Suburban blues

I'm tired of the large mortgage and the SUV and the gym memberships. I want out!

Published July 1, 2004 7:23PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I'm a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom in Los Angeles. I have two beautiful, bright, funny, creative children whom I love dearly. I've been married 12 years to my best friend and partner and, from the looks of it, we have the ideal life.

But Cary, I'm just not living the life I want to lead. I suffered through severe postpartum depression after the birth of my second baby. I can't even begin to describe the loss and grief that was brought up for me. I lost the ability to function and think clearly and I've been affected deeply from my experience both physically and emotionally.

Now that I'm recovering, I feel so different about my life. I value every day so fully and have an even deeper appreciation for the people I truly love and who love me. I'm setting limits with people in my life who are hurtful, standing up for myself and asserting my needs and becoming a better and more mature person from what I went through.

The problem I have is this. I want out. I want out of a life that most people strive to achieve! I want out of suburbia, PTA fundraisers and dinner every night at 6. I'm tired of the large mortgage and the SUV and Gymboree classes and gym memberships. I want out!

I want to walk around a city lake to get exercise! I want to sit on a front porch with my husband and talk about what we will do today. Will we walk to a sweet little coffee shop down the street? Will we grab the kids and ditch school for the day, visit some museums, spend the day playing in a park? I want to own a little house where we can catch safe public transportation and not rely on a car for everything. I want my husband to have less stress, less weight on his shoulders from the entertainment biz.

I miss my family. I miss time for intimacy. I like small conversations and times to just "be" with our kids. I want to take art classes and learn yoga. I want my husband to have time for writing. I want my husband home with me in the afternoons. I want time for us to develop our interests. I want our kids to have more time with their dad.

I want so much, yet it seems we have it all. Please tell me your opinion. Should we leave the lucrative job in L.A. for small-town America and more time together? Or is this normal to always want what you just don't have?

A Sad Stay-at-Home Mom

Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,

My wife and I sit around and talk just like you do; we don't want to spend more time with our kids, but we talk about how our lives are being chewed up in the jaws of this giant, unthinking machine of capital and labor. We think about how fast everything is going by, how sweet but rare the moments are when we can pause and enjoy what we're doing and where we are. We talk about leaving San Francisco not because we don't love the city but just so we could go somewhere slower and less interesting where we wouldn't have to work so hard and could maybe feel what it's like to be a normal human being.

How much money do you have? If you've got a lot of money you could bail just like a Russian oligarch. But I take it your husband has to work. If you moved to small-town America, what would your husband do there? Can you just go to small-town America and look in the Yellow Pages for Entertainment Industry and get a job as a mogul at the local entertainment conglomerate? Probably not. So I think the little white house with the picket fence and the birdhouse might not be the place. The thing is, I think you get less burnt out living right in a city than you do living in the suburbs and commuting to a city. So pick a nice city that you can live in the middle of, where you can take public transit or walk to work, where there's kids and schools in the neighborhood and cafes and stuff like that. Because the peace that you get when you move out of the city is broken if you have to commute by car. That's my feeling about it anyway. Commuting is disruptive to home life and isolating and dangerous and stressful. But you could live in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Berkeley, Calif., or maybe Seattle.

All those places are better than L.A. That city is just too hard on a person. At least it sounds like it's too hard on you. So do something, and do it soon. You'll be ancient before you know it; you'll look up one day and your kids will be practicing medicine in Encino, doing real estate in Phoenix and retiring to Sun City and you won't hear what they're saying on the telephone because your hearing's gone. So get out of L.A. before it's too late.

Quick! Run! Get out of L.A.!

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