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.