15 Tips on Surviving as a Mom in the Suburbs

85 Comments

Nearly a decade ago, I moved to the suburbs from NYC. In that time I’ve learned some pretty important things to ensure surviving, nay, keeping my sanity being a Mom in the suburbs.

If my suburb sent out a handbook it would look something like this. Feel free to use it as a mini-survival guide. Good luck and in the words of that guy on Hill Street Blues, ‘Hey, let’s be careful out there.’

15 tips on surviving as a Mom in the suburbs

1. All children must be signed up for multiple sports and extracurricular activities, to ensure that no family can plan anything on a Saturday until their kids are too old to want to spend Saturday’s with their family.

2. Do NOT be alarmed if you try to enter the wrong minivan or SUV; this is common. Try to lessen the confusion by putting fun stickers on your back windshield representing each of your children performing their favorite activity.

3. You can paint your house one of 477 shades of tan. Other colors will be categorically denied, so don’t even try it!

4. If your child has strep or hand foot and mouth, be aware that the entire town will know about it before you get his/her prescription filled. PS this same urgency in passing news applies to affairs as well!

5. As a suburban mom you are expected to start some kind of craft business immediately. Your choices are: hair accessories, jewelry, embellished clothing, or things you can print on card stock – anything else must be cleared through the Chamber of Commerce.

6. If you already have a job, you are expected to purchase these crafted goods, in bulk, at the myriad of local holiday boutiques that celebrate everything from Ramadan to Flag Day. Like PTA meetings, being absent is frowned upon.

7. If you do not find a grocery store or Starbucks within one mile of your current position, you’re lost and have entered an inferior neighborhood! Please stay calm and return to your suburb immediately.

8. You are required to join a gym. There, you must take spin classes with disco lighting, pretzel yourself into a reformer, and learn the art-form that is Zumba.

9. You will be expected to pressure clean anything and everything from your sidewalk to your dog. Be prepared.

10. Make sure your dog is cute, as neighbors will constantly stop to pet it. Be warned, the same neighbors will turn you in to the association the first time Rufus barks after 9PM. (Don’t name your dog Rufus.)

11. Make an immediate trip to lululemon/Athetica/GapBody/Target, and pick up workout/athletic/golf/tennis gear that’s trendier than simply wearing sweatpants. Wear these goods at least 50 -100% of the time; in the winter, simply wear your athletic gear with Uggs.

12. You will need to attend a mind-numbing amount of birthday lunches/dinners for ladies turning anywhere from 30-50. Get there early, as who you sit next to (or don’t sit next to) can make or break your day.

13. Cut back on sex ASAP, as you will find yourself in conversations where moms discuss their infrequent, and unsatisfying sex life regularly – at lunches, parties, dinners, play-dates.

14. And stop giving BJ’s! People in the ‘burbs are only expected to give them on birthdays and anniversaries (it’s one of the perks).

15. Living in the ‘burbs is a little like reading Us Weekly: Everything is sensationalized. It’s fun to discuss “who wore it best,” but not as much fun as playing Fashion Police. You will find yourself looking for cellulite/wrinkles on young skinny moms. And gossip is treated as gospel.

I hope this helps you fit into the suburban life you’ve chosen. Maybe I’ll see you at the next boutique sale – I’ll be selling picture frames with random findings glued to it!

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  1. 3

    Debbie says

    Oh Jenny this is wonderful. Love it. What i call following the crowd. It is amazing to me what lenghts people are going to go to, ‘to fit in’.

    My kids are grown, but i see and hear this going on with my girls and grandkids. I love checking there FB and laugh at what they put on it.
    I always get a kick out of the play dates. When my were young, I wanted to go over to a girl friends and have a cup of coffee or beer and the kids played. I didn’t make up a name for this active, I knew that i was thirst and it was going to be great to have kids to intertain kids while we ladies had a little adult conversation.

    My heart does go out to you mothers these days. All I can say is be yourself and if they don’t like it you aren’t going to be spending the rest of your life around them anyway. Most of them are going to find a nicer community to live in someday, because the old one just isn’t classy enough any more.

    I do like the idea of bumper sticker for the mini van so you can find yours. Thanks Jenny for the smiles this early morning.
    Have a great day,
    Debbie

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    • 4

      Jenny Isenman AKA Jenny From the Blog says

      Any time Debbie and the truth is PLAYDATE for me is usually a word that means let’s have coffee or whateve while we try to make our kids friends so we can do this again sometime!

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    • 6

      Elsie says

      Don’t be terrified Katie, the older mommies will be very clear about their expectations for the newer mommies :) Seriously though, join the PTA and help out occasionally. ‘Burb mommies take their PTA duties VERY seriously.

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  2. 9

    DEbi says

    LOL! I could have written this piece. Do we live in the same “hood”? You forgot the mandatory brow beating you get if you don’t join the DAR or Junior league at once and OMG, the reason for the gym membership is so we don’t embarrass ourselves when we go to the neighborhood pool ( which is mandatory on weekdays throughout the summer) while we sip Fraps to the skinny, perfect 25 year old who just had a baby yesterday and is wearing a bikini and sporting a bronze goddess tan today. Cripes,I;m tired just talking about it and now, I must go workout. May is just around the corner.

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  3. 14

    MarySunshine says

    I’m the weirdo mom on the court. But I’ve always been a “weirdo”, so I’m used to the looks. LOL

    I do like to craft though, so I got a little butthurt by 5. No one wants sugar scrubs or crocheted scarves? Crap. There goes my idea of work when they kids start school. ;-)

    I might not be a city transplant, but I’m definitely an outsider looking in on the suburban mom phenomenon. LOL

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  4. 16

    Ariana says

    I grew up in the burbs so the environment has always been the same for me, but definitely nail on the head! Sending my kids to private school when they were young made me aware that every other suburban myth was indeed fact! (And love #14…I didn’t know that!)

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  5. 18

    Stephanie says

    Ha! I’d love to see Ramadan in my development.

    This makes me very glad my kids (and life) keep me too busy to canoodle with the neighbors. (Though they’re probably gossiping about that. Or the blog. Either one.)

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  6. 21

    Brandi says

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Coming from the country, where these things did not matter, was a major shock when we moved into a neighborhood. The lifestyles are totally opposite. Thanks for the laugh!

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    • 22

      Jenny Isenman AKA Jenny From the Blog says

      Brandi I think it’s probably tougher for you. That’s culture shock! Just put on a tennis skirt every once in a while and no one will ever know. LOL

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    • 25

      AmberB says

      OMG – yes, bunco…and all of those damn parties where you should buy at least SOMETHING to support a girlfriend’s “business”-and the latest, urban homesteading…because buying cheese and yogurt at the store is so 1990s.

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      • 26

        jd says

        Since the 70’s, I’ve gone to “parties,” for Tupperware, Discovery toys, Pennyrich bras, Mary Kay, and other types of makeup, all kinds of jewelry, candles, lingerie and sex toys (yes!), baskets, plants, clothing, children’s books, crystal, Pampered Chef, knives, and others that I can’t remember now. I had a party ONCE. I didn’t really want to do it, but you know how it is… you get so caught up thinking that you might be able to offset your own expenses by bugging your friends to come to your party and buy crap they don’t need. I’ll never do it again. I did make enough to get a few things that I had wanted, but it wasn’t worth it at all. This marketing technique just annoys the heck out of me. It preys upon our womanly friendships, our loyalty, and sense of wanting to help our friends in their quest to start a little business. It sabotages us with our own guilt, and we often spend more money than we can’t really afford just to be a good friend. I mean, you just can’t go to one of these things and not buy something…. although occasionally there is a brave soul who manges to stay true to their own budget. I cringe with dread everytime I get an invitation to one of these thinly disguised beg a thons. I try to avoid going, because I am not one of those who can walk away empty handed. It’s not that I ever need or even want the objects, and the prices are never at a bargain. The last time I went, I spent $75 on an item that I would NEVER, in my regular shopping, pay more than about $10 for. But at least I do stick to my guns on one thing: I do not ever give in to have a party. Why is that only women succumb this kind of marketing? Why don’t we see guys having power tool parties, or gun parties.? Because guys would call BS on that in a heartbeat. And we should, too… unless we really like being gluttons for punishment.

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  7. 29

    Katlin says

    Rural Maine…similar yet different.

    The children are of course all signed up for multiple activities, even the little three year olds, but they must each be at least an hour of driving, each way, so that there is never a possibility of a family meal together, except at the one McDonald’s in a twenty mile radius.

    Your house can be any color at all. But you will be instead judged by your dooryard, the size of your truck, or the number of snowmobiles or quads, depending on the season.

    The acceptable mommy businesses are limited to the invite and sell to ‘friends’ parties. Which you will have to find a way to squeeze into your schedule at least every weekend. And once there, you will be expected to buy things you will never use and can’t afford, like stinky candles, kitchen gadgets that break, and more flower print bags than your children could ever fill with their endless supplies of necessary extracurricular equipment.

    If you do find a Starbucks, large grocery store or well equipped playground within ten miles of your current location, you are “in the city” and should retreat immediately to the frost-heaved back roads. Unless of course, you are there for one of the many children’s activities, in which case you should make a day of it and spend ALL of you money on more ‘necessary for survival’ children’s equipment.

    The mommy attire and sex rules are about the same here. Although, the clothes should only come from Target or maybe Walmart. The children’s clothes on the other hand have to be from babyGap, the Children’s Place, LL Beans, or possibly Hanna Anderson. And they are most likely all bought online as the nearest shopping mall is at least two hours away.

    And the best gossip place is either Facebook, during the time usually devote to good quality family time like dinner, or at pick up from public school while waiting to shuttle your kids to the new coolest after school activity, such as ice fishing.

    And I also love the Scary mommy disclaimer…I think I need that as my next sleeve tattoo.

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  8. 31

    Katlin says

    It is amazing how similar life in Rural Maine can be, although there are a few differences.

    The children are of course all signed up for multiple activities, even the little three year olds, but they must each be at least an hour of driving, each way, so that there is never a possibility of a family meal together, except at the one McDonald’s in a twenty mile radius.

    Your house can be any color at all. But you will be instead judged by your dooryard, the size of your truck, or the number of snowmobiles or quads, depending on the season.

    The acceptable mommy businesses are limited to the invite and sell to ‘friends’ parties. Which you will have to find a way to squeeze into your schedule at least every weekend. And once there, you will be expected to buy things you will never use and can’t afford, like stinky candles, kitchen gadgets that break, and more flower print bags than your children could ever fill with their endless supplies of necessary extracurricular equipment.

    If you do find a Starbucks, large grocery store or well equipped playground within ten miles of your current location, you are “in the city” and should retreat immediately to the frost-heaved back roads. Unless of course, you are there for one of the many children’s activities, in which case you should make a day of it and spend ALL of you money on more ‘necessary for survival’ children’s equipment.

    The mommy attire and sex rules are about the same here. Although, the clothes should only come from Target or maybe Walmart. The children’s clothes on the other hand have to be from babyGap, the Children’s Place, LL Beans, or possibly Hanna Anderson. And they are most likely all bought online as the nearest shopping mall is at least two hours away.

    And the best gossip place is either Facebook, during the time usually devote to good quality family time like dinner, or at pick up from public school while waiting to shuttle your kids to the new coolest after school activity, such as ice fishing.

    And I also love the Scary mommy disclaimer…I think I need that as my next sleeve tattoo.

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      • 39

        Arnebya says

        Awwwwwww I like the stickers (it’s because my kids don’t do shit, isn’t it? And the representation would be the five of us just standing still, no dog. And what if we were represented in black clothing instead of white? The no one would even see us because of our stupid blackness. My inappropriateness knows no bounds today. I like it.)

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    • 41

      Andrea says

      Ever since the episode of “Dexter” where the Trinity Killer was able to lure a kid away thanks to the details on a sticker set, I have sworn up and down that there is no way in HELL I’m putting those on my car. So far I’ve held firm to that, and it helps that my husband thinks they’re stupid as well.

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  9. 42

    doni says

    Finally someone pointed out the constant wearing of workout clothes!! Ahhhh! Drives me crazy! Surely they aren’t working out THAT much…or maybe they just want to be prepared for a zumba flashmob at anytime.

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    • 43

      Ariana says

      The suburb of all suburbs…Boulder, CO…where people ONLY wear workout clothes, and arriving to a destination in any vehicle that is not a bicycle or a Subaru with a bike rack on top will result in a fine or expulsion from the town. Residents really are in crazy good shape, though.

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    • 44

      Jenny Isenman AKA Jenny From the Blog says

      Ooh a Zumba flashmob actually sounds fun. LOL. I like to wear the work out gear when I’m not even working out … that way I feel like other people will think I look really good when I sweat, plus it allows me to avoid showering!!! Thanks for reading XO

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  10. 45

    Arnebya says

    City husbands who have suburban husband friends giggle and point when those friends say they had an off-season bj. “And it’s not even my birthday!” (#3 pisses me off. DEATH TO THE HSA!)

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