Hi, Carolyn: Do you have any general advice on how to make big decisions? My husband and I are trying to decide if we’re going to stay in D.C. in a house and area we love, versus moving to the ‘burbs for kid reasons. We’re very happy where we are right now, which means the impetus to take action is really low.
The desire to move comes from imagining a time when we might be less happy (i.e., dealing with finding a good school in the city). I know TONS of people do it, but they’re more motivated and organized than we are.
I really value the idea of having a decent neighborhood school versus having to navigate the lottery and stress that come with schooling in D.C. We get advice that we should make the move only when we really need to, but we’re already forming such wonderful bonds with local families that I hate the idea of pulling up even bigger roots. Thoughts?
Making Big Decisions
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Generally, a few:
▪ Don’t stint on now in favor of some imagined future. You love your neighborhood? You’re making valued connections? It suits who you are? Great. Keep at it, because living in service of easier goodbyes sounds shallow and lonely in general, and because your school situation specifically might change. Maybe your local school will turn around in the meantime; maybe you’ll decide you can be part of that transition. Maybe feeling really dug into your current neighborhood will make the lottery process seem less onerous. Is it really more stressful than moving?
▪ While you’re living in the present, save save save for your imagined future. Cash makes more futures possible, plus every possible future — staying put, hitting the burbs, relocating for (unanticipated reason here) — tastes better with a side of cash. If you “can’t” save, force the issue, find a way.
▪ Don’t force anything else, because artificially rushed decisions are often regretted ones. Instead, recognize that not having a pressing need to move buys you time to figure yourselves out.
One point to consider in that process is that “moving to the burbs for kid reasons” is crazy broad, knee-jerk and not always what a kid or family needs. Not all burb schools are good, not all city schools are bad, not all education is schooling, not all suburbs are alike/friendly/healthy/good investments, and, maybe most important, not all kids are thrilled with suburban living. They can have as broad a range of tastes and temperaments and interests as adults do. So. Do your homework, take your time. Which brings me to:
▪ Challenge all of your assumptions. Considering something because you’ve watched your friends do it is panic, not motivation. Motivation comes from understanding yourself, your marriage, your child(ren), your finances, your values, your goals and your options.
And, neither least nor last, because this is too short a column for any kind of complete list of decision-making strategies:
▪ Set priorities, then get creative. With schooling, with housing, with all of it. Maybe you can keep your house and rent/sublet it for key schooling years; maybe school choice, magnets, charters, cooperatives, etc., will mean you don’t have to. Hunt down real options versus “imagining a time when we might be less happy,” which sounds self-fulfilling to me.
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