A house in the peaceful country, or a small apartment in the vibrant city. Which would you pick? Today we’re chatting with my friend Rheanna, a single mom to a spunky 4 yr old girl, who has jumped back and forth between the two…
Originally from Washington D.C., Rheanna was drawn to the California dream when she was pregnant with her daughter, Paloma. “When we arrived, we were a bit overwhelmed by the intense process of finding, bidding, and paying high rents and ended up settling in West Oakland. When my daughter’s dad and I split up – I decided to leave our house and find my own. The process hit me again. It was a rental bidding war and landlords strongly suggested they didn’t want children. I found myself bidding on a $2,800 studio and seriously considering living above a popular bar/club.”
“Realizing that was ridiculous”, Rheanna ended up moving down to a small town down the coast where the digital agency she does marketing for had an office. Like many of us, the lure of the slower country life and the “idyllic dream of a house and yard” drew her in.
Small town friendliness was what surprised her most. “New parent friends offered to watch my daughter whenever I needed. They showed up early to help prep for kid parties. Without us asking, neighbors carried in garbage cans and picked up our mail when we were away.”
“People were actively creating the community they wanted to be a part of. It felt like that village we all talk about needing. Life was slower and easier there; we didn’t have to make time for each other, we had it.”
Slowing down. “My daughter also learned to slow down and enjoy nature. We spent days at the ocean, going on hikes, picking flowers, and kayaking with the sea lions. We didn’t have the cultural or diversity of people exposure you get from a city (which I desperately missed)”.
Overall, it turned out to be just what they needed at the time. “I considered it a meditative sabbatical of sorts to focus on myself, my daughter, and finding comfort in being a single mom…I cherished the time away – it was centering and helped me focus on healing from a breakup, rather than chase replacements or distractions from myself.”
But there was a big trade-off for her, besides the lack of diversity and culture. “I was traveling up to San Francisco nearly every weekend for social events, for the parent swap, and missed the energy of the city.”
Like many people that end up back in the city, it was about the right place for her and her daughter. “When we got a call that a place in San Francisco was available on a street filled with family-like friends, and the owner said it could be ours, we jumped on the opportunity.”
“We now live in the Mission, on a magical block – we moved directly across the street from our former nanny, and the block is full of her family…It just felt right to re-enter the city life, especially if I want to grow my career and have a social life (and date) again.”
A village in the city. “It’s like we’re back in a village. We sit on our stoops, the neighbors invite us over for parties, they ring my doorbell when I forget to move my car for street cleaning, and they’re quick to lend a cup of sugar (or tools). My daughter has come to love the guys who work the corner bodega (she writes them cards and they give her treats), she makes it a point to say hello to the neighbor who leisurely sits on the corner every day, and she’s become a common name and friendly kid face at many of the stores in the neighborhood – popping in to say hello on our daily walks. This feeling of acceptance and welcome and connectivity with everyone in the neighborhood is so important.”
Maybe it’s really about the people you surround yourself with and the community you create than where you live?
On raising a girl as a single mom in a big city. “We have three rules – take care of ourselves, take care of others, and take care of our space. I tell my daughter often that if she does this always, she really can run the world…I joke that my daughter is going to run for mayor of this city – and she might, with her roots firmly planted in the Mission.”
“She’s the star of the show for sure. I say embrace it. These are the girls who will grow up to run the world.”
I recently read that San Francisco was one of the best big cities for a single mom, but Rheanna disagrees in some important ways. “When I first moved here, I would’ve said yes absolutely. It’s full of beautiful parks, beaches, amazing experiences and food, and it feels good to just walk and see other humans everywhere. But now that I’m a few months in – I see how hard it is. It’s expensive to live here. It’s nearly impossible to afford SF rent on a single income and preschool / daycare costs are ridiculously high…The mental load of living in SF as a single parent is intense.”
But there is so much culture and diverse experiences that are very unique to living in the city. Maybe you really can thrive. “Take them everywhere and fully embrace being a single parent in the city. It’s really a magical and freeing thing, and it’s the best of both worlds. Just you, and your kids, doing what you both love best. Teach them all the lessons about people, culture, food, experiences. They’ll learn how to thrive (and survive) in the city.”
Focus on the positive. “I have zero time for negative energy in my life, and I don’t allow myself to focus on the negativity (whether it’s news, stress, work, etc). I try to keep my mind focused on the positive, the solution, and the future always. That’s given me a sort of zen about life. And always think forward to the future. Imagine the lessons learned, the experiences had, and the incredible stories your kids will tell when they grow up.”
Which sounds better to you? Country or city live? I feel like the older I get the more drawn to the country but the trade-offs are big. Still torn, what about you?
You can find more of Rheanna and Paloma’s adventures in San Francisco here on instagram.