Friday, March 30, 2012

Loving DC

People ask  me all the time how we ended up in DC, and the fact is, I'm not really sure.  We had no good friends here.  We had no family here.  Our jobs didn't take us here.  Instead, I think we kind of ended up here by default.

I was miserable in Manhattan.  MISERABLE.  For a variety of reasons, mostly of my own making. But I got to the point where everyday I just felt overwhelmed. Claustrophobic.  Smothered by my job and traffic and crowded bars and booked restaurants and the four walls of our apartment.  I wanted kids.  I wanted freedom.  I wanted OUT.  And fast.

DC just seemed like a logical choice.  It was in between my parents and my husband's parents.  It would be cheaper (I laugh at that now).  The hours would be better (I laugh at that too).  We could have a house and a dog and kids (check, check, and check).  We had some tangential friends and friends of friends and hey, it was closer to the south, so people have to be friendlier, right?  (This is totally true by the way).

Of course, the grass is always greener, but five years in, I am loving this town.  So, in gratitude for the amazing weather DC has dished out these past few weeks, here are the top 10 reasons why I love DC:

1) You can live in the 'burbs, but not really be in the 'burbs.
After leaving Cincinnati for college, I swore off the suburbs.  I decided I never wanted to live anywhere where I absolutely HAD to have a car.  I kept that promise for a long time, until we moved to our current house.  Now, we need a car.  A minivan, actually.  There are trees everywhere. There's a community pool down the street.  We're really in the 'burbs.  

But, wait!  Not really.  We are five minutes from the DC border.  We are 10 minutes from DC's best shopping area (in my humble opinion).  We are five minutes from downtown Bethesda, which has the cutest downtown ever and the best restaurants in the area (in my humble opinion).  If I am ever inclined to go out and have one too many drinks, I can easily find a taxi home.  If I am ever inclined to take public transportation downtown, I can hop on a metro bus.  If I am ever inclined to meet my husband downtown for lunch with the kids, it's a 20 minute drive.

Where else can you be in the 'burbs but still be so close to everything?

2) There's tons of stuff to do for kids.
I forget how spoiled we are sometimes.  On a whim, I can take my kids to the Air and Space Museum.  Or the Building Museum.  Or I can head the other direction and go apple picking in the middle of farmland.  Or I can see the cherry blossoms down the street from me.  Or I can say to hell with all of that and just head to Barnes & Noble.  But there are options, you know?  (And I'm really not doing this justice - if you really want to see the awesome kids activities DC has to offer, check out Kid Friendly DC).

3) It is diverse.
I took Braden to a birthday party the other day and realized that we were the only American born people there.  And that. is. awesome.  There is a huge diplomat population here, meaning that my son has friends whose parents are from India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, and Norway.  I always had this dream to raise my kids in a foreign country.  I don't know why.  I think it was all a part of this pipe dream adventure of world travel and having children with cute English accents.  But if that's not going to happen, isn't this the next best thing?

4) The stay at home moms are awesome.
I hate saying I'm not the "stay at home mom" type, because what does that really mean?  I guess when I say that, I mean that I never thought I would stay home.  And I didn't think I fell into the stereotype of women who did stay home - women that bake muffins and join the PTA and host book clubs and have a clean house all the time (I now kind of envy those people, by the way).  I was worried that there wouldn't be anyone else "like me" to hang out with.

One nice thing about DC based stay at home moms is there are a lot like me - they have left careers they never thought they would leave.  They are struggling with this new identity.  And they are open to meeting new people to break the monotony of their day.  But you know what else is nice?  There are a lot of "traditional" stay at home moms too.  And sometimes it's nice to hang out with people that aren't necessarily "like you."  And I'm realizing more and more that despite our backgrounds and plans and intentions, we're all not so different anyway.

5) Most people don't have family here.
I know this may sound weird as a thing I love about DC, but it's true.  There's a lot of people in DC that come here for jobs - political, legal, non-profit, whatever.  It's few and far between that I meet someone who was raised here and has parents, grandparents, and/or siblings in the area.  What that means is that friends become your family.  They become your weekend dinner plans, your backup for childcare, and your Thanksgiving Day guests (unless everyone in your house comes down with the stomach flu.  Then they don't come).  They become better friends than they otherwise would be out of necessity.  And it's great to be surrounded by good friends. 

6) People come here. 
As per #5, DC is a place where people migrate for a variety of reasons.  And so, I have friends from high school that have moved here.  From college.  From law school.  My boss from my first job in London back in 2001 lives 1 mile from me now.  No shit.  You never know who will come here.  And I'm loving the new arrivals!

7) The restaurants don't suck.
I'm trying to put a positive spin on this.  It's nothing like New York.  Nothing like Philadelphia.  But I've had some good meals.

8) You don't have to like politics.
The first time I lived in DC was in the summer of 1999, when I was a White House intern.  I was wide eyed and excited and convinced that this stint in politics was going to shape my career. Instead, the only thing it shaped was that I realized I could never again be surrounded by kiss ass already connected I don't care what I have to do to meet the First Lady type of people.  I swore off politics.  And though I'm kind of getting back into it again (how can you not be incensed by this), you don't have to be involved in politics to find kindred spirits in DC.  You just have to be a lawyer.  (Kidding.  Kind of).

9) The hours are better here.  A little.
Let me state it for the record.  Manhattan is an insane place to work.  Insane.  I don't care what your profession is, your hours are long and the expectations are ridiculous.  So coming here, there really is nowhere to go but up.  Yes, compared with most of America, the hours here are probably still considered to be long on average.  But you know what?  On the rare occasion that my husband works until 2am, there is a recognition that that is really crazy.  And that's more than I can say for New York.

10)  It's home.
I complain about DC a lot.  The heat in the summer.  The lack of snow plows in the winter.  The cost of living.  But at the end of the day, after having no real prior connection here, it feels like home.  And DC is like that - it can be sterile, it can be overwhelming, and it can be transient - but it is welcoming.  I truly believe that the world is anyone's oyster - you can be whoever you want, do whatever you want, and go wherever you want.  And out of anywhere in the world, my husband and I have staked our claim on a little house on a little piece of land in the DC 'burbs.  And sometimes, when I'm in a good mood (like today), I think there's no better place to be.


  1. This was a good read. We moved to DC a year and a half ago from NYC. We were in brooklyn, so never felt overwhelmed by people. Yeah, we thought it would be cheaper than NY also. Ha, not at all. Rent is the same, taxes slightly lower, going out maybe a bit lower. Agree about the restaurants, there are some good ones. While we are in the city, I have thought that if we needed to get out to the burbs that Bethesda wouldn't be all that bad...

  2. Love this "bright side of DC." I was feeling especially negative about it today after a nightmare metro ride and rainy skies. But you're right, overall it's a good place to be.

  3. I miss living in DC terribly, and after reading this (now that I am the mom of two boys), I miss it even more. I can't wait to climb through the planes, run on the Mall, take the Red line, etc etc etc with my family. Soon, I hope.

  4. I am visiting DC for the 2012 Mom Congress conference in a month and can't wait! My sister lives in the DC city limits and I will get to also visit her for the first time since she moved a couple years ago! Haven't been to DC since 8th grade (long time)... loved reading all about it here. It sounds like a fabulous place for a family.

  5. I visited DC for a business week in October/November because one of my cases was being heard by the robed 9. I liked it but don't think I could live there. The politicians turned me off (and I'm a lawyer!!!). However, I LOVED the restaurants (particularly in Chinatown) and I got to see a couple of museums that I hadn't seen before (the American Museum of Natural History and the Holocaust Museum) and I went to the US Supreme Court for my first oral argument (my case - awesome!). It also just seems to be really expensive to live there...

  6. I am a lurker on your blog but had to comment since I live in Brussels, i.e. the DC of Europe (and coincidentally I am from DC). Your DC is like expat life in Brussels and seeing this post reminds me of the cool things about Brussels. But, your post also makes me terribly homesick!

    Also, as a very recent lawyer turned SAHM, I really dig this blog and appreciate your point of view.

  7. I laughed out loud at #7--it's so true. I lived in DC before going to law school in the south, where the two main ingredients in every restaurant dish are love and butter. But still, DC had some great eats. Your list makes me miss the city!


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