Commutes and Balance

Author Jane Smiley, whose book A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, wrote the following about commutes and balance in her Mommy Wars essay:

Work was ten minutes from home, which was five minutes from the day care, which was across the street from the grocery store, which was five minutes from the school, which was two minutes from home. This is the cardinal rule for "having it all"--have it all inside a very small perimeter.

Almost no one lives like this in large metropolitan areas, unfortunately. Which leads us to the subject of "commutes and balance," the subject of a recent, memorable USA Today article sent in by Vegas Mom. Roughly 15 million Americans leave for work before dawn each day. Michigan mom Martha Perry leaves by 6 a.m. and doesn't get home until 7 or 7:30 p.m. She and her husband have one two-year-old child; her commute is part of why she's not sure she'll ever have another.

The basic conflict is simple: a "balance" between the location of the home you can afford and the commutes you and your spouse can tolerate. But as more and more Americans are hitting the road earlier and later each day, balance, especially when it comes to a life outside your car, becomes increasingly elusive. My opinion is that when the length of your commute starts dictating the size of your family, it's time to find another job or another house.

How far do you drive to work and/or your children's schools or other daily destinations? What is your commuting balancing act? What changes have you made to your life to avoid -- or take advantage of -- a long daily commute?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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erste......

One reason we moved to our house because it was near transportation.

1 mile from the train station that we used to go to work. Forty minutes each way, 25 of which are on the train.

2 nearby bus lines that serve both the train station and local community college, which is 2 miles in the other directon.

Super markets are within a 5 minute drive.
4 malls are within a 20 minute drive.

Less than 1.5 miles to the elementary, middle, and high schools.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 19, 2007 7:44 AM

I live 10 miles from work (on purpose). I leave my house at 6am and the drive from Silver Spring to Dc isn't too bad - door to desk in about 35 mins.
Going home at 3:15 is another story. The same 10 miles usually takes 45 mins to an hour. As frustrating as it is for me to be sitting "inspecting the asphalt" as I creep north I worry more about my poor dog who has been home since 6am. Granted he sleeps all day but I still feel guilty.
I am lucky to be so close compared to other people. If I hadn't bought my house 14 years ago I couldn't afford to live here now.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 7:44 AM

My life and career are intimately tied to this issue. I design highways for a living, in a rapidly growing state. When my wife and I were looking for a home, however, we chose one less than 15 minutes from my office, with very convenient access to everything else we'd need as well.

The only drawback is the lots are so small I can literally see a dozen homes from my front door. I've heard my neighbors arguing (screaming actually) while I was inside my house (they were inside their house too). Everything is close together, and cramped, with little privacy and the usual frictions when people live in close proximity to each other.

My wife now commutes 45 minutes to her job, thankfully in the opposite direction everyone else is travelling. Would we prefer a house on a larger lot with more space between us and our neighbors? YES!!
But, do I want it at the expense of a longer commute, higher travel costs, more congestion, longer drives to stores, etc, larger mortgage, etc? NO!

Unfortunately, a lot of people make that choice; they see the larger house on the big lot and decide the longer commute is a fair trade. Of course, at first that long commute is fairly quick, but as more people make that same choice, it soon starts to take longer and longer, and more stressful. Eventually the urge to move hits, people move further out (some move closer in) and the process starts again.

Posted by: johnl | September 19, 2007 7:51 AM

My commute (by car and Metro) used to take about an hour each way. DH's, for the first few years, was five minutes (and boy, was that a boon! It meant he could handle all sorts of household tasks that were literally out of my reach.) When we decided we were ready for kids, we also decided to leave the DC area, in part because we'd be able to find affordable housing within a reasonable commute to the major job centers.

Now, DH travels about 20 minutes each way (depending on traffic). I'm not working yet, but there's very little traffic moving around town. Rush hour is literally only one hour long, and things move pretty well the rest of the time. It still makes us giggle to hear natives here complain about the traffic.

Posted by: newsahm | September 19, 2007 7:52 AM

I live 41 miles from my office; it takes me about 50-55 minutes to drive there myself. However, I joined a vanpool two years ago when gas went throught the roof. To accommodate the other riders' schedules I have to leave my house to catch the van 40 minutes before I would leave if I drove myself. and then in the afternoon, I get home about 45 minutes later. so I don't see my family at all in the morning, and, on a good night, get two hours with my daughter before she goes to bed. is the vanpool worth it? saving on gas, wear and tear on the car, traffic on the road, environmental issues, etc. versus time with my family? it's a debate I have with myself every day.

Posted by: editorish | September 19, 2007 7:55 AM

Commute was a BIG reason I didn't want to be back in DC. The thought of (a) affordable housing 1.5 hrs away, or (b) stretching our budget to the max and then some, just to be able to afford a 3 Br, 2 Ba, 1600 square foot bungalow in a good location, was NOT appealing. (Don't get me wrong -- I like little bungalows, just NOT at $800K!).

Hallelujah Baltimore. My commute is 22 minutes with traffic, 16 minutes without (my husband's is under 10). Our house is so much more than we could afford in DC. Daycare/school isn't quite as convenient -- we drive one more exit down the road, so it's a little farther away from work. But I drive right by the grocery store, Target, bookstore, etc. on the way to get them, so it's very convenient for getting errands done. And even with the longer trip, it still only takes me 45 minutes to leave work, get both kids (2 different places), and get home.

A reasonable lifestyle was a top priority for us -- although I love San Fran and Boston, we had previously nixed moves there just because of the commute and home prices. But sometimes it's hard to find work you enjoy and a short commute and affordable housing all together (I've had long commutes to good jobs, short commutes to bad jobs, but not the right combination of everything). That we have that now is something I'm grateful for every day.

Posted by: laura33 | September 19, 2007 7:55 AM

The software industry, almost by definition, is very transient. DH has had 5 jobs in the past 10 years we've lived in the DC area. We live in Ashburn (Loudoun County, VA). He was in Herndon for 1 year, was transferred to Rockville for 1 year, was sick of the commute and looked for another job. Was employed in Tyson's Corner for 3 years, and all previous commutes were by car. He got a job in DC, where he took the car to a park'n ride in Herndon, the bus to the Vienna Metro to work in DC (about an hour each way, any delays, could be up to two hours). Then he and some friends stated up a consulting company - he worked out of the house. I had been home for that time with our 3 kids. I started back to work almost 2 years ago, in Gainesville (Prince William County, VA), where I travel by car for 25 miles in about 30 minutes (reverse commute). DH switched careers last year and is now a teacher in Loudoun County, has a 10 mile commute and is so much happier. I take the early shift, working 6:30 to 3, get home to take the kids to various activities. Dh gets them off on the bus, and is home in time get dinner, help with homework and bed times. This actually seems to be better for all of us.

Posted by: pamsdds | September 19, 2007 8:00 AM

I have always deliberately chosen jobs close to home. I could have made much more money in my career had I been willing to commute farther, but I just can't do it. I really feel for those that leave home in the morning before the sun comes up, and get home in the dark. I'd rather be poor than live like that.

Posted by: jjtwo | September 19, 2007 8:09 AM

It's a CHOICE. You CHOOSE to live where there is a 2-hour commute. "I WANT a MacMansion 'cause I WANT IT". So, spend 4 hours a day in stand-still traffic. I CHOOSE to live walking distance to work & stores. So I don't have a MacMansion, but I CHOOSE convienience over size. I hope DC becomes #1 on the commute time. I love to walk home in 20 minutes and sit with a cocktail watching the 3-hours commuters on TV. LOL LOL

Posted by: richierichsr | September 19, 2007 8:10 AM

My commute is an hour each way and my husband's commute is 45 minutes in the opposite direction.

I would love to get a job in the same town where he is in grad school, but there are very few opportunities there for someone in my field. (It's a small southern college town.)

It works for now, because I know that grad school is temporary and we will be able to move after he graduates, but I will never again live this far away from my workplace.

Posted by: klynnwilder | September 19, 2007 8:16 AM

When I did my last job search, I started off only looking in Montgomery County. My husband thought I was crazy and limiting myself since I wasn't looking in DC. Well, fortunately, I found the perfect job where I wanted it, 5 miles from home, about 15 minutes, and also with flex time. My husband's job at the time, although only about 13 miles away, went into DC and had 50-some lights along the way so it would take him over an hour. Even though I had a great commute and flexibility, I think that some of that was sucked up by the commute and inflexibility of my husband's schedule. He came around to thinking my idea was better and now has a 15-20 min commute as well. Oldest kid's school is 10 min away. Younger kids' daycare less than 1 mile away. Church is also within a few miles. When we bought our house, we literally took a map and drew one-mile and two-mile radii around metro stations. Where we landed was within about a mile of a metro station and within a few miles of 270 and 495. Although a bit of a stretch for us financially at the time, I'm so glad we did it that way. Time is valuable. I think an added bonus of making our world smaller is that we ended up with overlap between our different spheres which creates a sense of community not always easily attained in a metropolitan area.

Posted by: rockvillemom | September 19, 2007 8:18 AM

I assume all the folks driving don't have the option of public transportation? Don't get me wrong. No one wants to do bus, train, bus, but if you can walk 10 mins, hop on the train for 20 mins, and walk 10 mins, why not do that instead of sitting in gridlock for 45 minutes?

We live in Takoma, I work in Bethesda, DH works on Eye St. He takes Metro M/W/F. T/Th he has the early shift and picks up the baby, so he drives. His commute is 45 mins by train or car.

I drive every day. It takes 90 mins to 2 hours by 2 buses. Not happening. Plus I drop off my daughter every morning and pick her up M/W/F. In the mornings, it takes me 40 mins to get her to daycare and get myself to work. In the evenings, it can be 90 mins to get her and get home.

I have daycare issues. They don't open until 7:30, so I'm stuck with rush hour. We're trying to change to a place that opens at 7:00. I'd love to work 7:30 to 4:00 M/W/F and 9:00 to 6:00 T/Th. That way my daughter would have short days T/Th, and M/W/F traffic would be better. We're half way there.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 8:30 AM

That's one nice thing about living in Richmond. Whenever anyone complains about traffic, I just laugh at them. I've lived in NoVa, Tidewater and a part of Connecticut where most people commuted to NYC. We have no traffic in Richmond.

I did leave my last job for a job with more flexible hours, mostly to be home earlier during the time my young son is awake. That has done wonders for my happiness.

Posted by: RiverCityVA | September 19, 2007 8:35 AM

I don't do public transportation as it would take me 1.5 hours but I am the driver of a 3 person carpool (if that helps) :-)

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 8:37 AM

We couldn't have balance without balancing commute into the equation. We're just too active.

Neither of us commute now. Work in home mostly at the moment, though in the past we lived one mile from work for 7 years, train or boat in Australia...where we learned everything must be close! And I mean everything if you wish to be active with your family.

We now live in an Planned community (not like Columbia or Reston...though don't get me wrong, as a charter member of Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills back in the day, I loved Columbia). Everything (market, multiple coffee shops, bars, workout, cleaners, even a few national HQs) within a couple of blocks. It works for us.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 8:39 AM

"I assume all the folks driving don't have the option of public transportation? "

I could metro to work but considering it would take me just as long to walk to the metro as it takes to be at work driving, it just seems kind of silly. Nevermind if I have any kid dropoff/pickup.

Posted by: rockvillemom | September 19, 2007 8:40 AM

KLB - I forgot exactly what it was, but I remember a singular funny comment from you yesterday...something about throwing out the wine?

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 8:40 AM

I live in "bedroom community" south of Cleveland. DH has a commute of about 15 min to his work. I have a home office. DS has a "commute" of about 10 minutes to Montessori.

Normally, DH drops him off and heads to work, I pick up DS.

All this free time is great for me and DS, however, DH works VERY long hours at times, so a short commute helps, but it isn't a cure-all.

Oh, also, we are 1/2 mile from a great grocery, 1 mile from the library.

Downside is no shopping malls nearby (11 miles is the closest). Upside is we do have a metropark 1 mile from us.

Having a home office truly has made balancing things 100% easier. I am grateful.

Posted by: goodhome631 | September 19, 2007 8:45 AM

My commute is 30 minutes if I walk. About 7 minutes if I drive. I feel so lucky compared to most of the rest of you posting today. The ultrashort commute truly did happen by luck, since about 6 years ago my company moved my department to the same town I had just bought a house in. There are rumblings that my department may get moved in a year, and I am not happy about that. Very spoiled at the moment.

But, there is something to be said about choices none the less. We're often conditioned to believe that owning an ample house on a decent plot of land is a major goal in life. I don't think it should be. I own a small house on a tenth of an acre in a reasonably safe middle-class town with so-so schools. That's plenty of space for my family, and we have a great community feel about our urban neighborhood. It is okay to rent rather than own. It is okay to not to be in a top 10 school district for your kids and still send them to public school. Societal traps can sometimes prevent us from attaining our real dream - balanced and happy lives.

Posted by: violinline | September 19, 2007 8:50 AM

I am soooo lucky in this regard. School is in walking distance; after-school program is near work and we're all barely more than a mile from home.
It doesn't seem fair to complain but it's the piano lessons and dance lessons that are forcing me into the car and I'm not sure where to draw the line limiting our activities-related commutes! In both cases, beloved teachers changed location and we opted to drive rather than find new ones. How do the rest of you handle this issue?

Posted by: anne.saunders | September 19, 2007 8:51 AM

My 3+ hour daily commute was one of the primary reasons I quit my job outright when I had my first child. On a good day, I worked 10-12 hours anyway, and with the commute, and an infant at home, I figured life would be completely out of control. I have never regretted quitting.

Since then, we've moved to Raleigh, NC, and I enjoy a 25-30 minute commute most days. It is bliss compared to what I used to have, but I can tell that it's going to get worse as growth continues like crazycakes. I have a friend who lives in Iowa whose commute is 5 minutes (7 in traffic) and she often will go home for lunch with her kids. I sometimes dream about moving out there, but then I realize she dreams about things like Whole Foods stores and better shopping and being close to the ocean.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 19, 2007 8:52 AM


Commute has always been a consideration in picking places to live, and jobs.

Family size has always been independent of commute/job - we thought family was most important and the other two would have to fit that!

When I quit the job based in Canuckistan because I was tired of spending my life in the air headed to Asia, commute was a consideration. I was offered numerous jobs in NoVa, many of which paid much higher than I was asking. But having made that commute daily for 7 months in the late '90s, there was no salary that could get me to take a job down there - period! I wound up getting a great job with everything I asked for; and it's less than a 15-minute commute from home. It just took looking a little harder.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 8:57 AM

WorkingMomX, yep, your commute will get worse, but everything changes. By the time your commute gets to 45 minutes, your kids will be 5-10 years older, you'll have a different job (possibly working office at home?) and you'll have different family needs.

And there is the real problem: family needs change and we can't always forecast correctly. What works now may not work later on. An earlier poster described him/herself as 'lucky.' One has to make luck happen or guess correctly what will be important later on...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 8:58 AM

"And there is the real problem: family needs change and we can't always forecast correctly."

dotted_1, this is so true! We bought the land and built the house in Howard County for the schools, crime rate, and environment (we moved out of PG County; the starter house was too small and there was no way our kids were going to school there). At the time commutes were 20 - 30 minutes, and we both planned on being career Feds. We had no way of knowing at that time that just a few years later DW would grow to hate her job so much that she'd quit, and that a few years after that I'd also be fed up enough to change jobs.

But by then we'd established roots here, and don't want to move out of this house until we're empty-nesters. So the fact that we live here has influenced later job choices.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 9:18 AM

Well, I lucked out on my commute...I'm 5 minutes from home (7 if I get stuck behind some large harvesting implement traveling between fields); most winter days my vehicle's heater isn't even warm when I pull into the school lot. We moved here when the boys were in middle school, my parents nearby (I pass their street on my little "commute"), STBX from the area, although his parents aren't living that close anymore, private K-8 school boys attended (next to our church) only 8 minutes (the other way, but the commute is so short, I didn't care), grocery store/cleaners/pizza/blockbuster also 5 minutes from work and home. Once the boys started HS, their commute was 35 minutes, but I found a carpool until they started driving, and once they drove and paid for their own gas they arranged carpools with boys who lived nearby.

Since I'm in the country, 5 minutes is 4 miles, but it's all moving, no stop-n-go mess. It's a hassle if I want to go to the mall, a gourmet grocery store or most medical appointments, but those are not every day errands. I may be selling this house next spring, and I can't afford to buy another house 5 minutes from work (besides, it's all single-family on 1+ acre, no townhouses, small houses or public water), so I will end up with a 20-25 minute commute going against traffic -- most people live 'out' & commute 'in'.

OT from yesterday (I was in class last night, but I loved this):

Step 1 is the question: "Do you work?" Step 2 is the answer: "I'm a stay-at-home-mom OR teacher OR nurse OR secretary OR Wal-Mart greeter" OR anything else that may not sound sufficiently prestigious to Cream of the Crop and her ilk. Step 3 is either a follow-up question (yeah!!) or look of sudden disinterest, combined with looking over my shoulder for someone with a perceived-to-be more interesting answer to "do you work?". Step 4 is trying not to slap the asker for communicating his or her disdain so clearly.

Oh, MN, I LOVE this description! I've gotten the over-the-shoulder, isn't-there-an-*important*-person-here treatment more times than I care to remember, both as a SAHM and as a teacher (yep, I'm 0-for-2 in the prestige department). And you're right, people just don't recognize how annoying this is unless they've been subject to the 'treatment.'

You're pretty smart for someone who likes mushy crabmeat ;-)

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 19, 2007 9:18 AM

educmom_615,
I so know what you mean. If I am talking to one of my docs and another doc walks up (not one of mine) he will immediately start talking. Of course what I am saying, the mere nurse, can't possibly be as important as what he, the "these hands are touched by God surgeon", has to say.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 9:21 AM

Didn't MN once talk about the cocktail party handshake? When someone is being introduced to you and is looking over your shoulder to see if someone more important is present.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 9:23 AM

My husband and I (pre-kids) used to rent and work in Alexandria; when people asked us why we didn't just buy a house in say, Woodbridge instead, we used to laugh. At the time, our mortgage might have been less expensive in comparison to our rent payment, but then any difference saved would go into a second car, gas, and therapy bills because we were trapped on 95 twice each day. No thanks.

I'll second the props to Richmond. We moved here 11 years ago; I work 1 mile from our home, my husband is 15 mins by car. No therapy needed (at least not because of the commute).

Posted by: kate07 | September 19, 2007 9:23 AM

"What changes have you made to your life to avoid -- or take advantage of -- a long daily commute?"

We moved 1,000 miles from DC to Western Wisconsin!

My husband's company has a small office in Western Wisconsin that they are trying to grow. When my husband - a valued employee - was starting to become discontented because he was leaving home at 6 am and coming home around 9 pm most days and working a lot of weekends while living in DC, they let us move out to this office.

While my husband does have to do some occasional travel, we feel it's worth the balance. When he's home, his commute is about 10 minutes...if he hits the two traffic lights wrong. And we love when someone asks if it's okay that we have to come to "the other side of town". That never takes more than 15 minutes!

Since everyone here actually values family life, his work hours here are more flexible, generally shorter, and "work casual" seems to mean shorts and sandals - it's DC's "work casual" that is standard here. My husband's suits are actually gathering dust.

I've got several grocery stores (not to mention a great seasonal Farmer's Market), a SuperTarget that's actually a market testing location, and our local mall (actually not that great, but it's there) with surrounding shopping district within a 3 mile drive. I'm actually considering getting a Vespa, since the traffic is light enough and many people drive motorcycles, so the dangers are lessened.

We don't have kids, but we don't have the "I need to start looking for day care the day before I get pregnant" wait around here. If we have one, I don't anticipate a problem finding good day care. Hell, half the people on my street have baby-sitters (not quite as full service as a nanny - usually a young woman to watch the kids for about 6 hours who will make lunch).

Are there things we miss about living in DC? Yep - but not too many. Minnesota's Twin Cities are nearby for anything our little city can't provide and our families are still located in big East Coast cities so we visit.

We know we're lucky, trust us.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | September 19, 2007 9:27 AM

Side note to kate07 from yesterday: any time someone talks about "just a paralegal", simply say the name "Pamela Jones".

PJ, as she's known, runs a website www.groklaw.net It started out as a hobby where she could explain legal proceedings to those not in the profession.

Then she got caught up following the bizarre set of legal cases foisted on the business world by a company called The SCO Group, in which the company claimed to own all rights to the Unix operating system, claimed that all versions of Linux infringed on their property, and started suing. They sued IBM, Novell, AutoZone, DaimlerChrysler and threatened to sue most of the Fortune 500. To those of us not in the legal profession, it was completely mystifying.

But PJ started doing research and following the cases, and started publishing the truth on Groklaw. She cut through the FUD; she found the true sources; she got people involved.

She did such a great job that IBM's law firm started citing her work in its court filings. When a Park Avenue law firm cites an unaffiliated paralegal's work in Federal court, it tends to get noticed!

The cases are finally winding down with SCO in bankruptcy court (they didn't actually own the rights they thought they owned; there was no infringing code; and the money they got from Microsoft should have been paid to Novell, not SCO's lawyers). The good guys and gals are winning.

Pamela Jones is regarded by many in the computer community as a true hero. And trust me, none of us looks on paralegals with anything but great respect. (The same cannot be said of how we look upon lawyers, particularly those who represented SCO, but I digress.)


So the next time somebody says something about "just a paralegal", drop PJ's name and accomplishments.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 9:29 AM

Army Brat - you are impressive. By the way, if you has to put down roots, Howard County isn't too bad. I know the area is different from the 70s, but so am I (mostly in my butt and belly).

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 9:34 AM

KLB, I think I remember MN describing the 'cocktail party' handshake. She excels at describing those little cutting ways some people just seem to have. (I've come to realize a lot of them are very insecure, no matter how successful they are, and I would feel sorry for them if their insecurity took a less obnoxious form).

Free period's over -- back to the kiddies!

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 19, 2007 9:35 AM

"I know the area is different from the 70s, but so am I (mostly in my butt and belly)."

dotted, thank you for making me snort my iced tea out my nose. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | September 19, 2007 9:40 AM

I agree with richierichsr - it's all about choices. I think everyone weighs the pros and cons of where they live and work very carefully before making decisions. For some people, a long commute is worth it for a job they love and living in a place they love. For other people, the time is more valuable. Just don't complain about having a long commute when it's your choice to do so.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 19, 2007 9:41 AM


I saw early on this nugget of advice that controlling commute times was key to managing a family along with 2 academic careers. It certainly has worked for us, to keep us involved and active in both throughout the day.

Now with 7 and 10yo's, in Atlanta, we are 1 mile from DH's work, 2 miles from mine, 1 mile from kids' school; aftercare (which kids are bused to) is on DH's campus. Regular grocery shopping is within 1/2 mile, 'specials' shopping (Whole Foods, Trader Joes's, Sam's Club, Target) within 5 miles. As others mentioned, the kids' activities are the biggest stretch, though all but soccer are within 3 miles (our activity load for 2 kids: soccer (2 practices + games), jazz dance, piano lessons, cooking class, Brownies and Juniors). Soccer is probably 8 miles but 25 minutes in traffic, with some weekend travel games up to an hour away.

Typical morning, unless DH has to take a car so he can do an activity carpool at day's end: leave house at 7:45, drop both kids at school, drop DH at work, continue to my work, in office by 8:15. Nonactivity evening: DH walks to kids' aftercare (7 minute walk), I have 20 minute drive (traffic) to pick them all up there, 10 minute drive home.
Long days are leave office 4:30, pick up soccer carpoolmates at home at 4:40, pick up dd at aftercare 5:00, drop at soccer practice 5:25, home at 5:50 (other family picks up at practice's end).

Another nice thing about being close is we can volunteer in the schools, pop in and pop out --- I lead a biweekly Junior Great Books reading circle, DH does weekly in-class science demos, we can easily interrupt our day for these things. We can also accept the occasional right-after-school activity --- dd#1 could only schedule piano weekly at 2:45, so DH picks her up directly from school that day to shuttle her (we've always got plenty of portable work, grading or reading/editing).

Before our kids hit school age, we had a sitter (often shared with a neighbor family) in our house or our neighbors' a few doors down. No shuttling there. Kids also did preschool, one on DH's campus, earlier one about 4 miles away before we got our parenting logistics act together; again, we were able to carpool and pop out to do a midday carpool run returning kids home to the sitter (there goes the lunch hour).

It's always tricky getting the activity/preschool pickups worked out, and especially arranging carpools, but it makes a lot more possible when your work and home lives are mingled, within a small perimeter.

Some mention other cities as more difficult. DC is probably quite tough. But some have mentioned Boston --- we did a sabbatical in Boston. Kids' excellent public school and daycare, many parks, swimming pool, library were walkable to our apartment (older duplex, small 3br, small yard), with a 3-mile, 20 minute commute to Harvard Square (and 25 minutes to BU). So a lot more is often doable if one chooses housing stock that works adequately for a family now, even if not as spacious/modern/large-yard as one might idealize. Often the sense of community/immersion in your neighborhood compensates for the smaller house. Our rent while in Boston (actually, Belmont) at $1700/month was less than daycare for a toddler there ($1950/month); both were comparable to our sitter costs (for both kids) and more than our mortgage costs in Atlanta.

So opportunities vary with different situations, but even in the same work locale families find different options viable depending on how much they prioritize living close by work.

Posted by: kbatl | September 19, 2007 9:42 AM

dotted - TMI! TMI!

JK - LOL

(and yes, I have just been texting with oldest DD as she heads from French class to Chem Lab!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 9:45 AM

Usually a lurker, I have a dilemma and need help making a decision.

I'm in a full-time job currently that offers no upward mobility unless I want to move to headquarters three hours away (I don't). I'm bored out of my skull with my job, but it is extremely flexible. I can work from home at least once a week, pick my kids up from school once a week, and my boss is a very nice person. However, as I've said there's no hope for promotion with this company, and I'm so bored.

I've been offered a job at a major university which offers tuition benefits, not just for me but also after a few years for my children and my husband. There are absolutely opportunities for advancement at this job. I know I could be successful. I could get my Masters' degree, my husband could finish his, and assuming I liked working at the university (and it's supposed to be a fantastic place to work), my kids' college would essentially be 75% paid for. However, I cannot possibly hope to have the same flexibility I have here.

What to do? What do you suggest? I am really very confused right now.

Posted by: wondering | September 19, 2007 9:45 AM

I'm always surprised and disappointed to see how much schadenfreude there is by folks who live outside major metropolitan areas about the commutes suffered by those who live inside them.

I live in Fairfax/Alexandria just inside the DC beltway. Part of the reason we've made that choice is that this general area of NoVA has very strong public schools. Aside from that, we simply happen to like the area. Why is there such a prevailing attitude of, "Well then you deserve to suffer!!!" amongst those who have moved somewhere less urban? What's with the strawman that everyone in DC lives here because they want a McMansion?

There is no such thing as a reverse commute in DC anymore. ProudMama drives 40-55 minutes each way to Tyson's. I drive about 45 each way to work out west on I-66. By the time we get home each night we make and serve dinner, dump the boy in the bath, read a few stories and all of a sudden it's his bedtime.

The commute definitely saps away family time and replaces it with stressful bumper-to-bumper time. We are hoping that this price we are paying is returned to us in the form of (1) not working at jobs we hate in a region we hate even more (2) giving us access to top-notch FREE public education which hopefully leads to less worries about the kids development later in life.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 19, 2007 9:46 AM

Army Brat - TMI? nah, the endless athletic comeback continues....

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 9:51 AM

My commute is 45 mins door to door, 30 mins of which is on the train. I live within walking distance of a metro station, though I usually get a ride from my wife in the morning. It's not as short as I would like it, but being on the train that long allows me to do work, read a book, or watch tv/movies. Most days I can play with the kids 30 mins to an hour in the morning, and 30 mins at night and give them a bath. So the commute does not cut into life that much.

Posted by: cliffmerrell | September 19, 2007 9:51 AM

wondering - take the job. You just the word 'boring' a lot. Grab life and do it. Otherwise, life will treat you like roadkill (run you over and never look back).

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 9:53 AM

OT to ArmyBrat--thanks for the info. I'll dig into the site more thoroughly; a quick glance proved interesting. Loved the Groklaw gear!

Posted by: kate07 | September 19, 2007 9:56 AM

to Anne.saunders - our piano teacher comes to our house, if you have your own piano, you might want to call around and see if you can find someone to do that. Good luck!

Posted by: jjtwo | September 19, 2007 9:58 AM

Commuting? Somedays, my commute is all the way from the bedroom to the computer table!

Commuting? I feel a song coming on! Check back at noon.

I am thinking "Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree." Got the chorus already, just need to work out the verse.

Posted by: Songster | September 19, 2007 9:58 AM

My husband and I lucked out with our commutes. We moved to where we are because at the time I was driving into downtown Baltimore and he was commuting to Bethesda, so we settled in the only place between the two where we could afford a house (Baltimore County, west of the city). His commute to Bethesda was horrible. My commute downtown was bearable, and even more so when I realized I could take public transportation--by adding about 15 minutes to my commute each day, I was able to save a ton of money on parking, gas, insurance, maintenance, etc. plus saving a LOT of headaches from the drive itself. Daycare was right along the bus route within walking distance of home.

Then our jobs disappeared--his outsourced overseas, mine eliminated for budgetary reasons. When we landed jobs again, he was significantly closer to home, and while my new job wasn't accessible by public transportation anymore (I looked it up--it would take three hours to go the 12 miles!), the commute was easier--against traffic and over lightly traveled roads. Neither of us commutes more than 30 minutes now, so we don't have to leave home early and we're home in time to make dinner, run errands, play with the kids, walk the dog, and have a leisurely bedtime routine.

Posted by: sarahfran | September 19, 2007 10:08 AM

"I CHOOSE to live walking distance to work & stores. So I don't have a MacMansion, but I CHOOSE convienience over size"


Of course there are some trade offs, bullets flying through the windows, burglar bars, crack deals in the front yard,sleeping in the bathtub, but hey no commuting!

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 10:09 AM

I have this image of songster doing his grocery shopping and suddenly breaking out in a song like in ANNIE, "The sun will come out tomorrow, betcha bottom dollar.......etc in the fruit section ;0

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 10:12 AM

wondering--take the job. It sounds like a fabulous opportunity, and you may find that flexibility is something you can arrange after being there for a while. Of course a lot of that depends on the nature of your job, but I've found that non-profits and academia tend to be more open minded about allowing flexibility to their employees.

Posted by: sarahfran | September 19, 2007 10:12 AM

Wow, this topic is timely for me. My husband and I had this conversation this morning. We thought we might try for a third, but being able to afford something in a neighborhood that would make the commute easier, but not allow us to increase our family size is something we're considering. WE DON'T LIKE LONG COMMUTE.

Posted by: lourd | September 19, 2007 10:12 AM

proudpapa15 "I'm always surprised and disappointed to see how much schadenfreude there is by folks who live outside major metropolitan areas about the commutes suffered by those who live inside them."

Seriously! I once heard that in the US, fans hope people win "Who Want to Be a Millionaire," but in Russia, they root against them. So, non-metropolitan dwellers aren't REAL Americans. Heh.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 10:16 AM

no, the Songster does not have a singing voice and he knows it! But he always has a tune running thru his head and a smile on his face. And people wonder why he is so happy!

Posted by: Songster | September 19, 2007 10:17 AM

I agree with richierichsr - it's all about choices. I think everyone weighs the pros and cons of where they live and work very carefully before making decisions. For some people, a long commute is worth it for a job they love and living in a place they love. For other people, the time is more valuable. Just don't complain about having a long commute when it's your choice to do so.


Posted by: dennis5 | September 19, 2007 09:41 AM

I hate to break it to both of you, dennis and richie, but you need to distinguish between the people who reject Falls Church for Loudon because they want a bigger lawn (NTTAWWT) and the people who are priced out of the market inside the Beltway. The first group may deserve your scorn, although your brush is pretty broad. OTOH, if you work downtown at a restaurant as a bus boy, the Marriott, Borders, Kinkos, a nail salon or anywhere else where you make less than $25,000, and if you are past the group-house-on-Capitol-Hill stage of life, the prices for housing within a 10 minute commute or within walking distance of the Metro are way beyond your means. Talking about commutes and ignoring the financial realities for the working poor or many of the under-30 without multiple degrees set is silly.

and thanks, educmom and KLB, LOL. I live to serve.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 10:22 AM

ATB- The germans called it "schadenfreude", the American urbanites call it "playa hating".....I wonder what the Russians call it?

Of course, if Regis is involved in the Russian version, I'm rooting against everyone involved.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 19, 2007 10:22 AM

I made choices to stay close to home when my children were in early grades. My husband traveled a lot and somebody needed to be around.

Now that they're older I have a longer commute, and it really does suck a lot of time out of the day. I'm glad I didn't do that when my kids were littler.

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 19, 2007 10:23 AM

to wondering.....

Your post left more questions than answers

How long have you been at your current job, and what benefits will you give up, or cut back if you leave? Things look different with only 1-2 years on the current job, as opposed to losing the existing flexibility, leaving pension, less vacation, etc.

Are you job skills something that are exclusive to this job and the university job? If not, keep looking while you are employed.

Free tuition may work only for you.
Does you husband want tuition also?
What if your kids decide to attend college somewhere else, if at all?

My friends at universities tell me that sometimes it can be a very political environment. If so, is this what you want?

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 19, 2007 10:29 AM

We chose our house in part for its proximity to my husband's office (20 min drive) and to public transit for me to get downtown (25 min train ride).

Then my husband's team was moved to an office 45 min away, and his client (where he is two days a week) is over an hr away. My new job is a 40 min drive away, or a 1 hr 15 min transit trip... and then I have to lug my tired out toddler on the bus. Yah, keeping the car for now.

So, life changes. We actually may look at moving if we both stay where we are; we could live midway between our two home-base offices. If no one gets moved. Again.

We cope by swinging shifts - I work 8-4 (ish) and do pick up; he works 9:30 - 6 (ish) and does drop off.

I have read that if you take all the transportation costs into consideration, moving out may not save that much money in your budget. That's really our experience BUT we still prefer the lower mortgage in case of layoffs, etc. Commuting to work is a work expense, not a living expense, for us.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | September 19, 2007 10:35 AM

The russians are probably the best and only people to try communism. They wish ill on their fellow man and communism plays to that quite nicely. There is an old story about russians. The Russian farmer finds a magic lantern on the side of the road. He rubs it, and a genie appears who promises to grant him one wish. The farmer thinks for a moment then says: "My neighbor has a cow. I don't have a cow. I wish my neighbor's cow dead.". Pretty much sums them up. Btw, that story was told to me by my russian neighbor.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 10:37 AM

wondering --

Take the job. I've been in boring job hell, and the tradeoffs aren't worth it.

I know it works for some people. If you absolutely live for a particular hobby or pursuit, then it may be worth it to take a boring job that allows you to do that (think of all the Big Hardware Store commercials bragging about the Olympic athletes who work there while training). But that doesn't sound like you. You mention career advancement several times, you talk about how boring and uninteresting the job is -- in short, you sound like someone for whom career satisfaction and advancement is important.

And if that stuff matters to you, you're not doing yourself any favors by just giving up on it. It's hard, I know -- giving up the safety of the bird in hand requires a leap of faith (and boy, do those benefits loom a LOT larger when you're thinking of giving them up!). But you just have trust yourself: look at the worst-case scenario (you don't like the job and have to look for another), and know that you can handle that.

Posted by: laura33 | September 19, 2007 10:37 AM

and laura, our analysis strongly resembled yours, which is why we left DC. We loved it, but couldn't afford to live close-in, and didn't want to have to make the lifestyle choices we'd have needed to make in order to be able to live close-in. Here, we have the best of all worlds, for us, including good jobs, a variety of commute options, and houses in great neighborhoods for $200K.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 10:46 AM

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 10:37 AM

pATRICK, What a hoot! I will never understand those who would wish ill on others rather than work to improve their own lives, but c'est la vie.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 10:51 AM


I have a commute that is a bit of a bear. People ask me and I say, "too long and too far and the less I think about it...'

But when we moved to take my job in New Orleans, we could not afford housing & private school in N.O. On balance for the family, the school, shopping and other amenities are very near as is Frieda's job. It is the sacrifice that I make to live in a small town where my kids can go around by themselves. One of these days they might appreciate this fact.

Commuting to N.O. can be interesting. We have seen over the years, our share of car wrecks, been in car wrecks, airplanes landing on the interstate, fights in the middle of the road and dead bodies in the street. Never see a tank go down the interstate though!

Posted by: Fred | September 19, 2007 10:56 AM

BTW, the FQOTD was posted late last night. Have a look if you are so inclined.

Posted by: Fred | September 19, 2007 10:58 AM

Fred,

My recollection of commuting in N.O. was: never abandon your car. If your car breaks down/runs out of gas on the interstate (I-10, mostly) and you leave it unattended, it will be completely stripped within 15 minutes.

One of the TV stations did an expose: they would set up a hidden camera in the weeds, then "abandon" a car by the side of the road. Roving gangs in trucks would come by - they would have the tires, radios, seats, and anything else of value gone within minutes. Then they'd drive on looking for the next fool.

After moving to Maryland, it took me quite a while to get used to seeing cars abandoned by the side of the road and not stripped to bare metal.

(Of course, that was pre-K. I don't know if the same conditions exist now.)

And, woo-hoo; I got a mention in FQOTD!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 11:24 AM

AB,

Nothing much has changed in that respect!

Posted by: Fred | September 19, 2007 11:31 AM

And, woo-hoo; I got a mention in FQOTD!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 11:24 AM
Don't let it go to your head :-)

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 11:34 AM

My Tulane alum friends, both of whom were mugged while walking with companions and at about 10 p.m. on a relatively well-lit commercial street, LOL, are absolutely committed to never leaving any item -- even a stray pop-tart -- in a passenger compartment of a vehicle, lest the attraction of those items cause someone to vandalize the vehicle. All items must ALWAYS go in the trunk no matter what city or town they visit, or whose car it is, LOL. They are each long past their undergrad days but evidently, those NO habits live on.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 11:37 AM

AB/MN -- My boss used to park by the Baltimore train station for his daily commute into DC. He'd leave it unlocked and with the windows rolled down, because he didn't want to deal with the hassle of replacing a broken window (which would probably have been more than the car was worth). :-)

Posted by: laura33 | September 19, 2007 11:45 AM

okay, laura, THAT's funny, LOL. What a practical guy, although I would be a bit embarrassed to call my insurer and explain that I left my car unlocked car at a public lot next to the train station.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 11:48 AM

MN, that led to one of the all-time great jokes, which some people still swear is true. In 1980, the first year of the bag-heads (the 'Aints went 1-15 and many believe the "1" was fixed), you couldn't sell or give away your tickets. So a guy left his two tickets on his car windshield, under the wiper. They'll be stolen, he thought.

When he came back there were FOUR tickets on his windshield - his two and two more. The next day there were eight; then 16. He finally gave up - nobody would even STEAL a ticket that year.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 11:49 AM

songster - you feel a song coming on? Reminds me of a scene in "monty python and the holy grail".......

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 11:52 AM

One of my friends who lived in houston and hated it told me this. One of his friends broke down on the outkirts of Houston. A car pulled up and he thought that they would give him a hand, instead they robbed him. My friend said 'See they didn't even give him the courtesy of letting him get INTO Houston before they robbed him". Man he hated Houston.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 11:57 AM

Commuting convenience is the key to my balance out here in Seattle. I live 2.5 miles from work, my home is about 3 miles from the school my daughters attend. My husband teaches at a school about 7 miles from our home. Though I usually drive, I try to ride my bike 1 day per week and I could take public transportaiton very conveniently if I wasn't so lazy/self-centered. We live 6 blocks from Queen Anne Ave., which has stores, restaurants, library, community pool, farmers market, etc. Yes, we paid a huge amount for this home, given its location. And while it has unbelievable charm, it's not really big. Still, I would do it again in a heartbeat. In terms of quality of life, it can't be beat.

Posted by: rdaszkiewicz | September 19, 2007 12:00 PM

dotted, which scene? There are so many good choices, what with the Black Knight, the coconuts. I hated what they did to it to create Spamalot.

"Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

Bring out yer dead!

we could go on all day with French jokes alone.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 12:02 PM

The russians are probably the best and only people to try communism. They wish ill on their fellow man and communism plays to that quite nicely. There is an old story about russians. The Russian farmer finds a magic lantern on the side of the road. He rubs it, and a genie appears who promises to grant him one wish. The farmer thinks for a moment then says: "My neighbor has a cow. I don't have a cow. I wish my neighbor's cow dead.". Pretty much sums them up. Btw, that story was told to me by my russian neighbor.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 10:37 AM

Can't help but thinking that as a Russian who emigrated to the US, he's a little biased and probably unlikely to sum up the Russian system correctly. Would you want someone who was frustrated with the US and moved to France telling anecdotes that summed up what America is like? I think it's best we understand that as Americans living in a capitalist society, and having never lived in communism (ok maybe some of you *stayed* in a communist country for brief periods, not what I'm talking about) we can't truly understand both systems. I'm not sure capitalism is real great, it just apparently is more stable than communism, not sure that makes it better, or just better implemented.

Posted by: _Miles | September 19, 2007 12:03 PM

My commute is about 30 minutes in the morning, an hour in the afternoon. I had about 20 minutes both ways for same distance living elsewhere in the county, but we moved for cheaper housing, and better access to stores than where we were before (as well as moving closer to family which I never thought I'd want to do until we moved away). I live in SoCal, so public transportation is a joke (3 hours of trolley/bus transfers totally out of my way to get to where I work, NOT including traffic). Cars are a staple of life here. The worst for me now is I'm going to school part time, so beyond the morning and evening to/from work commute usually drive over to university (30-40 mins each way) for a long "lunch" of lecture. I don't mind the drive, it gives me some time to myself with some good music to listen to. Have an older car that I wish was a hybrid and got better mileage since the gas is certainly killing me, but I feel that my job at my current place of work and my degree are going to be very important to me a few years down the line so am putting up with it. No kids in the picture and have no plans, so that takes some of the sting out of it. Husband's commute is about the same, just no school.

Posted by: _Miles | September 19, 2007 12:08 PM

Wondering -- I may be in the minority here, but I would take "Bored with Flexibility" over a more demanding job any day. You can always ratchet up the job when you don't need quite so much flextime.

Commuting is one of these things that is fine before kids. And like daycare costs, it's hard to plan for before you actually have to (as an aside, NPR's Tell Me More show yesterday quoted a financial expert who said daycare should account for 1% of a family's budget!!!!! some expert).

Time stuck in a car is time away from kids and sleep. My commute used to be 45 to 90 minutes, pre kids. Time just wasn't as precious then. Now my commute is basically zero except for meetings. My husband's commute is 10 minutes. Our kids's school is 10 minutes away.

A short commute is key to balance even if it means choosing a smaller yard (or no yard) instead of little pink houses for you and me. (John Cougar Mellencamp -- gearing up for the song parody contest on Friday).

Posted by: leslie4 | September 19, 2007 12:10 PM

To Dotted and other computer experts: How much do you think telecommuting from home will expand in, say, the next five years? Do you anticipate a sea-change in the definition of work-place, and if so, how long do you think it will take to achieve? Will people start doing more of their routine chores online, even shopping?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 12:13 PM

Leslie- OK, but only if it's 1% of a year's salary per child per month. So, $1500/month at $150,000 in DC almost works. Good luck finding it cheaper...

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 12:15 PM

I'm not sure capitalism is real great, it just apparently is more stable than communism, not sure that makes it better, or just better implemented.


Spoken like a true american liberal raised in the bosom of a wealthy, peaceful country that you are unsure of whether Communism really was all that bad. Millions killed by Stalin, Gulags, berlin wall, etc. You sound like a guy in a book I read. The author was sent to a north korean prison after his family(ferverent communists) moved from japan TO North Korea and all of their possesions were confiscated by the Communists. He was 10 at the time,15 years later he was freed and made his way to South Korea via China. He ran into pro communist students who told him he didn't really understand the "true" nature of Kim Jong Il's communist regime.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 12:16 PM

In keeping with today's theme, here is my song entitled "Can't Get There!"

To the tune of Big Black Horse and the Cherry Tree
KT Tunstall

{Two, three, four}

(woo-hoo, woo-hoo) [throughout the whole song]

Well my Tom Tom knows me better than I know myself
So I'm gonna let it do all the talking.
I came across a wreck in the middle of nowhere
With a big traffic jam and it's stalling me.

I felt a little fear upon my back
Tom Tom said "Don't look back, just keep on driving."
When the big state cop said, "Hey lady!" {When the big state cop said, "Drive this way"}
Said, "Drive this way, will you move around me?" {Said, "Hey, lady, will you move around me?"}

But I said no, no, no, no-no-no
I said no, no, can't get there, not before three!
No, no, no, no-no-no
I said no, no, can't get there, not before three!

And my car hit a bump in the early hours,
So I stopped it dead for a flat or two.
But it cut a tire and I should have known it,
And the wrecker is taking what seems years

So I am sitting there in a place in the middle of nowhere
With a big traffic jam and it's stalling me.
Now don't, don't, don't, don't back up, you'll crash into me.
And now I've got a whole world I'm waiting to see

And it said no, no, no, no-no-no
Said no, no, can't get there before three!
No, no, no, no-no-no-no
Said no, no, can't get there before three!

{Not gonna' be there by three}

Said no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,
Can't get there before three!
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
Can't get there, not before three!

(do, do, do, do)

Well I was in the middle of nowhere and then it happened
Big traffic crash and it's stalling me
I can't quite get there 'cause my car's forsaken me
Big traffic crash and it's stalling me
(Big traffic crash and it's stalling me) I can't quite get there 'cause my car's forsaken me

(Big traffic crash and it's stalling me) I can't quite get there 'cause my car's forsaken me

(fades out...)

Posted by: Songster | September 19, 2007 12:18 PM

pATRICK- Oh, snap. That was a GOOD one.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 12:20 PM

pATRICK -

spot on.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 12:23 PM

I lived in Silver Spring for 4 years in the 1980's. I had 2 different jobs during that time, and I commuted on the metro to both (walking 1 block to catch the ride-on bus). I miss the metro every day, even though it has been over 20 years since I lived there! I am surprised at how many metro D.C'ers say they drive instead of using it. I live in a a big city area that has no reliable public transportation (metro Detroit, pt squashed by the auto industry). How I long for a subway!

Posted by: cjbriggs | September 19, 2007 12:23 PM

This topic, as well as the underlying cost of housing, is exactly why I am moving in less than a week. I love DC and all that is around here, but I hate that I can have a good job, making very close to 100k and can't reasonably afford housing within a decent commute. Add in family responsibilities, and I'm hitting the road.

Giving up the stress, heat and $40 hair cuts (on a good day) is worth the pay cut I'm going to take to be near my brand new niece.

Posted by: cardinal_gal | September 19, 2007 12:40 PM

What a topic - near and dear to my heart since I began this insanity 4 weeks ago. I drop off my 3 month old at the babysitter's house (in my neighborhood) 7:45am, then 3 year old and I drive to the metro which can take 10 - 30 minutes depending on traffic (usually 10 though). Park at metro and ride 40 minutes. Drop her off at pre-school (10 minutes). Walk to my office (15 minutes). Do the reverse coming home. On a good day it takes me about two hours to get home from the time I leave my office until we walk in the front door around 7:30pm. That's why she only goes to her pre-school 3 times a week. On tuesday and thursdays I leave the house by 6:30am so I can get into work early enough to leave early enough to get back to my neighborhood by 5:45pm. And that's with no rain, snow, broken escalator or elevator, or delayed train. I recommended the maclaren volo stroller, an ipod, lots of snacking on metro (there's a good messag eto send the kid), and my cardinal rule - if mommy says a bad word while driving, I pay her a quarter. I had to give her a quarter this morning. And I think I had a baby 3 months ago that I seem to recall seeing this morning at 4:30am for a feeding. All this so I can live in a townhouse in a suburb and have a facinating job? Probably not worth it. Probably can't last much longer.

Posted by: traciemonkey | September 19, 2007 12:54 PM

cjbriggs -- two comments -- metro hasn't kept pace with suburb to suburb commuting (Montgomery County to Tysons or Dulles Toll Road corridor is one example) and its aging infrastructure is starting to catch up with it. The costs have gone up quite a bit as well - especially if you drive and park at the station (mine is $4 per day which I gladly pay because I don't find Ride-On reliable enough).

Posted by: tntkate | September 19, 2007 12:54 PM

Re: daycare accounting for 1% of your budget... I couldn't find a dog-sitter on 1% of our salaries. (Bad part about Richmond - lower pay!)

I would take the bus, but I live in Midlothian (suburb of Richmond) and the busses don't even go out there. I had a 30 minute drive when I worked downtown, and about a 15 - 20 minute drive to the Willow Lawn area where I work now.

Posted by: RiverCityVA | September 19, 2007 1:01 PM

Here's a perspective I don't generally see on this blog...

For all the things wrong with cities, as a minority I'm just more comfortable living in them. And it's not that I must be surrounded by other minorities to be comfortable. It's that I don't enjoy being stared at by folks in places where the minority population approaches zero.

So, for some it is an easy decision to pack up and move to big sky country. But I have an additional factor that I need to add to that computation. Will I feel comfortable in the grocery store? How will my family make friends? Do we have to endure years of feeling like outsiders before we make enough friends for the place to feel like home? What is the impact to my kids' ability to make friends?

Not saying I'd never move to a rural place. I'm just saying it isn't an open/shut case.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 19, 2007 1:04 PM

"How far do you drive to work and/or your children's schools or other daily destinations?"

Posted by Leslie Morgan Steiner '87

An hour each way, not counting a stopover at our former home, which was ten minutes from work.

"What is your commuting balancing act?" (Leslie)

Ain't no balance. I drop our youngest off at school at 6:30 AM and drive to work. My wife picks him up at 10:15 PM and brings him home to sleep, except on Tuesday nights, when I pick him up and bring him home.

"What changes have you made to your life to avoid -- or take advantage of -- a long daily commute?" (Leslie)

"[A]void . . . a long daily commute?" Au contraire! The big change to my life came when our oldest was ready for school, and we wanted a school that would teach our children to pass on our legacy. No way is any kid of mine gonna ride an hour each way to school, so we moved from being ten minutes from work and an hour from school to being an hour from work and seven minutes from school.

"My opinion is that when the length of your commute starts dictating the size of your family, it's time to find another job or another house." (Leslie)

You've got that right, Leslie, for shizzle! What has dictated both our family size and the length of my commute was expressed last year by Phillip Longman in his Foreign Policy magazine article, "The Return of Patriarchy":

"The notion that legitimate children belong to their fathers' family, and not to their mothers', which has no basis in biology, gives many men powerful emotional reasons to want children, and to want their children to succeed in passing on their legacy." (Phillip Longman)

Powerful emotional reasons outweigh morning and evening driving, especially since most of the traffic is going the other way. See y'all on the Beltway!

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | September 19, 2007 1:05 PM

MN, I don't have scorn for anyone, I just don't have any sympathy for people who choose to have long commutes. Again, it's a choice they make to have a lifestyle they want, whether it's to have a big house, live in a certain area, make more money, or whatever else. They've decided the tradeoff of a long commute is worth it to them.

You said yourself: "We loved it, but couldn't afford to live close-in, and didn't want to have to make the lifestyle choices we'd have needed to make in order to be able to live close-in."

The bottom line is nobody is forced to have a long commute if they really don't want to.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 19, 2007 1:06 PM

Both hubby and I work at the same place: 8 minutes to daycare, 8 minutes from daycare to work, 10 minutes from work straight home. When DD was was in daycare, I could go on my lunch hour and nurse her. We could afford a McMansion out in the burbs with a 45-minute one-way commute but we've never lived more than 5 miles from work. It's a conscious decision made on the basis of my personality (my life span would be significantly shortened if I had to battle traffic everyday either as a result of an inevitable road rage incident or just the long-term effects of daily stress), the environment, and our overall quality of life. We have a nice house, enjoy being close to things, and laugh at ourselves when we kvetch about having to sit through two cycles of one of the traffic signals between us and the daycare center. We have it good and we know it.

Posted by: kk | September 19, 2007 1:10 PM

Commute was one of several reasons why I left the WDC area. I commuted from Centreville to downtown WDC, and it took at least one hour and 15 minutes each way (Vienna metro). My commute in Phoenix is about half an hour, and I carpool with my daughter, so that gives me an extra hour per day with her. Added bonus: I never have to shovel snow out of my driveway...

Not all folks living in the WDC area can afford to live close-in, but I agree with the posters who point out that some people choose these longer commutes when they choose to live in bedroom communities (such as Haymarket) so they can have a house three times the size of an older house in Arlington or Alexandria. Those folks have a choice and they choose a two-hour-plus commute. I can sort of understand needing a 3600-square-foot house if you have 10 kids, but my uncle and aunt raised 10 kids in a 2400-square-foot house in Arlington...

Posted by: pepperjade | September 19, 2007 1:18 PM

"Hallelujah Baltimore. My commute is 22 minutes with traffic, 16 minutes without (my husband's is under 10)."


But you have to live in Baltimore, don't ya?

Posted by: dctony | September 19, 2007 1:18 PM

Proud Papa, I understand what you're saying.

Tie-in to yesterday's blog alert: one of the questions which most annoyed my father from the time he turned 55 was, when are you going to move to a certain gated retirement community? I suspect he got this one a lot especially because he lived in a highly diverse urban neighborhood, which some people (though not I) seemed to think was unsafe for an older person. My dad could best be described as an, ahem, highly-ethnic white, so felt more comfortable living among people of all races, national origins, religions, orientations -- and he told me he felt so much younger living among people of all ages.

After his death, many of my father's neighbors told me how he was like the neighborhood grandfather to them all, and how fond they were of him. BTW, despite taking a long daily walk in his neighborhood, my father was never mugged -- although I attribute that in part to the likelihood that if someone had ever tried, he'd have beaten them to a bloody pulp with his cane (I could just picture the headlines!).

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 1:20 PM

MN, I don't have scorn for anyone, I just don't have any sympathy for people who choose to have long commutes. Again, it's a choice they make to have a lifestyle they want, whether it's to have a big house, live in a certain area, make more money, or whatever else. They've decided the tradeoff of a long commute is worth it to them.

You said yourself: "We loved it, but couldn't afford to live close-in, and didn't want to have to make the lifestyle choices we'd have needed to make in order to be able to live close-in."

The bottom line is nobody is forced to have a long commute if they really don't want to.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 19, 2007 01:06 PM

Well, Dennis, the bottom line is many people are forced to have a long commute they don't want because they can't afford to live near a metro or live downtown. Having a closed mind doesn't change reality. It's not a choice to live in Annandale because you can't afford to live in Old Town. It's not a choice to live in Hagerstown because you can't afford to live in Chevy Chase. Have you priced the difference between a one-bedroom apartment downtown and one in Herndon? It's laughable for you to assume that everyone has a choice - I guess all of your friends and acquaintances in 6 figures are all that matters.

Yes, my family had a choice only after I graduated from law school. Before that, we had no choice at all. We both worked downtown and would have LOVED to live there, but our incomes didn't come close to permitting it. I daresay that's not a choice many in this country have.

ProudPapa - I understand, but think that even appreciating your concerns, there are a ton of options nationwide other than DC, on the one hand, or rural Montana, on the other. The Triangle, for example, is approximately 13% African-American, last I checked the stats, and, more importantly ethnic minorities are represented in that same proportion in the middle-class. What about Pittsburgh? Richmond? Birmingham? Cincinnatti? San Diego?

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 1:27 PM

"Of course there are some trade offs, bullets flying through the windows, burglar bars, crack deals in the front yard,sleeping in the bathtub, but hey no commuting!"

There are always trade-offs. Sure, living in the city might get you killed. But living in the suburbs might also get you killed when some bored, spoiled teenager decides he is "hard" and starts shooting up people. Of course, if that doesn't happen, there's always the mind-numbing boredom inherent to cloned neighborhoods with their redundant Targets and Home Depots and Starbucks that make you only WISH you would get shot, because at least that would mean SOMETHING was happening. ;-)

Posted by: Monagatuna | September 19, 2007 1:35 PM

Worst commute: I have a friend who commutes coast-to-caost from Los Angeles to Dartmouth. He works for three or four weeks, then goes home for a week or two. He has been doing this for more than three years now. His wife has been a struggling screenwriter--she was picked up this season for Law and Order: SVU.T his may be the career break that will allow him to return to LA at a lower pay rate than he is currently making. They are truly an incredible couple...this would be impossible for a lot of marriages.

Posted by: pepperjade | September 19, 2007 1:39 PM

I live in Oakland and work in San Francisco. Mornings, I walk about 10 minutes to a casual carpool pick-up, and have a 12-15 minute walk from the drop-off to my office. There's no casual carpool going my way in the evenings, so I take AC Transit (best bus service in the country!). The bus pick-up and drop-off are the same places as the carpool, so I get a bit more walking in the evenings.

My commute was carefully planned to give me some exercise, and some "me time". I always have a book to read, although I'll have a conversation with the carpool driver in the mornings, if s/he initiates it.

Driving in the Bay Area isn't fun, and I absolutely refuse to drive at all in SF. It's insane. And since we have a really good network of public transportation here, I can get anywhere I want to without having to get into the car.

Kids - oh, yeah. Best child-care arrangement of anyone I know. DH is the SAHP. Until older son started high school last year, the kids were sleeping when I left for work in the mornings. Now I wake him for his shower after I finish mine. Younger son still sleeps in until DH wakes him.

My work hours are flexible. I'm in the office from 7:30 to 4:30, and my coworkers all come in later. One of them is rarely in the office before 3pm, but stays until late evening. I'm home by 5:30, and can take kids to music lessons (older son's piano / younger son's guitar), attend after school events, help with homework, share bedtime routines, and even have grown-up time with DH.

Posted by: sue | September 19, 2007 1:41 PM

because at least that would mean SOMETHING was happening. ;-)


HEY! Lots of interesting things happen out here, why just last week we saw a rabbit in our front yard! HAHA ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 1:43 PM

Sue: I miss the slug line...(is the one near the Grand Theatre still running?)

Posted by: kate07 | September 19, 2007 1:45 PM

pATRICK- You're on a roll today!

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 1:52 PM

Couple of other comments for those who say it is all your choice-

You fall in love with someone whose job is not near yours - do you decide not to get married because one of you will have a bad commute?

I know a lot of people in the construction industry (trades & professionals) so you spend 12 months on a project in Tysons, 18 months on a project in Charles County, 6 months on a project in Dulles, etc. - This is the nature of the business and I am sure there are others like this so you pick a house and a neighborhood you like and hope for the best.

Yes there are choices involved - you can change jobs after you marry, you can switch professions, etc. but it isn't necessarily easy.

Posted by: mom_of_1 | September 19, 2007 1:53 PM

Mona- Lots of things happen, like pATRICK seeing a rabbit. For instance, the neighborhood thought policeman could pull his golf cart up to your neighbor's yard and measure his grass to see if it's longer than allowed and leave a note. Also, someone may leave their car parked on the road instead of their driveway and get a ticket.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 1:55 PM

because at least that would mean SOMETHING was happening. ;-)

Hey now! We had BIG excitement last month when the Safeway added SOUP to the salad bar!!

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 19, 2007 1:56 PM

"But you have to live in Baltimore, don't ya?"

Awwww, come on, hon, you know you really wanna.

Proud Papa, that was one of our big issues when we moved to CO a few years back -- didn't realize before we went, but once we got there, it was just so white. For me, it wasn't a matter of fitting in -- Scotch-Irish-German here = totally white bread (my husband was likely the city's token Jew, but he was pretty much oblivious on that front). But I had grown up in a bigger metropolitan area, and it just seemed weird being completely surrounded by people who looked just like me. Kind of like the line out of the Blues Brothers: "Oh, we got both kinds of music here: country AND western." I didn't like it that my daughter's only exposure to different cultures would be limited to whatever variety of takeout restaurant opened down the street, and that other nationalities would be "different" and "other." I'm much more comfortable where we are now.

Posted by: laura33 | September 19, 2007 1:58 PM

You guys crack me up! What other interesting things happen in the 'burbs? (I wouldn't know. I live in the library.)

Posted by: Monagatuna | September 19, 2007 1:58 PM

You guys crack me up! What other interesting things happen in the 'burbs? (I wouldn't know. I live in the library.)

I'm sorry there is an initiation rite and a code of omerta...............breaking these might cause me to be shunned at the annual block party, sorry. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 2:04 PM

Thanks Laura, Mehitabel.

For bonus points, my skin tone is roughly the shade of Will Smith's, though he is not as attractive as I ;-). My wife is a blonde. When we visit my dad in southern GA, we're always pretty conscious of being "observed" at each and every rest stop and gas station along the way. It bothers her far more than it bothers me, though I prefer to live in a place where nobody looks twice at us, nor our incredibly beautiful little boy.

One of these days I'll churn out a guest blog. I just can't get a minute...

(MN, I'd agree with everywhere on your list except Birmingham. And I'd add Louisville. San Diego fits best as neither of us would need to switch careers, but San Diego isn't much cheaper than DC)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 19, 2007 2:11 PM

MN - the scene of a 'song coming on' from Monty Python was between a King and a Prince. The effeminate Prince shot an arrow out of the window saying something like 'save me as I'm being forced to marry' (a princess with "huge tracks of land"). The arrow hit a knight in the head, who felt compelled to save the prince with ensuing violence. remember now? The prince always felt a "song coming on"....

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 2:14 PM

mehitabel: I seek telecommuting as ever-growing. Even most of the VPs telecommute at HAL. With effective software, one can effectively telecommute. It takes more than an internet connection and a phone. And I don't see management jobs moving overseas, or marketing, or other jobs at the people/tech intersection. Only those jobs that can be semi-automated (like programming) are at risk. Yes, that is a bold statement, but I'm feeling bold right now.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 2:19 PM

I'm not sure capitalism is real great, it just apparently is more stable than communism, not sure that makes it better, or just better implemented.


Spoken like a true american liberal raised in the bosom of a wealthy, peaceful country that you are unsure of whether Communism really was all that bad. Millions killed by Stalin, Gulags, berlin wall, etc. You sound like a guy in a book I read. The author was sent to a north korean prison after his family(ferverent communists) moved from japan TO North Korea and all of their possesions were confiscated by the Communists. He was 10 at the time,15 years later he was freed and made his way to South Korea via China. He ran into pro communist students who told him he didn't really understand the "true" nature of Kim Jong Il's communist regime.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 12:16 PM

Wow, a book you read. Excellent real world experience. As stated, none of us have truly lived in both systems to be able to compare them. And comparing "communism" versus "capitalism" is completely different from comparing Korea under a crazy dictator to the US of A, the most wealthy of all nations. I didn't say I didn't think it was all that bad, I'm just saying communism and capitalism can both be manipulated by evil dictators to screw over entire populations. I just haven't been convinced capitalism is inherently any better than communism. Democracy yes, I am all for democracy. But when 9 million children don't have health insurance in this country and we claim to be capitalist, you do have to wonder...

Posted by: _Miles | September 19, 2007 2:19 PM

"I'm sorry there is an initiation rite and a code of omerta...............breaking these might cause me to be shunned at the annual block party, sorry. ;)"

pATRICK jus' doesn't want you to know that they're thinkin' o' puttin' in a second stop light in town.

(Plus last night a groundhog got in Miz Smith's garden and bit the tops off of four of her tomato plants! That's the most violent attack we've had 'round these parts in four years!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 2:21 PM

Must I remind you all of one of the best parts of living in the 'burbs - the cabana boy (or pool boy as he was called earlier this week). Or the lawn guy (think Desperate Housewives). Or the tree guy. C'mom - there's lots of excitement.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 2:22 PM

Miles my previous post has done all my talking.......

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 2:24 PM

KLB, My BFF's lawn guy doesn't look anything like the one on Desperate Housewives, alas.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:24 PM

KLB - you're cracking me up!

By the way, I'd say 50% of the homes around here have at least one parent telecommuting, at least part time, with most being full-time. Sortof changes the Deperate Housewives dynamic...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 2:25 PM

mehitabel,
Alas (heavy sigh). Neither does mine.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 2:25 PM

I thought the best part of living in the burbs is that you can never get out of your neighborhood on a snow day so you can call in "unable to get to work"! Can't do that if your boss knows you Metro and the Metro is running, LOL.

Seriously, though, and worth considering, the burbs of a large city are way more interesting than Main Street in deadsville.


Proud Papa, Your opinion on this is worth way more than mine, but, seriously, Louisville? The thought sends shivers up my spine on your behalf and that was before I knew your wife was blonde. I was tempted to suggest Albany and Akron but thought the boredom would kill you.

Monagatuna, Are you hanging in there? Have you found a martial arts studio to take your money before it runs out in December?

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 2:27 PM

MN and Proud Papa, I have to admit thinking the same thing about Louisville. Atlanta or Charlotte seem tops...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 2:30 PM

To anyone who thinks bunnies in the yard are cute or interesting or whatever:

I can assure you that those of us with home vegetable garden beg to differ. Ditto for moles, voles, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, possums, deer, groundhogs, and all their voracious ilk.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:30 PM

Dotted, I'd be interested in your opinions on the question(s) I posted at 12:13. Thanks.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:34 PM

To anyone who thinks bunnies in the yard are cute or interesting or whatever:

No kidding, they eat at my wife's garden like it was a Cici's all you can eat pizza buffett. Fox urine seems to help a little.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 2:36 PM

mehitabel: see 2:19 post

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 2:36 PM

_Miles, I know a number of people who have truly lived under both systems. They're people I worked with in Toronto after the Berlin Wall fell - Konstantin, who was from St. Petersburg; Dan, from Bucharest (his family was tortured under the Ceaucescu regime); Stan, from Warsaw, and on. They're college professors who came to teach at US universities. They're Chinese students who came to study here.

While I, personally, have never lived under a communist system, I'll take the word of all of those I know who have done so. And they've all said basically what pATRICK did.

(And I just pinged Yelena, who grew up in the Soviet Union and came to the US as a college professor after the wall fell. Her statement: "there's never been a communist society that wasn't a dictatorship of one form or another. Socialist societies, sure, but not communist.")

I suggest that if you get out more, you too can find real live people who really did live in both capitalist and communist systems. You should do so, and find out what they say.

The fact that a capitalistic system isn't perfect does not make it the equivalent of a communist system.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 2:40 PM

Oops! My bad, Dotted. Need to check farther back when I log on. How about the next round's on me?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:40 PM

MN - Hey now! Chrissie Hynde's new restaurant (VegeTerranean) just opened in downtown Akron and it doesn't get the snow that Albany (or Cleveland) does.

Posted by: cardinal_gal | September 19, 2007 2:40 PM

mehitabel: now you're talking...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 2:43 PM

Dotted, you DO know I was talking about flan, don't you?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:46 PM

pATRICK, we don't have foxes here.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:49 PM

Good job Armybrat, I wrote a thesis on soviet economics for my poli-sci class in college. So my comments were based on more than "one book". Given the human disaster of communism, it should be plain about it's inferiority and evilness. Your post was right, capitalism is not perfect but far superior to communism.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 2:49 PM

I have excitement in the middle of the night when the foxes attack the rabbits. They scream like a woman whose throat is being slashed.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 2:50 PM

pATRICK, we don't have foxes here.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007

doesn't matter, rabbits instintively fear foxes that is why the urine works

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 2:51 PM

Army Brat, pATRICK, Portuguese Mother, et al.:

What's your take on nations that had right-wing fascist regimes during parts of the 20th-century, e.g., Spain, Portugal, Brazil? (And, yes, I know that Franco's still dead).

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 2:54 PM

The earlier comments that many people cannot afford close-in housing to their jobs is dead on. Down here in Chapel Hill, bullseye of liberal thinking, the city workers tend to commute from nearby towns rather than live closer in. Why? Because they aren't paid enough to afford the stratospheric housing prices in Chapel Hill, so they live in the outlying towns and drive in to work.

Same reason why so many state employees who work in Raleigh live in other towns and counties; Wake County/Raleigh has some of the highest housing prices in the state, and many workers simply cannot afford them.

Besides, they see the neighboring counties, where they can afford twice or thrice the SF in a house that they can afford in Raleigh, and say "yeah, that 45 minute commute isn't so bad".

Furthest commute: I once had an employee who drove from his parents' house in Gastonia, NC, to Raleigh, every day. Go look at a map; he was driving about 3 hours one way to work at a low-level technician job, then driving back 3 hours, five days a week. He didn't do that too long before quitting, but I was amazed he did it at all.

Posted by: johnl | September 19, 2007 2:57 PM

cardinal_gal, I trust you on Akron, LOL, and didn't mean to offend. I have a soft spot in my heart for Troy, NY, too, but tend not to recommend it to anyone who isn't already besotted with the charms of decaying, cash-strapped upstate New York cities.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 2:58 PM

Army Brat, pATRICK, Portuguese Mother, et al.:

What's your take on nations that had right-wing fascist regimes during parts of the 20th-century, e.g., Spain, Portugal, Brazil? (And, yes, I know that Franco's still dead).

The same as the Communist bastards. Right wing left wing it makes no difference, they are enemies of freedom and must be opposed.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 2:58 PM

"What's your take on nations that had right-wing fascist regimes during parts of the 20th-century, e.g., Spain, Portugal, Brazil? (And, yes, I know that Franco's still dead)."

Umm, they're better off without them? :-)

Seriously, I have no more fondness for fascism than for communism. Failed philosophies come in all flavors.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 2:59 PM

Troy? OMG! This native WNYer (and still avid Bills fan) finds that funny. BTW Buffalo and Rochester recently ranked in the top 10 for the shortest hours-lost-to-sitting-in-traffic, which I assume is mostly due to commuting. Having lived in both cities I can attest to never really having thought much about traffic jams before leaving the area for good several years ago.

Posted by: kk | September 19, 2007 3:01 PM

tmbgirly, laura and kk tie for first prize in today's "most sane" category. way to go girlies! (assume you are all girlies). you all show that plenty of sanity (and insanity) can be found in big cities, suburbs and urban areas. it's not where you live, it's HOW you live.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 19, 2007 3:04 PM

Sue: I miss the slug line...(is the one near the Grand Theatre still running?)

Posted by: kate07 | September 19, 2007 01:45 PM

Not my neighborhood, so I don't know. But my guess would be yes. As gas and tolls rise, more and more people try the carpools and find they like them.

I'd seen the 'slug' reference to WDC commuters, so I knew what you meant, but we never hear that here.

And I love the Grand Lake Theater - it's our family's favorite! If we have to go to one of the big megaplexes, we'll probably just skip the movie.

Posted by: sue | September 19, 2007 3:06 PM

kk, What about all those blizzards that impede commuting?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 3:08 PM

Troy? OMG! This native WNYer (and still avid Bills fan) finds that funny. BTW Buffalo and Rochester recently ranked in the top 10 for the shortest hours-lost-to-sitting-in-traffic, which I assume is mostly due to commuting. Having lived in both cities I can attest to never really having thought much about traffic jams before leaving the area for good several years ago.

Posted by: kk | September 19, 2007 03:01 PM

which proves that, if you can accept the concept of winter starting October 15th and ending in mid-April, and tolerate 250 days per year of cloud cover, you can have an awesome commute in a livable city AND your choice of an affordable Victorian in desparate need of a trust-funded owner, LOL.

I hope you live in Rochester, a beautiful city in July, since we could spend the rest of the day telling Buffalo jokes.

MN, born and raised in a small town relatively near the Triple Cities

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 3:10 PM

Hey hey now - my mother was born in Rochester and spent her first two years of college at the U of R.

It's the answer to the question "What's the snowiest city in the US?"

Or as Torontonians like to say, "we send all the crappy weather over to THAT side of the lake."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 19, 2007 3:14 PM

kk, What about all those blizzards that impede commuting?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 03:08 PM

Chains and determination.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 3:14 PM

MN - I get it, I was just giving you a hard time. And I was thinking of Ohio, not NY.

I'm coming from the, 'went to school in DC, got the job in DC, have become disenchanted with housing costs, can't take my dog on the metro (Boston is much more civilized), etc...' and am now hitting the road and moving back to Ohio next week. Haven't figured out if it'll be Cleveland, Akron or Columbus ultimately. The job in DC and trying to save $$ for a house, which seems near impossible here, has given me alot of wiggle room financially and I can work part time and 'nanny' for my sister until I figure out where to head.

Posted by: cardinal_gal | September 19, 2007 3:17 PM

"What's your take on nations that had right-wing fascist regimes during parts of the 20th-century, e.g., Spain, Portugal, Brazil? (And, yes, I know that Franco's still dead)."

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 02:54 PM

Not to mention nations that have right-wing, fascist regimes right today, like Burma (or whatever it's calling itself today).

Like Army Brat, I have talked to people who came here to escape the Soviet Evil Empire. One couple are an automobile painter and a bookkeeper, with their two sons. Another couple consists of a veterinarian and his wife and their grown son. All of them came here expecting to find freedom and capitalism better than collectivism and socialism. They were not disappointed.

American exceptionalism works because the success of the great American capitalist experiment has lured literally millions of ambitious people away, not just from socialism and communism and fascism, but also from Mauretanian slaveocracy and ******ism and Iranian ayatollah-ism and Latin American feudalism and caudillo-ism. Even 28 straight years of leadership by Yale College and Yale Law graduates (1989-2017) has not dimmed the attraction of the American capitalist system to immigrants from the four corners of the earth.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | September 19, 2007 3:18 PM

Oh, MN, even though it's a beautful warm day, now I'm feeling a chill just thinking about that winter weather.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 3:18 PM

Hey, I love Troy. I'm from outside Schenectady originally. I still miss the upstate summers . . .

This blog is all. over. the place today.

Posted by: wondering | September 19, 2007 3:21 PM

I am a usual lurker, but must say, that I am always surprised by the number of people who say that they can't afford to live closer to work. Some can't but for many others, this is really about where you can afford a big house For most people that is not in a close-in area. I have chosen a small house close-in so that I can see my kids more. This gives me the balance I need, and that my kids need. They could have more space (as could I) if I moved a half hour further out, but that is one hour (at best given traffic) less that I would see my kids. I think the time with my kids is a good trade off for the sqare footage. I am not making judgments here-- if you want the big house, but that means a 2 hour commute, at least own up to that.

Posted by: jfb1000 | September 19, 2007 3:28 PM

"tmbgirly, laura and kk tie for first prize in today's "most sane" category."

LOL! I have a trial starting next week and am currently feeling anything BUT sane, so even hearing the phrase "most sane" in the same sentence as my name invokes hysterical laughter. But I guess I should be happy I don't have a 2-hr commute home to boot.

MN, my DH went to school in Troy! Said the town was pretty much dead and dying. And the winter driving (in his dad's old 1970-whatever RWD station wagon) was especially fun. I like that part of the country -- but then again, I chose to go to college in Minnesota, so I must have this weird thing for cold weather and exceptionally long winters. :-)

Oh, and speaking of, Proud Papa, if you want to look for a reasonable place to live, the Twin Cities is really very nice -- a LOT of white (in more ways than one!), but that Midwestern niceness is really, well, nice.

Posted by: laura33 | September 19, 2007 3:31 PM

I haven't lived in the DC area for quite a while, but wonder whether fixing up an old house (gentrification) is still a feasible way to buy a home for less there. I knew people in Baltimore who did this too, and were delighted to be able to afford a home years before they could've if they'd bought a new or already-remodeled older house.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 3:32 PM

Get a grip! My 1300sf colonial inside the beltway is over $500K! And that's a good deal. I'm in (the ghetto portion of) mont co, and we can walk to the Metro, so that adds value, but really. Where is this eden of affordable housing? This is not affordable for most people. Where are you finding better deals?

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 3:36 PM

atb, I haven't lived in the DC area for ages, so go easy on me.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 3:37 PM

This blog is all. over. the place today.

Posted by: wondering | September 19, 2007 03:21 PM

LOL!

I have excitement in the middle of the night when the foxes attack the rabbits. They scream like a woman whose throat is being slashed.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 02:50 PM

That reminds me of the time my dog 'caught' her first and last bunny about seven years ago (she's a Lab and her only killer instinct is for steak bones). Princess put her paw on the little bunny and the thing screamed, as you say, like a woman getting her throat slashed. Poor dog jumped back 10 feet, and to this day won't chase the rabbits in the yard.

I have more cows, horses and foxes nearby than bunnies anyway. This area is what the trendoids call exurban but it's just plain out in the country -- in fact, I live near several large hunt-type farms as well as dairy operations, feed corn fields and wineries.

My mother does constant battle with the deer and rabbits, and she buys dried coyote urine. She swears by it (and I swear about it on a hot day right after rain...). She said another solution is cut human hair. She gets bags from the salon where she gets her nails done and spreads it around. I bet cut dog hair from a groomer would work too.

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 19, 2007 3:38 PM

mehitabl- HA! My house is/was a fixer upper. New kitchen, 2 new baths, new fence, new windows. And it has window units.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 3:38 PM

I haven't lived in the DC area for quite a while, but wonder whether fixing up an old house (gentrification)

I have never understood the opposition to gentrification. Let's see a slum where no wants to live turned into a valauable piece of real estate that attracts wealthier people, who then attract businesses that employ people and the city makes more money to provide better services for all. Yep, sounds like a terrible idea.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 3:39 PM

mehitabel- That 3:36 post wasn't directed to you. That was for the lurker.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 3:40 PM

johnl, all things are relative. Housing in the Triangle is more expensive than housing in surrounding counties, and the same is true for Charlotte. However, for someone coming from the northeast, the somewhat lower salary is still more than enough to afford a nice house in a nice area without the worry of living in an iffy neighborhood. And even though I haven't lived there in a while, I bet the commute is still much less stressful than the DC commute.

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 19, 2007 3:43 PM

pATRICK, There's a difference between merely fixing up an old house so it's comfortable and safe, and turning it into a veritable urban McMansion on the inside. I'm sure we've see both types or makeovers; I favor the former, not the latter.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 3:43 PM

OK, atb.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 3:45 PM

I actually think all these things are advantages. I grew up in the city (Capitol Hill) and now live in the middle of Cambridge MA. Our neighborhood is all "triple-deckers", three story wooden houses with one appt per floor. Our neighbors windows are four feet from our own, which is a bit close, I admit. Eight feet would be better. :) But I know my 87 year old Italian landlady who lives downstairs, and we help her tend her tomatoes and pick her peaches and plums each August. I know the middle-aged immigrant lady who lives on the 2nd floor and works two jobs. I have been to some fabulous parties that she and her family throw. When she lost two brothers in three weeks last year, I did what little I could to help, and felt fortunate that my family was healthy and safe.

I learn new things about my neighborhood every day, from the crazy political history of the nearby "monument company", to the traditional Italian Feast of Saints Cosmos and Damian each September, to the fact that Cape Verdians still call the local grocery store by it's old name from ten years ago. I know my neighbors on one side, I know their kids, and I know the piano pieces they play (well). Someone somewhere practices the trumpet occasionally. I know which neighbor on the other side steals the peaches from the part of the peach tree that overhangs their yard.

I would not want to live in a place where I couldn't see my neighbors. Then me and my boyfriend would only have each other and the TV to talk to and about. :) And I would not want us to have to keep clean any more than our 900 square feet of appt. (BTW, our landlady raised four kids in those 900 square feet.)

Posted by: jmatuszeski | September 19, 2007 3:49 PM

johnl, all things are relative. Housing in the Triangle is more expensive than housing in surrounding counties, and the same is true for Charlotte. However, for someone coming from the northeast, the somewhat lower salary is still more than enough to afford a nice house in a nice area without the worry of living in an iffy neighborhood. And even though I haven't lived there in a while, I bet the commute is still much less stressful than the DC commute.

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 19, 2007 03:43 PM

Sure, it's cheaper than DC and the commute is less stressful, for many (too many variables to address). Nonetheless, john's point is spot on that, even here in the Triangle, you can't afford to live inside the Beltline or in downtown Chapel Hill and walk or bike to work, and there is no public transit for purpose of managing your commute. (Public transit here is buses and they don't run on routes that would make them suitable for the two most common commutes - into Raleigh, and north from Apex to RTP). In plain English, you have to be in the $500K and up market in order to live downtown. The condos within walking distance of my office are selling for $300 per square foot. That doesn't make downtown living an affordable option for any but the upper middle class.

funny, we get the big house comment from jfb1000, as well, and yet no one has even hinted at the importance of the Big House. As a group, today, everyone has expressed the desire for the shortest commute they can afford. The Big House - it's your choice, live in it - argument is the quintessential straw man.

mehitabel, a fixer-upper is a house in (i) Arlington selling for $550,000 that would sell for $825K if it had a first-floor bathroom and if the kitchen had been remodeled after 1957. Some may characterize that as affordable. It's not affordable as I understand the term.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 4:01 PM

900 sq feet huh? Jab me in the eye with a rusty fork instead. I laugh at all these we love our 1000 sq foot homes, we can do this or that. That gets oolllllldddd after a while. That is why they don't make them anymore. and once you have kids, it will seem intolerable.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 4:04 PM

Actually, though I will always be a native NYer in my heart, I now find myself saying things like "y'all" and "I wasn't born in Texas but got here as quick as I could." I lived in DC for awhile, did the Metro thing (loved it) but ultimately moved to Houston for a better quality of life (flame on, but there's alot to be said for living 3 miles from work).

As for WNY, while I do have fond memories of living there, I would rather suffer in the TX summer than the NY winter.

Posted by: kk | September 19, 2007 4:05 PM

One of the women I work with raised 2 girls in a house like mine, but with ONE bathroom. Funny thing is that our house is considered the "big" one to our neighbors, which cracks us up. It started as a 2-1 in the 40s, but the owners expanded to a "4"-2 in the 50s. We found the actual plans in the attic. We're going to frame them for the dining room, what the 4th bedroom is now on the main floor. This house was set up CRAZY. The realtor didn't even try to sell it as a 4-2, but as a 3-2. Actually, as a 3-3, as there is a full bath in the basement, but it's a basement-y basement. Nothing finished about it. We wash the dog down there. The same guy owned it for over 60 years. Whenever we find some weird thing he did, all we can do is say, "Frank." There's a bomb shelter (now a HUGE storage room that everyone calls the dungeon) with a half bath which will turn into a room with a utility sink when we get to it. It's wired European in some places. I'm assuming he thought the Germans were coming. I can't even begin to tell you the wiring this man did. Our electrician is constantly awed. It's a conversation starter, that house.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 4:10 PM

I have always been able to live close to where I worked. I think this has a lot to do with the profession I am in--there are always jobs near where people live. I am a speech-language pathologist and my job involves lots of face-to-face contact with my clients. These jobs are in places like schools, hospitals, nursing homes, the clients' homes, etc.

I have lived in some small towns in rural areas, a city neighborhood (in Pittsburgh, where housing is cheap but a lot of people can't find jobs), and a suburb. When I lived in the city, I commuted out to the suburbs most of the time, because that's where my clients were.

When we decided to buy a home instead of renting, we looked in our city but couldn't afford anything we would want to live in. I was working in the suburbs anyway, so we ended up buying a house near my work (nothing big, a 3-bedroom Cape Cod about 60 years old). Some time later, my husband got a new job in the same suburb we live in. So we both have short commutes (mine is 3 minutes and his is 15). Our daycare is on the way to his work (8 minutes from our house.)

If you want to be able to work close to home, think about medical or educational careers. Those jobs are often close to where peope live.

Posted by: Wioleta | September 19, 2007 4:10 PM

I am a usual lurker, but must say, that I am always surprised by the number of people who say that they can't afford to live closer to work. Some can't but for many others, this is really about where you can afford a big house For most people that is not in a close-in area. I have chosen a small house close-in so that I can see my kids more. This gives me the balance I need, and that my kids need. They could have more space (as could I) if I moved a half hour further out, but that is one hour (at best given traffic) less that I would see my kids. I think the time with my kids is a good trade off for the sqare footage. I am not making judgments here-- if you want the big house, but that means a 2 hour commute, at least own up to that.


Posted by: jfb1000 | September 19, 2007 03:28 PM

You are totally mistaken here. Often the further away you get from the jobs, the cheaper the housing. I live in an old neighborhood (for this part of the country) that is dominated by one story houses that range in 1000 sq ft to 1500 sq ft assuming people haven't added on. Many homes have only one bathroom. We used to live closer to where we both worked and paid the same rent for 1 bedroom apartment that we now pay for 1300 sq ft house. I wasn't after the space so much as being after not sharing walls with my neighbors. The gas is much more affordable out here as well. Just my experience of course.

Posted by: _Miles | September 19, 2007 4:14 PM

One of the things not mentioned here is that businesses are moving to the burbs. People are tired of driving downtown to do business and it is often much cheaper to build in the burbs

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 4:18 PM

Some are, pATRICK, and then, some like AOL are moving from 'burban Northern Virginia to NYC. We all do the best we can to juggle the randomness that is where the jobs are.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 4:21 PM

Mehitabel -

DC just got some big award for "best urban gentrification" model so I doubt there are any real bargains left, although there are a lot of expensive fixer uppers available. People are even buying industrial space downtown and renovating it for residential.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 19, 2007 4:28 PM

Fred,

All I'll say is that there your choice of QOTD is going to be mighty tough in light of the plethora of hootalicious material in atb's 4:10 post.

kk, Ha! So we both remember upstate NY fondly from here in our humid, warm new homes, LOL. *cheers*

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 4:31 PM

300$ sq ft? my goodness, what is in there? Marble floors and sub-zero kitchens?

We're talking 190-220 sq ft in CH and that is expensive for this area. Proximity to free mass trans, university, hospital, etc. are the reasons it is as high as it is...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 4:51 PM

Human hair, shaved soap - none of these have worked keeping the deer out of my yard. I spray my shrubbery (Monty Python reference) with coyote urine. I find the deer lying down eating (breakfast in bed for them I guess). I had ten years growth of 4 different kinds of hostas across the front of my house. I came home one day and I had nothing but a few little sticks.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 4:53 PM

ATB, I hear there are some nice icbm missile sites for sale in Montana. They make lovely homes supposedly. Sounds like you might be interested. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 5:00 PM

Shrubbery!!!

your hostas...african or european

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 5:02 PM

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 04:53 PM

Wow, you've had some serious varmit problems...we had a squirrel in NoVa that would rip the heads off our sunflowers. Out here I've got desert landscape (rocks and some small bushes, not very pretty). And we have coyotes wander up off the Indian reservation, so they keep all critters away. Not a good place to let your kitty-cats outside...

Posted by: pepperjade | September 19, 2007 5:03 PM

dotted, I don't know from shrubbery - I got the ones that I liked the color of. Mostly varigated. I babied them for 10 years. I was devastated. Now I have pacasandra and plants in pots.
The deer even came up on my front stoop and ate my strawberry plant down to the dirt (it was in a big pot).

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 5:04 PM

Deer are just rats with antlers, they will eat you out of house and home.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 5:05 PM

pATRICK, my dear,

A fixer-upper 900-1000 ft² home to call one's own would be a dream-come-true for many American families.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 5:08 PM

I won't even go into the snakes, moles and voles we have. And I am only 10 miles from DC.
But I do have lovely hummingbirds that come to the flowers on my deck, woodpeckers in the trees in the back yard and even saw an oriole one day.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 19, 2007 5:11 PM

A fixer-upper 900-1000 ft² home to call one's own would be a dream-come-true for many American families.

hmm, I disagree. I doubt many people are looking for a broken down house that needs 30- 50k worth of repairs. They sure didn't want them in the latest housing boom.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 5:11 PM

pATRICK, That's all some hard-working American families can afford, if even that much.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 5:23 PM

Catlady, I don't dispute that. I just am saying that families tend to want the biggest, newest house they can find.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 5:25 PM

pATRICK, There can be a major disconnect between "want" and "able to afford."

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 5:27 PM

klb...you missed my own monty python reference (african or european...swallows?)

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 5:37 PM

"900 sq feet huh? Jab me in the eye with a rusty fork instead. I laugh at all these we love our 1000 sq foot homes, we can do this or that. That gets oolllllldddd after a while. That is why they don't make them anymore. and once you have kids, it will seem intolerable."

I don't agree. I live in a small house (about 1500 sq. feet), but I love its efficiency and proximity to work, school, and shopping. I drive 5 minutes to work (I could walk if I really wanted to), my son's school is 3 minutes away, I can walk to the grocery store, CVS, etc. The metro is 5 minutes away, and the ride on bus line is half a block away. The schools are good, the neighborhood is safe, the neighborhood kids play outside in the common area on nice days, I know my neighbors and like most of them. Also, I spend almost no money on commuting and drive an 8 year old car. My heating and cooling bills are really affordable. This all means I get time with my family, have money in savings for college, retirement, and emergencies, and feel connected to my community. I also don't spend a lot of time mowing lawns or raking yards (which is a plus for me) or have to spend money on it. We don't collect a lot of clutter, because we don't have room for it, but frankly, we have room for ourselves and all the essential stuff, which is all we want anyway. No judgments on people who like living in largers spaces. But for us, the tradeoffs of a bigger house aren't worth the value and efficiency of a smaller place close to work and school, and nearer to the city, which has so much cultural value to us.

Posted by: Emily | September 19, 2007 5:43 PM

Emily, I was talking about 900 sq feet and 1000 sq feet. Having lived in a 900 sq ft appt and and a 1400 sq ft starter home, big difference. 1500sq feet may be tight, 1000 sq feet and kids would be intolerable.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 5:51 PM

"hmm, I disagree. I doubt many people are looking for a broken down house that needs 30- 50k worth of repairs. They sure didn't want them in the latest housing boom."

You're right. A lot of people did not want small houses, and got big houses instead, with unaffordable loans to go with them. I bet a lot of people who have faced foreclosue or are going in that direction now wish they had gone for the smaller house and the realistic loan.

If you compare houses that are in vogue now to houses that were built in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, you will notice that today's structures are bigger certainly, but that does not make them better, especially if they are so expensive that the average middle class family can no longer afford to live a reasonable distance from work. Size is not everything, and I would take a 50s cottage or 70s rambler close to the city anytime before a behemoth in Haymarket or West Virginia. What's the point in buying a huge house if all you do is spend time away from it, working or commuting in order to pay the ridiculous mortgage your incurred? I could never figure that one out.

Posted by: Emily | September 19, 2007 5:51 PM

Emily - while I agree with you, a few big differences between a home from the 50s-70s and today are ceiling height (makes room feel bigger), closet space, kitchen layout suitable for microwave, and room flow. Room flow between family room, kitchen, eating are now more open. One doesn't see those overhanding cupboards between the kitchen and eating area anymore! Thus, 1200 sq ft today is much more livable than 1200 sq ft then. imho, of course.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 5:58 PM

Dotted,
I agree. We redid our kitchen, dining room and living room to make it more open and livable, basically taking down some walls to make it a large, open space, rather than three smallish rooms. We are lucky that our closet space is adequate, and that we have a beautiful, expansive common area, full of trees and room for kids to play and run in. One thing I have noticed about a lot of new developments is that the houses are big, but the yards are small or nonexistent. I love to look outside and see mature landscaping and lots of green. Although it's common area, I enjoy it, and perhaps even more, because I don't have to do the yardwork myself.

Posted by: Emily | September 19, 2007 6:05 PM

Emily, don't overreach. It's not a choice between a 2800 sq foot home or a 900 ft home. Many of these people probably could have been happy with a 1800 sq foot home. I disagree, those older homes have small bathrooms, maybe only one and small kitchens. The newer homes have nearly better everything and that makes them much more livable.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 6:05 PM

And maybe it's only the closer DC suburbs that I am referring to, but I have noticed that many people in nice, established neighborhoods with homes that were built in the 50s, 60s, and 70s are opting to renovate rather than move away. So a lot of these older homes have been redone to make them more livable and comfortable, even though they tend still to be smaller than the newer ones being built. Personally, I find these older homes to be much more charming anyway, than some of the monstrosities I have seen go up around them.

Posted by: Emily | September 19, 2007 6:11 PM

Emily, I like small yards myself. Too many DC neighborhoods are built with homes looking into each other. I've seen homes built using flag pole driveways so the builders can cram more homes in using fewer roads. I believe those neighborhoods will not appreciate like those neighborhoods using these same homes but placing them so there is more privacy..even with same lot size. For example, I admit to being appalled by many homes in Gainesville. Builders went for quick buck, imho...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 6:17 PM

"Many of these people probably could have been happy with a 1800 sq foot home."

Patrick, but my point is that at least in my area, you are hard pressed to see a new house which is only 1800 square feet. Even new townhouses tend to be bigger. So people must either live in a big new house, a condo or an apartment, or a small house built a few decades ago. People don't have the option, anymore, of buying a new small single family house at a price they can afford, because frankly, they don't build them small anymore. Which is too bad. Builders don't seem to cater to the average middle class folks anymore (like they seem to have in the 50s and 60s). In the DC area, you can't afford a house if you don't make at least 6 figures, and even then, it's tight.

Posted by: Emily | September 19, 2007 6:20 PM

Emily, I was talking about 900 sq feet and 1000 sq feet. Having lived in a 900 sq ft appt and and a 1400 sq ft starter home, big difference. 1500sq feet may be tight, 1000 sq feet and kids would be intolerable.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 05:51 PM

Intolerable is in the eye of the beholder.

Our house is 1034 sq ft. Our two boys (15 and 10) share one of the two bedrooms. There's only one bathroom, not even an extra half- or quarter-bath. We bought it just over six years ago, when forced to move out of a *HUGE* (well over 2k sq ft) rental that we'd shared with various room/housemates over the preceding five years.

There's more kids in our current neighborhood, and more of a yard and garden. That huge rental house had a duplex and a cottage behind it filling up nearly the entire lot except for the parking pad.

Our house is comfortable and cozy, but we can still get away from each other. I love sitting on the front porch reading when I don't want to watch or listen to the TV with the boys. DH turned a corner of the kitchen into his "office/workshop". And my pet Boa Constrictor has her 6ft by 3ft cage (with lots of storage above and below) in the enclosed sunporch/laundry/sewing room.

It takes some creativity and planning -finding items that store in small spaces and serve multiple functions, but in my experience, our kids in our little bungalow is not only tolerable, it's pretty good.

Posted by: sue | September 19, 2007 6:20 PM

300$ sq ft? my goodness, what is in there? Marble floors and sub-zero kitchens?

We're talking 190-220 sq ft in CH and that is expensive for this area. Proximity to free mass trans, university, hospital, etc. are the reasons it is as high as it is...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 19, 2007 04:51 PM

dotted, I have no idea, and you know there's no mass transit, LOL, not that it matters since the point is, duh, to live downtown and walk to work. Let's be real, though, the draw is for UNC graduates to stay in the college town, otherwise known as Valhalla, forever. Charlottesville has the same inflated, irrational housing costs and the same charm, to some of us. Well, there is one difference: we don't tell ourselves it's about proximity to the hospital, LOL.

Emily, Some here opt to renovate but having lived in one charming 30s home (it was so drafty the curtains moved when all doors were closed), charming (not) 60s split-level ranch, and one charming (not) 80s two-story piece of excrement, it is often significantly less costly to tear-down and replace than it is to try to create an open floorplan and get the proportions right on an updated kitchen. Donate all materials to Habitat Reuse. I'd rather see tear-downs than sprawl, but others simply oppose all change in principal. 1500 -1800 square feet with ample lighting and arranged properly is a dream. 2500 square feet with narrow doorways, bad lighting, and small windows is the pits.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 6:25 PM

Emily, I don't live in DC so I will defer to you on that city. Sue, ok if you say so. But I bet in your heart you would jump at the chance to have another 1000 sq feet.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 6:25 PM

I have to say that a bigger house does have it's draws. I bought my house for a dream a long time before the market went up, and it is almost paid off, so I sometimes think that maybe, just maybe, I would consider cashing it in and buying a big house in some other less expensive city. For a while, I thought Pittsburgh would be ideal. But then I would have to think about where to work, and no family would be nearby, and do I really want to uproot my life just for some extra space? Maybe....

Posted by: Emily | September 19, 2007 6:31 PM

But I bet in your heart you would jump at the chance to have another 1000 sq feet.

OTOH, it costs more to heat/air-condition a larger house, it's more work to clean and maintain, etc.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 6:37 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 06:37 PM

Been playing with the catnip again huh? Bad kitty! Bad kitty!

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 6:40 PM

pATRICK, Funny you should mention catnip. The cat was outdoors part of the afternoon and must've gotten into some catnip, because when I checked for him later on, he was sprawled on the porch, flopped onto his side and clearly stoned out of his gourd! He's pretty well sobered up now in time for dinner.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 19, 2007 6:48 PM

I saw on parenting had a discussion on fund raising at school. Now that would have been a great topic here. Well have a nice evening!

Posted by: pATRICK | September 19, 2007 6:53 PM

All day, I've been waiting for someone to be totally obnoxious, becaue I wanted to call them an English wiper of other peoples' bottoms, but babbaboey never showed up...

KLB, sorry, but I laughed sweet tea out my nose with the visual of the deer having breakfast in bed!

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 19, 2007 6:55 PM

An extra 1000? No. We will be replacing the detached garage with a home recording studio, though. That's an extra 350-400 sq ft, but trust me, it isn't family living space.

And it'll also work as a spare room for out-of-town guests. Everyone in the extended family seems to be disapointed that they have to stay in hotels when they want to visit SF's tourist mecca - oh, but of course they're really coming to visit us. (yeah, right!)

Posted by: sue | September 19, 2007 7:24 PM

Well, Dennis, the bottom line is many people are forced to have a long commute they don't want because they can't afford to live near a metro or live downtown. Having a closed mind doesn't change reality. It's not a choice to live in Annandale because you can't afford to live in Old Town. It's not a choice to live in Hagerstown because you can't afford to live in Chevy Chase. Have you priced the difference between a one-bedroom apartment downtown and one in Herndon? It's laughable for you to assume that everyone has a choice - I guess all of your friends and acquaintances in 6 figures are all that matters.

Yes, my family had a choice only after I graduated from law school. Before that, we had no choice at all. We both worked downtown and would have LOVED to live there, but our incomes didn't come close to permitting it. I daresay that's not a choice many in this country have.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 01:27 PM

MN, you had plenty of choices. You could've gotten different jobs. You could've moved to another city. There's always choices, it's how you prioritize things. If can't afford to live near your job and you don't want to give it up, then the tradeoff is a long commute. But there are always choices, you just might decide that you'd rather have the long commute than pursue other options.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 19, 2007 8:24 PM

We live in 1016 square feet--mom, dad, girl, boy, dog. And it's not at all intolerable. Even leaving aside the benefits of living in a walkable community and the even greater benefits of an affordable mortgage, I like our 1016 square feet because we only have 1016 square feet to clean and heat and cool. I wouldn't want more than one bathroom because then I'd have to take care of more than one bathroom. 1016 square feet gives us three bedrooms, a nice sized kitchen, a fabulous dining room, and a moderate living room. We have to be careful with our possessions so we don't clutter ourselves into oblivion, but that's a good thing. The kids toys eat up a fair chunk of the dining room, but they aren't kids for very long.

We talked about moving to get more space. We talked about adding a two story addition to expand the bedrooms and get another bathroom and a family room to be a toy dumping ground. But we decided these things weren't worth it. We could afford it, but we'd rather make do with what we've got.

Posted by: sarahfran | September 19, 2007 9:29 PM

I was surprised not to see more discussion here of spouses/partners with jobs separated by a good distance and what they did about it. Of both couples that live in our household, one member has a five minute bike ride commute and the other has an hour or more car commute. We who do the car commuting have reverse commutes out of the city, so we don't have to deal with the traffic they would have to commuting in. We also work regular business hours while the guys work late, unpredictable schedules, another point in favor of them being close to home.

Posted by: mlsm01 | September 19, 2007 10:06 PM

MN, you had plenty of choices. You could've gotten different jobs. You could've moved to another city. There's always choices, it's how you prioritize things. If can't afford to live near your job and you don't want to give it up, then the tradeoff is a long commute. But there are always choices, you just might decide that you'd rather have the long commute than pursue other options.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 19, 2007 08:24 PM

You want to make this personal. It's not. It's about acknowledging the existence of lower-middle class and lower class folks who DO NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES TO CHOOSE TO LIVE DOWNTOWN ANYWHERE. If you can't afford a bus ticket and don't have a month's deposit saved, moving to Albuquerque to face the same s**t isn't really a choice. Get your head out of your tuckus and talk to someone not driving a BMW, for a change.

Posted by: MN | September 20, 2007 12:35 PM

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