A situation came up where I overhead some moms mention that too much distance constituted too long a commute to set up a playdate, visit a play center or join a support group. They considered those people, places and organizations “geographically undesirable.” They chose to remain in their own neighborhoods and stick close by to local playgrounds and facilities, no matter how routine. Distance and gas costs can prohibit long car trips, but why would you reject a potential friend or place where your child could explore and be amused?
Where I grew up in North Jersey, you could walk to the library, pool, park, friends’ and relatives’ homes, and town village in minimal time which was nice if, at times, suffocatingly familiar. Some North Jersey suburban locations appeared laid out in close-knit, convenient communities with a defined town square where people would gather for shopping and/or socializing. South Jersey, however, isn’t mapped out in the same, fairly convenient way. Since it seems more spread out, having a car is a necessity. Walking to a local store or friends’ home presents more of a challenge where I live. It isn’t better or worse, just different.
To reach one end of my township to another, it takes at least 20 minutes. While this sounds lengthy and time-consuming, I deal with it because my daughter attends a school across town and receives the necessary therapy and education there. Luckily, I’ve made friends in that area because of her school location, so it’s not that great a burden.
When I joined a moms’ group to socialize with other stay-at-home moms and for my children to meet new friends, I traveled more than 10 minutes at a time. I managed my time in order to accommodate the distance and prepare myself with supplies we required. Being a stay-at-home mom made me want to make friends and find organized activities for my kids away from my home. By staying home all day, I contracted cabin fever. The activities I joined broke up the day, and I made close friends and met moms from all over the area who shared motherhood but also introduced me to different interests and viewpoints. As a whole, it made my township that much smaller, friendlier and cozier; and I learned where important municipal buildings, stores, short-cuts and neighborhoods were located.
Despite their distance, the close friends I made who live in different local towns not only support me but make me laugh. When I see those close friends, I don’t regret any wear-and-tear on my vehicle (the fallen tree two years ago did more damage. See “Beware of Falling Trees”). If I never forged ahead, broke out of my shell and ventured outside of my small neighborhood, I never would have reaped the enlightening experiences; met these interesting, engaging people; or learned what places, near, far and wide, would benefit me and my family.
Believe me; nothing worth it is close or easy. When I graduated from college, I traveled 66 miles, round-trip, for my first job in publishing, a field I set my sights on after working for four years at my college newspaper and interning at a local paper. It was worth the chance I took because I never would have known how I would have fared if I rejected the job offer due simply to distance. For a year and a half, my now husband and I pursued a long-distance relationship where we traded weekends at each others’ homes, an almost two, sometimes three-hour, drive away. Yes, the drive was grueling, but I’ve never regretted that we took a chance on each other and now have a happy, never boring future to show for it.
So my main crux is to encourage other moms to not deny the chance to make a new friend or visit a new place or jump on a new opportunity just because they’re “geographically undesirable.” Learn and grow by meeting someone unlike you, tasting food you never tried, or visiting a place unlike one in your comfort zone. It will encourage your kids to live life to the fullest and welcome diversity into their lives. Bring the GPS and take a road trip with the kids — you may like the surprises you discover along the way.
M.B. Sanok is a South Jersey mom and a blogger for JerseyMomsBlog, where this post originated