How To Get Your Bearings in Suburbia (from someone who’s been there, too!)
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You’ve over the hurdle—you’ve moved from the city to suburbia. But now the next step in your journey…getting the lay of the land and actually adjusting to life in suburbia. Alison Sherwin, a newly-minted Westchester mom, gives her tips, tricks and must-tries for getting settled in suburbia fast.
So you’ve found a town and a house, signed the mortgage with a shaky hand, and started emptying the boxes the movers deposited. After realizing that the boxes won’t unpack themselves (ugh!), what next? How do you start acclimating to your new community? I’ve been exactly where you are…
Go to your local farmer’s market. It seems like every town has one these days—find yours and go. Every week. You’ll start to see the same people there and feel as though you belong, too. Stock up on fruits and veggies, buy the kids a treat, and sign up for your humanely and locally raised Thanksgiving turkey. My local farmer’s market usually has live music and apple cider donuts—what more do toddlers need?
Become a regular…somewhere. I go to a local coffee shop on Main Street in my town (Irvington, New York) once a week.
Pretty quickly they got to know me and my coffee orders. I felt like I belonged in town the first time I walked in and the woman behind the counter saw me and said “large cappuccino with skim milk, right?”
Date nights in town. The quest to find a babysitter in suburbia could be a separate post, so for these purposes let’s assume the existence of grandparents who are thrilled to babysit. Schedule date nights and explore all of the restaurants on your Main Street or other main drag in or around your town. Actually having an opinion about your favorite dishes or cocktails makes you feel like a local. It doesn’t matter what the restaurant is—just go. If you see that the restaurant is packed on a Saturday night with both couples and families, that’s a great sign. And you’ll have something to talk about with your new friends at the farmer’s market.
Get your library card. One of the first things my family and I did when we moved to suburbia was get our library cards—me, my husband and my then two-year-old, who was given her very own much to her delight! We had to bring a ConEd bill to show proof of residency—look, we live here! In the Westchester Library System, you have to sign up for your cards at the library for which you are zoned, but you can visit and check out materials from any of the branches.
Our local branch has a great children’s room, and all of the libraries have great children’s programs, too—music, story time and book clubs for slightly older kids. The library programs are a great way to get out of the house. Another wonderful thing about the Westchester Library System—much like the New York Public Library system—is that you can request books online and have them delivered to your local branch. Also, unlike the NYPL, I don’t think a ton of people use the system because you can usually get new books fairly quickly—no nine month waiting period for the new J.K. Rowling. Go suburban life!
Actually attend interesting events. While driving, be on the look-out for banners for events in town and the surrounding area. I always see tons of signs for plays, fairs, and other activities geared toward families with small children while driving up and down Route 9 in the River Towns, otherwise known as Broadway. We’ve taken the kids to art fairs, Christmas tree and Menorah lightings, a rubber duck derby and a kids’ gardening event at the O’Hara Nature Center. I just went to a talk by Joan Nathan of the New York Times on the history of Passover foods. None of those events were more than 10 minutes from my house. Find something of interest and go—as a family or individually. Also, take a minute and enjoy the fact that—unlike similar events in the city—the events aren’t insanely crowded and people actually talk to you!
Finally, remind yourself that this process takes time. Adjusting won’t happen overnight. A brand-new town can be an adjustment, especially if you have lived in the same neighborhood in the city for a while and felt like a local there. You will eventually unpack the boxes and stop using folding chairs in the dining room, so take the time in the beginning to leave the house and explore. Even if it’s just for coffee or an apple cider donut.
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