Raising a Child in the City by the Bay with Megan Regard Walsh

8 Oct

Please welcome my cousin Megan Regard Walsh to our Where Do You Live series! Megan has always represented the epitome of cool to me – she was the first to introduce me to Gwen Stefani and No Doubt and the first to show me how to draw the Stussy S. So naturally, she ended up in one of the coolest cities – San Francisco. Here she tells us how she ended up there and why it is a great place to raise a child:

Q: Tell us about your family.

My husband and I dated for 7 years before marriage and were married 3 years before Finley. We think we are an only-child household, unless you count our “special needs” pug. We had out daughter in our early 30s, but still managed to be the first of our close friends in SF, so the first year or so we felt pretty alone in the whole parenting thing. But now I make it my goal in life to help my friends make the transition into parenthood feeling supported and optimistic!

We spend a lot of time with my parents, since they moved up here a few years ago. And my sister who has lived with us on and off for the past few years. Having them around is a god send. I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else.

Q: Where do you live? Will you tell us the story of how your home came to be yours?

We live in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. After renting in “the city” for 8 years and paying what seemed like a small fortune every month, making the leap to home ownership just sounded more attractive than continuing to write checks to somebody else. So we bought one of the first properties we saw. It was a total wreck, but unique because it had a big lot and because it wasn’t officially on the market yet when we happened across it. So we jumped on it and put in a bid. The family we bought it from had had it in the family since the 1890s and didn’t really want to deal with a bidding war, so they accepted our offer without showing it. We went into it a little blind, but 3 years and a remodel later, we still feel like we scored!

Q: How did you decide to live in San Francisco?

San Francisco was the nearest “happening” city that I visited often while I was going to college in Santa Cruz. I met Nathan there as a senior and decided to stay at his apartment with him “for a month or two” after I graduated while I looked for my own place. Well it was 2000, during the dot com bubble and it was nearly impossible to get an apartment unless you had 6 months of rent in cash or some other awesome bribe/collateral, and I had neither. But on the flip side, it was ridiculously easy to find a job in tech at that time – I was an art and history major that found myself working on interactive design projects for the Smithsonian and Veuve Clicquot Champagne, so I was happy to see where that would take me. I basically never ended up getting “my own place” and we have been working away, at life, our careers and at marriage, ever since!

Q: What’s your favorite feature in your home? What makes you the happiest about it? Also, what are you dying to change?

We went from having no real bathrooms in our house when we bought it – more like an outhouse tacked onto the back of a ramshackle addition – to now having 2 glorious full baths post-remodel. So I kind of went bonkers designing the new ones. We have red zebra wallpaper in one and tile made out of abalone shell in the other. Being able to pee and wash your hands in the same room is a luxury in itself compared to what we had before, but the new rooms are straight up delightful. I also love that we have legit closets now. I literally had a dance party in one during our house warming party. There were no such thing as closets in all the weird little places we lived before remodeling and most people in SF can appreciate a closet that can house a dance party. First world problems in every way, but dance we did.

Dying to change my countertops. They are an awesome striped stone, but totally impractical to take care of. This time I went a little too bonkers for my own britches.

Q: Now that you have a child, has it changed your outlook on living in the city and this one in particular? What are the main pluses and minuses in your opinion?

I think the main plus is diversity. Not just in terms of racial diversity, but more importantly in terms of lifestyle and way of living, diversity of possibilities. I think one of my main complaints about my own upbringing in the burbs is that I didn’t have a great sense of the breadth of experience people have in life, depending on their choices. My dad was a filmmaker, which is pretty exceptional, and many others in my family lead interesting lives, but generally our community was made of people who had sort of “expected” career paths, homes in tract communities and somewhat limited cultural lives. I mean, living this life allowed us the chance to grow up with horses and walk to school without worry of kidnapping or mayhem. I can’t complain about the multitude of benefits in that. However,  I did spend a lot of time in malls and swooning over football player types. I feel that since I have matured a bit and moved to SF, I have appreciated drinking in values that are a bit more eclectic and present, less manufactured and more nuanced. At our last preschool event I took stock of our parent community – it is made up of a pair of surgeons from India, a same sex couple that work at an online gaming company, a single mom who is a personal chef, there is a travel blogger, a nutritionist and a producer at CurrentTV. We had a bollywood dance troupe performance, an up-cycled craft show and a welding demonstration at our last block party. Growing up I had no idea a lot of those professions or hobbies existed.

Q: What are some of your hobbies/free-time activities? Does living where you do shape these activities?

Definitely – as much as I like to think my environment is so cool and diverse, it is for the most part manufactured, unnatural. I spend a lot of time at zoos, events, classes and museums. This is cool and I’m so appreciative, but what these places do best is approximate real adventures in a predictable way in exchange for a price of admission. The Bay Area Discovery Museum has a beautifully imagined fairy house and an interactive salmon run and you can stand next to a giraffe at our zoo, but I can’t help but wonder if all of this isn’t a bit too pre-determined. I hope that Finley is able to imagine and invent for herself, even though for the most part she is accustomed to a certain packaging of experiences. One of the most memorable decisions I made as a parent this year was deciding that we would skip the museum and play in the crazy mud puddles we encountered on the road in instead one day.

Q: What are your family’s values – what is important to teach your daughter?

I think there is an interesting balance between opportunity/awareness and initiative and I want to foster both in her. I want to provide exposure to things, but I want her to also feel that she is responsible for realizing her own potential, for seeking out solutions. I want to model responsible and conscientious behavior. And fun. I want to prioritize fun for all of us, not just kids!

Q: If you had a magic wand, what would be one thing you would change or improve about your current set-up (i.e. city of residence, childcare, etc)?

Oh jeez – magic time wand? Magic energy wand? I want so much to do everything: travel, cook, daydream, achieve, learn how to play music, stay fit and be always positive and up for anything. But some times I’m tired, lazy, cranky and take the easy way out. I want endless energy so I can do everything and delight in doing it instead of rushing, prioritizing, juggling, second guessing my prioritizing, etc.

Q: Any favorite products so far when it comes to home life or baby rearing?

For function: Ergo baby carrier. For style: Kid sized Minnatonka Moccasins.

Q: Any future dreams/goals for your home or family?

Travel! We haven’t prioritized this since we have been remodeling and nesting, but I think were just hitting the age where getting out and about takes on a whole new reward.

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