There’s a really interesting conversation going on over at 11D about moving to a wealthier neighborhood to take advantage of the school district. The issue is that doing so might bring with it the need to fit in, both by the kids and by the parents, through clothing and other worldly possessions. We recently had this conversation, not about moving, but about attending private school after Geeky Girl expressed an interest in doing so. After we figured out a way to cover the cost for tuition, we immediately jumped to thinking about the people we’d be surrounded by. I’ve learned to live with the fact that our income doesn’t go as far here as it would in other places we’ve lived, and we chose our current neighborhood in part because we were surrounded by people whose income is roughly the same and whose values seem roughly the same. That is, they’re not interested in having fancy cars, perfectly manicured lawns, houses designed by interior designers, or designer clothes.
Yes, the private school down the street is “better” by some objective measures, but I’m not entirely sure it’d be better for our kids. Better academically maybe, but would their self-esteem take a blow when they got a lot of flack for not wearing designer jeans or driving a Lexus. I care not a whit about Uggs or Chanel sunglasses or whatever, but I do sometimes long to be able to travel more, to remodel my house exactly the way I want it, using high end materials instead of cutting corners, to be able to buy a new car. We can do those things, but not as often as the people who live in the next zip code and certainly not without some planning. We lived in that zip code briefly, and at one point at a play date, we were invited to a summer home where we might be able to hobnob with the Reagans. We could never have reciprocated, and that would have made me feel icky (as would hobnobbing with the Reagans, but that’s another story).
On the other hand, I’ve got a few advantages thanks to a generous father and some other friends. We go on vacation every summer without having to pay for accommodations, which makes a huge difference. We’d never be able to travel to the locations we do without that. Or we’d do it less often. We have friends who live overseas who’ve offered accommodations as well, again cutting the cost of trip nearly in half, making it more likely that we can travel there. And, it’s likely if I went back to work, there’s much more we could do financially since we’ve adjusted our habits to suit a single income existence. I think we’re doing okay by the kids. No, they’re not in the very very best schools, but they’re pretty damn good and living near a city gives them many advantages that we’d never have if we lived somewhere that would allow us to afford a Lexus. We’re doing the best we can, and I’m satisfied with that for now. But, I totally get the angst Laura and many of her commenters express. I have it, too, every once in a while.