a pretty amazing coincidence. I live in a place I don’t want to live, and would love to go back to the place I was the happiest – not just visit, but *live*. Family is important but unless they live in the same town as you, they don’t bring much to day to day life. I saw my parents a little more often when I lived 180 miles from them as when I lived 3,000, but I saw them plenty at 3,000. For me the key would be figuring out Husband’s aversion to moving. If it’s fear, it may just take a bit of pushing on your part and he may see the adventure of it (esp if you take care of a lot of the logistics – figuring out the finances and coordinating the movers). It’s my personal bias, but I don’t accept fear alone as a reason not to do something. All the grumpies’ advice about salary and cost of living is super important. Don’t get screwed by accepting a salary that puts you a lot behind where you are now financially.

    • scantee Says:

      Thanks for the advice. I would say that a lot of lifelong Midwesterners share a strong feeling of “why would you want to leave?!” They just don’t get it and it’s hard to even have a conversation about it. It’s ok to move away for college or when you’re in your 20’s but then you’re supposed to move back when you have a family. Because it’s a good place to raise a family. No, the best place .Also, it’s GOOD that it is cold because it keeps the riff raff out. Or so the thinking goes.

      It’s just a different mindset than my own which is that you can do a good job raising kids and enjoying life pretty much anywhere.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Just as a note: *most* of our friends from our midwestern high school are now living in the SF bay area. Most of the ones who aren’t are academics!

        We agree that, compared to where we’re living (red at-will states that hate women, furriners, homosexuals, Muslims, and evolution), the Midwest is a great place to raise a family, but so is Northern California.

  12. scantee Says:

    Some people leave and don’t come back and then everyone shakes their heads and says, “can you believe Sven and Laura are still living in New York City with two kids?! We feel so very very bad for them…”

    Sven and Laura: We love New York City!

    • Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

      I would love to live in NYC for a year. I don’t want to move there permanently but I long for a fellowship that would let me live there for a time. And I think you’re really right about lifelong Midwesterners’ views, whereas a lot of Californians are a bit more like you, Rented Life, and Perpetua—you can always move back, moving isn’t such a big deal, etc. And that’s the kind of attitude that you, scantee, would probably appreciate in other people around you (but that might freak out your husband). If I were you, which obvs. I’m not, I would push for this move by working on logistics, offering to move back after two years (or whatever seems reasonable), stressing the adventurous aspects. And if DH likes adventure, CA offers lots of opportunity for rock climbing, hiking, sailing, kayaking, whatever outdoorsy things he’s into.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I dunno, once you leave snow it is *really* hard to move back to it. But that’s a choice.

      • scantee Says:

        I’ve offered the two year trial option and he thinks once we go he won’t be able to get me to move back. He’s probably right.

      • rented life Says:

        But he might love it in two years! Husband swore we’d never live where we do now permanently and now he can’t imagine not. He can’t ever know without even trying it.

      • scantee Says:

        I agree that he will probably like it once he’s been there awhile but it’s hard to convince him of that.

  13. chacha1 Says:

    Now see, I come down 100% of the side of the wife who wants to move. The great thing about living in a small town is that everything is familiar. That is also the thing that sucks really hard.

    To quote George Santayana, “there is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: It keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.”

    Whereas sticking with the familiar tends to (it doesn’t always, but it tends to) keep the mind stodgy, foster prejudice, and quash humor.

    If my husband cared more for security and sameness than for the happiness of his wife over the next 10-20-30 years, that would be a problem for me.

    I could rant about this all day but will just say: you can always GO BACK to the small town. It’s not like there is likely going to be a sudden land rush there.

  14. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    In moments of honesty, my spouse has admitted that he would enjoy living there but that he also finds the idea scary because he’s never lived anywhere but here. I don’t know if that is something he can get over.

    I say push the f*cker past his inertia. The undertone I get from your letter is that the default assumption is that his inertia trumps your wanderlust. That sounds unfair and shitty to me, and it sounds to me like you really have a great opportunity to be part of starting a new office of what presumably is a growing outfit in one of the most fun and vibrant parts of the entire world to live in.

  15. Cloud Says:

    Have you guys been to San Francisco on a vacation? Maybe you could go and really try to do the thought experiment. Stay in a hotel in a neighborhood, instead of in the tourist spots. Go check out the grocery store and the local shops. Really try to get a feel for what it would be like. Don’t do the touristy things, instead do the things that you’d do on the weekends if you lived there.

    I love San Francisco. It is one of the few cities I would consider relocating to from San Diego (others being Auckland and… hmmm. Interesting. Maybe that’s it.) So I’m not exactly impartial. But I also know that moving is a big deal to contemplate at this point in life, so I’m not completely unsympathetic to your husband. Maybe a trial visit will help sort things out.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We used to stay here in Mountain View– it was kitty corner from our friends’ rented house (they now live a few streets away in a purchased house).

      http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g32761-d78561-Reviews-BEST_WESTERN_PLUS_Mountain_View_Inn-Mountain_View_California.html

      TJ’s a long walk or a short drive, and I think there’s a Target too, the library is a short walk, park a short walk, Asian grocery a short walk, best bookstore in the world a short walk, lots of great restaurants and ice cream/gelato a short walk.

      By Cloud’s argument though, I should quit my job and we should move right now!

      If I quit my job right now I wouldn’t have to finish reading this paper for a referee report due tomorrow…

      I need that sabbatical at Stanford!

    • scantee Says:

      We both been to San Francisco many times although not since we’ve had kids. We will probably go there in the next 6 to 9 months and really look at it with there well-being in mind. I’ve researched everything kid-related (school, child care, activities, kid friendly places to live) but it always different to see it in person.

      • femmefrugality Says:

        I’ve heard so many people with families gush about living there. I hear you with the boredom. I’ve relocated so many times in my life that I get itchy staying anywhere for too long. But both of our families are here. And the soonest mine is willing to move is retirement. I think it’s good you want to see it in person again, too. I’d be totally weird and stop people on the street and ask them what they think of the different neighborhoods etc. If I didn’t feel safe stopping someone, I’d know that’s a neighborhood I don’t want to live in.

  16. Thisbe Says:

    “I’ve offered the two year trial option and he thinks once we go he won’t be able to get me to move back. He’s probably right.”

    That doesn’t sound like an argument for not going. That sounds like an argument for GOING, asap.

    If the happiness difference for you between SF Bay and Small Town is so much that you and he *both* think that once you left, you would not be able to be talked into going back, that means that the happiness difference is enough that you should move. It’s the same question – a question about which one you prefer and how strongly.

    I will also admit to a certain amount of generic negative feminist feeling about a woman living far from her own family but close to her partner’s, in the special sub-case where she would like to move for career and life satisfaction reasons and he wants to stay to remain close to his own family despite career dissatisfaction. IBTP.

    • scantee Says:

      I’ve been honest with him that if we stay here and thus limit my career prospects and he doesn’t try the make the damnedest of his own career, I’ll be pissed. He is, careerwise, very similar to how he is in his lack of desire to move: hesitant to change. He has worked in the same job for almost ten years and even though his dissatisfaction with it has grown substantially over the past few years he is unlikely to to look for something new without an external push of some sort.

  17. Ana Says:

    I agree with those that say inertia (from one party) is not a good enough reason to not make a change. You guys are young, kids are young—this is the best time to make a change. I’ve never lived on the West Coast or the Midwest so I can’t comment as to quality of life in either of those areas, but If I had a sure thing job somewhere beautiful like the Bay Area, you bet I’d be pushing my husband to start job-hunting. And I truly believe you can always move back. Talk seriously to your husband—does he really think you’d ignore his feelings if he was truly miserable in a new place? Especially if he compromised for your desire to try it out in the first place? Even when the kids are in early elementary school, moving won’t be THAT traumatic as it would be once they are tweens/teens. I moved in 2nd grade, it was NBD.

    • scantee Says:

      Yeah, we’ve talked about it, and talked about it, and talked about it some more. In some ways, he is open to it, but in other ways, he is not. He has applied for a few Bay Area jobs but that feels more like throwing me a bone than anything. We’ve not reached the point where he’s said, “yes, let’s do this” and then started a serious job hunt.

  18. anandar Says:

    As a native Midwesterner now living a fairly settled life with kids in the Bay Area–I think it is a wonderful place to raise kids (much better than where I grew up, although I am also one who could have a happy life anywhere), but do not underestimate the cost factor. To those who say, “you can just rent,” my answer is “yes, but…” the cost of living eventually catches up to you, if you are not participating in the tech market or another high-growth industry. We lived very happily in SF with our first child having hir bedroom in a closet (literally), but when we added #2 and needed a 2-bedroom, we found we were well and truly priced out of our lovely, walkable, good-public-transportation neighborhood, even as renters (we had a rent-controlled apartment, and watched rents more than double in our neighborhood over the 7 years we lived there). The extra cost of renting in desirable, centrally located places is far higher than the cost of a first/second car, so “we’ll live close in and save money by walking or biking to work” may not work out. We bought during the market low, in a less fashionable part of Oakland, and buying has turned out to be more affordable than renting (though our downpayment alone would pay for multiple starter homes in my hometown).

    I also find the wealth disparities here really uncomfortable, and dislike what I consider faux-liberalism (eg, “I support public schools, but THOSE kids don’t need art/music/libraries, I’ll buy those luxuries for my own kids out of my own pocket”)– but I also kind of appreciate the challenge of living out my values in the face of that. [I'm suppressing the desire to go off on an extended rant here...]

    • scantee Says:

      Rant away. This stuff is good for me to know.

      I should clarify that we live in an urban area now, not a small town, but urban areas in the Midwest are just….different. Not as urban, somehow. I think it’s important to mention because we have not been living in a spacious, suburban home. The house we just sold was 1200 square feet and the four of us lived quite comfortably there.

      I think we’d like to buy eventually but I’m really no huge rush to do so. Next time we buy I want to have a huge down payment saved up which in California would take us awhile.

      • chacha1 Says:

        With all respect, having spent 29 years in the South and visited many Midwestern cities … compared to San Francisco, ANY city in the midwest is a small town. Not just in geography but in attitude.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s what my father says too… My mom is more accepting. And she says midwesterners are good people, which is good since she raised two of them.

      • scantee Says:

        Oh, I agree that San Francisco is a Big City in a way that most Midwestern cities just aren’t. I just wanted to clarify that we live in a much more urban rather than a rural area.

  19. Rumpus Says:

    Doing the same things tends to make one an expert at those narrow areas of experience. It is very comfortable knowing the people and places so well that you can predict situations and responses, but comforting is a thin line from boring. In comparison, new experiences broaden one’s wisdom and flexibility, but change risks a worse outcome for more effort.

    I would probably make a list and ask my partner to make a list, then we could compare lists and brainstorm and ultimately try to come up with a solution for everyone. (Can you see the influence from Getting To Yes?) In grad school I had to make lists of what I wanted in a job, and I found the exercise illuminated my own hidden interests. The best solutions satisfy everyone’s underlying interests without following any one side’s position.

    • scantee Says:

      This would be a good exercise for us. I think we’ve both verbalized our list but the act of writing it down might clarify what is most important to us. I made the mistake of mentioning the weather when I first brought this up and while that is important to me there are other factors that are just as if not more important. I think my husband sort of latched on to that as the main reason I want to move and doesn’t think it is enough of a reason to justify such a huge change.

  20. jlp Says:

    I’m not sure how you came to NicoleandMaggie’s blog, but in case this is relevant: gifted programs in public schools in the East Bay (and so far as I’ve been able to find, in much of the rest of the BA) are non-existent.* In fact, there is a culture in Berkeley which actively campaigns against the idea any one child could be more academically advanced than another of the same age (“All children are gifted!”).

    Of course, that situation may or may not be relevant to you(or any different from where you are living currently, for that matter), but I wanted to mention it in case it was.

    (Source: lived in Berkeley and other parts of the BA for about 10 years before moving to our current midwest location with two small children. I love the bay area, and we are considering moving back next year, but the COLA is truly staggering, the salary differential (in my tech-y job field) doesn’t come close to covering it, and the school options make me weep.)

    *I would be delighted to be proven wrong!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve seen that on the berkeley parents news network forum (which often pops up when I’m googling something about kids)!

      Palo Alto also seems to be very anti-acceleration, although I know several gifted adults who went through their programs, both at the “good” high school zone (Gunn) and the “bad” one (Paly), and it may be that acceleration isn’t really needed.

      Mountain View seems to have more relaxed restrictions. However, our friends there, whose oldest is the same age as our oldest, think we’re crazy for doing acceleration. I think they’re doing dual-language immersion for their oldest.

      Though, another thing to note is that for older kids, the age cut-off in CA is later than in most states. Our oldest could stay skipped one year just by default on the basis of hir birthday. They’ve moved the date back to I think September 1 at this point. That should be checked though.

      CA schools aren’t as good as most midwestern schools because of Prop 13. They’re far better than schools in most at-will states because they’re still union.

    • scantee Says:

      My children aren’t gifted so that is not a concern for me. I want them to get good educations of course but I don’t think they will require special schooling for that to happen.

      Now I’m trying to remember how I first found this blog. I’m sure it was because of the personal finance stuff because I used to read a ton of those blogs. There really is only so much you can say about that topic though and this is the only blog I still read that is even the slightest bit PF-related.

  21. SP Says:

    I wonder if you could get him to apply for a few jobs and see what happens. He might be more excited about it if he had something specific that he was looking forward to there. If he were to get an offer, you’d very easily have some of your other questions answered regarding finances. Can you convince him to do a job hunt without being committed to moving?

    In my opinion, the biggest hassle of moving is the job transition. But that could just be me. It is easier for me to get excited about a move when I have some sort of an idea of what the specifics look like.

    Generally, people move in search of a better life, not just change, but change for the better. If he is very happy with life, I can see how he would be hesitant to move, and I think that is completely fair.

    • scantee Says:

      He had applied for a few jobs and even got a call back for an interview for one of them. Once he got that call back I think it became real to him and he all of a sudden decided that job wouldn’t be a good fit for him and he declined the interview. So.

  22. GMP Says:

    Scantee, maybe I am a bitch for asking this, but would you consider leaving on your own, with the kids? It sounds like it may be very difficult or near impossible to convince your husband to move. I guess the question is how much do you really want to leave the place you are at now, are you sick enough of it that you would consider dissolving the marriage?

    For instance, I did a similar thing (sans kids) with a longtime boyfriend, whom I once thought I would marry, when I decided to move to the US as the prospects at home were poor. I spent nearly 3 years trying to convince him to move together and he was against it till the end, so I did all the tests, applied to grad schools, and left. Of course, we weren’t married and didn’t have kids, but at the time it was a long-term relationship (8 years) and it was not emotionally trivial to leave. I don’t think he believed I would ever actually leave without him; ironically, he did eventually move, years later.

    • scantee Says:

      I wouldn’t be willing to move without him. We are pretty happy outside of this issue. I do think that this issue is representative of a difference between us that is greater than just this move. I don’t think my spouse quite gets the magnitude of it at this point but we should probably deal with it now rather than have it become a recurring problem.

  23. Chris Says:

    Just a few thoughts to add…

    You seem a bit down on “midwesterners” as provincial, sheltered, assuming their way of life is “the best”. But what you might not realize is that almost everyone is like that! I’ve lived on the east coast, in the mountain west, in SF and LA, and in each place the predominant attitude among natives is the same. “Why would anyone ever want to live outside of …” Clearly you have some wanderlust, but you need to realize that no one place will be perfect for you or your family. Almost any city will have some great benefits and some drawbacks. You can’t have it all!

    I can sympathize with your wanderlust, however. I recently received tenure and have come to the realization that we have now been here (a major mountain west city) longer than we lived anywhere else in our (almost 20 year!) marriage. Since most of our family is nearby, it is unlikely that we will move again. And that scares me. I realize that the proximity to family is a major bonus to my kids, though. So my solution has been to dream of a sabbatical in an exotic locale. But my husband doesn’t see how he can leave his job for 6-12 months. I understand his point, but still plan to find some way to make it work. As a “practice run”, we took the family on an extended vacation to Europe this summer. It was wonderful, and we were glad to get home at the end.

    Finally, I don’t quite understand the “question” here. It seems that you and your husband are at an impasse. You really want to move to the Bay area, he doesn’t. You say that the relationship is otherwise a good one and that you are not unhappy in your current city. Sure the Bay area has a lot of attractive qualities (it’s beautiful, cosmopolitan, etc.) but it also has significant drawbacks (you really shouldn’t underestimate the cost of living, especially with kids, the traffic is horrible and it is REALLY COLD in the summer (cue the Mark Twain quote…)). It sounds like you really need to think about what you want. If you force your family to move, are you possibly sacrificing something good (your relationship with your husband and his relationship with his family) for something that you think will be better (but might not be)? Is there some other way you can get through this “mid-life crisis”?

    • scantee Says:

      I’m sure I’m romanticizing it somewhat. I probably wouldn’t want to move if I didn’t have a rosy picture of what life in the Bay Area would be like but generally I’m a pretty pragmatic person and I expect there will be things that I like about it and things that I don’t like. My expectation is that on a day-to-day basis the good will outweigh the bad and that it will be worth it in the end. Making a change like this is always risky though and there’s that chance I (we) will hate it.


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