04 Apr Mama Genericana Dialogue 03: Mothering in California or Michigan?
Who better to write and discuss mothering in Southern California (Orange County) and West Michigan (Forest Hills) than two women who have lived in both? This is the third installment of mama-dialogue on Mama Genericana: Raising a family in CA or MI? The west coast or the midwest? Is there a clear winner?
Before we even moved to Michigan I started looking into new places to visit, activities to experience, and many other things. My sister-in-law jokes that I have exposed her to more new adventures in Michigan than a native would. I like to plan, organize, and connect people.
Once the weather warmed up after we moved to West Michigan in March of 2011, I started exploring local parks. Beautiful spring days in Michigan not only bring the charming tweets of birds reemerging in our backyard, they also bring the endless laughters, screams, and sounds of children playing outside.
One park I visited that year was Lions Park, a small park connected to a line of baseball fields. I met Liz there. She had two daughters around the age of my kids, we started to talk as the kids played. This is totally normal on the playground; it’s an even “parenting” field when you are there alone.
Liz grew up in the community we met, where we both lived. She had lived out west in AZ for some time, so we connected on the weather…or the yearning of warmer weather. What is it with the weather? It dominates so many conversations on such different levels.
If you have ever lived in a small community, you realize that you start running into people everywhere. This heightens the sense of security, but also can limit an attempt to go quickly in-and-out of a store. So, of course, I ran into Liz at the gym, grocery store, and kid spots.
In 2013, she announced she was moving to Orange County, CA. What are the odds? Is this why we met? She was a native of where I moved across the country and she was about to relocate to the area I called home for over 30 years.
Liz considers her mothering style as involved and nurturing with an authoritative style. I describe my own mothering style as purposeful, loving, and exploratory. I also think both Liz and I are adventurous because we moved our children across the country for a new opportunity and we both have taken full advantage of the experiences surrounding our new hometowns. Does this allow each of us to be labeled “experts” in the art of learning a new city?
Getting back to weather for a moment, Liz stated one of the reasons they were excited to move west was to experience a yearly moderate climate. One of the big questions we got after our announcement of moving to the Midwest was…can you handle the weather? The reality is the weather has only a small impact on one’s happiness. Yes, there is SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but there is also hope. Hope and excitement about the changing seasons—in California the cries of extended heat or a cold burst of 50 can be inflated.
We both agree on the gift of diversity in California and the gift of a slower pace of life in Michigan. We disagree on the food. Liz believes there is more option to healthy food in CA. However, I have been impressed by the farm-to-table culture in West Michigan. I think it is easier to eat clean around here. I do acknowledge, eating clean anywhere takes effort.
Liz loves that each city in Orange County “has its own personality.” She appreciates the beaches, the endless outdoor activities, and the health mecca. In regards to Michigan, she loves the small town feel, great schools, the growing Downtown, cleanliness, and the sense of safety. I agree with her on both regards and we both despise the traffic in CA. I could go on with the details and differences, but most are rather obvious.
Does location affect mothering? No, I think not. Does location affect the child? No, not necessarily. I think location is a side effect of family life. The important piece relates to the core values of the family. Is your family the priority? Are your connections with your children on-going? Is your purpose in life to embody love? Then life can flourish anywhere. When our focus is on the dynamics of our family and not on the symptoms outside of our circle of love, then we will be successful.
We can only find happiness in the patch of grass we stand. We don’t need to look outside and wonder if life would be better if we live somewhere else or grew up somewhere different. The happiness of our family is drawn and led by the parents whether in California or Michigan—there is not a clear winner. We can love the life we live…anywhere.