Reflections on 3 years in Pennsylvania

photo-167We moved from our 2-bedroom apartment in NYC to our 5-bedroom house in Pennsylvania three years ago this week. On some level life is different here. On others it isn’t. I get up in the morning and do kid stuff, then I work, then I take a break to run, then I work again, then I do kid stuff, then I get them to bed and work or read again. On weekends we do family activities.

I enjoy having my own office. It is really mine. I kicked my husband out and he now has a desk, an office chair, and a phone in the guest bedroom upstairs (he’ll work from home maybe 1-2 half days per week, which is nice, but not when he’s in my office). My 7-year-old sometimes appropriates my office floor for his writing projects but it’s kind of cute (he knows this is the writing room!) and he’s usually at school during my core work hours, so it’s not a problem. I used to work in my bedroom. This is a major improvement.

Our house still gets reasonably cluttered. But it is no where near as cluttered as the 2-bedroom apartment was. It’s a truism of organizing that the problem is never that you don’t have space — it’s that you need to get rid of stuff! I disagree. Sometimes the answer really is having more space.

I still don’t drive well. Before I moved to the ‘burbs, I drove once a year. Now it’s more like 4-5 times per week, and while all this practice has helped me not be terrified of changing lanes, I still can’t parallel park and I have dents on my car from encounters with parking garage walls and the terra cotta planter in our driveway I destroyed. I blame this partly on owning a beast of a car (an SUV). It’s hard to fit 3 car seats in something more reasonable.

I do miss NYC. It’s the center of the media and publishing universe, and there are things I should be going to that I’m not. I tell myself it’s relatively easy to get into the city, but it’s always easier not to.

Then again, Philly has a lot going for it. We keep ourselves fairly busy going to the science museums, the Please Touch Museum, the various arboretums, art museums, the zoo, the Camden aquarium, etc. There are nice restaurants, and I’d love to go if my evening babysitters hadn’t disappeared for the summer! Unfortunately, delivery options are somewhat limited (though I have a sushi spot I like for eating in or take-out).

There are major financial upsides to moving out of NYC. I know some people have good experiences with the public schools there, but if you need to go the private school route, it’s pricey. We just heard a $40k figure from someone. Taxes are much lower here. Even stuff like getting a hair cut at one of the most upscale places in the area runs about the same as a totally middling location in NYC. And housing! There’s a reason we are in a 5-bedroom place here and were in a 2-bedroom place there. To be sure, in the grand scheme of things, this is not a low cost area. But there are more touches of normalcy. In NYC, our church’s pledge card showed what proportional giving would look like up to a salary of $500k. At our church in PA, the pledge card only went up to $250k.

Outdoor space is nice. I’d prefer my husband spend less time tinkering in the yard (I suspect it is his “me time”). At least we have outsourced mowing and weeding. But it’s nice to sit on the porch and look out at our roses and lilies and trees and watch the sun set over the Pennsylvania hills. We really are only 15 minutes from downtown Philly. But it feels quite rustic at times — something it’s hard to ever conjure up in Manhattan.

Photo: Flowers on the fence posts!



4 Responses to Reflections on 3 years in Pennsylvania


  1. Alison says:

    So you aren’t tempted to move back? What about when the kids are grown? Friendship network comparison?

    Nosy questions, I just love the idea of raising children in the middle of busy cities…

    • Laura says:

      @Alison – sometimes, maybe when the kids are grown. But if so, I’d probably get a little apartment there and have a place outside the city too. I guess that’s what lots of people do — why lots of long time residents save for a country home upstate, etc. You get the best of both worlds (well, except that you’re still paying NYC taxes).

    • oldmdgirl says:

      Alison — I hated growing up in Manhattan. It’s all about how much money your parents make. And LV is not lying. Private school costs close to 40k per year per child.

  2. Chelsea says:

    NYC strikes me as the kind of place I’d love to visit (and have and did love it) but really wouldn’t want to live. I think Madison is about the perfect size for a city for me (230k people + suburbs + a big university and state government). My only complaint (other than the winter) is that, because of geographic features that restrict the size of the city, housing here is a bit on the expensive side (though nothing close to NYC or Philly I’m sure).