This is not a joke. I repeat this is not a joke! Last April Fools Day, we welcomed our second child into the world, in the midst of a global pandemic. At the time, we were living in Michigan. Temperatures were frigid and everything was shut down. By any stretch of the imagination, my maternity leave did not go as planned. There was no ‘Mommy and Me’ postnatal yoga, no trips to Target or Starbucks with my new little bundle of joy snoozing in the stroller, and no playdates with mom friends.
Instead, my “maternity leave” looked something like a three-ring circus. If I could paint you a picture of a typical day, you’d see my husband on a work call while simultaneously baking bread with our bouncy 23-month-old daughter and me in the background cleaning spit up off my shirt while purchasing puff balls from Amazon for some strange activity I saw on Instagram (and crossing my fingers they’d arrive in less than 17 days).
All kidding aside, we were extremely lucky. My husband and I both maintained employment, we were able to keep our children home safe, and we lived in a spacious single-family home with a big backyard, which afforded us enough space to still love each other dearly at the end of most days. But as the “two weeks to flatten the curve” came and went, we began to question our sanity and our future. The inclement weather kept everyone inside, the coronavirus cases kept rising, and we both soon had to learn to navigate working full time AND parenting full time.
How long would this last?
Would summer be better?
What about fall?
What if Covid kept everyone inside all winter? The thought of Groundhogs Day for the next 365 days put a pit in our stomachs.
What could we do to tackle this head-on? With my husband working remotely for the foreseeable future, we had some flexibility. Just like half of America, we began researching RVs. We could travel the country, exploring all of the National Parks. Fantastic! Wait. That would be like driving a studio apartment around the country with two under two, a 110-pound dog, and two adults. Staring at each other with that deer in the headlights look, we scratched that idea. Thinking that perhaps we were being a little dramatic, we poured our energy into planning an epic summer road trip instead.
Off We Went…
In July of 2020, we packed up our Honda CR-V and headed South for the month. One of our stops brought us to Charleston. Our family spent the month soaking up the sunshine by exploring parks and playgrounds, building sandcastles by the ocean, and dining outdoors. We were hooked, and there was no turning back. With Covid cases predicted to spike as the Midwest temperatures plummeted, we knew we needed to find a way to head south where we could remain outdoors, not trapped between the four walls of our house for the whole winter.
When all was said and done, we ended up renting out our house in Michigan and purchasing a duplex in downtown Charleston’s Short Term Rental district, where we would live in one unit and Airbnb the other. We downsized BIG TIME! We went from a spacious 2500 square foot home with three floors to a 900 square foot condo. We traded in our ample backyard space for a tiny balcony. We sacrificed space for lifestyle. While many people thought we had lost our marbles (note: who didn’t lose their marbles in 2020?), we couldn’t have been more excited about what our future held.
Well, hindsight is 20/20, and I’m thrilled that I can say with full conviction that our family made the right choice. Looking back on the last nine months we’ve spent here in Charleston, it’s undeniable that although we downsized our property, we truly upsized our lives.
Here Are Some Things We Love About Charleston…
- The ocean, beaches, parks, and playgrounds have become our new backyard. Instead of spending the afternoons on our deck, we head out and about to explore all of the beautiful outdoor spaces Charleston has to offer.
- Living downtown, we are within walking distance of our kids’ daycare, restaurants, coffee shops, and a host of other entertainment. (Coming from suburbia, the fact we can put the kids in the wagon two minutes before daycare and arrive on time STILL thrills me.)
- The restaurants and breweries are top-notch. Having lived in Chicago and San Francisco, my husband and I are no strangers to good eats and drinks. As foodies, we’ve been thrilled with the growing beer scene and all of the unique restaurants Charleston has to offer.
- The weather simply cannot be beaten. Relocating from the Midwest, we didn’t know if there would be seasons in Charleston, but there are! We get to wear sweaters in the winter, but we don’t need to own snow boots. It’s fantastic. And I love how winter throws you sweet surprises. I’ll never forget spending New Year’s Day playing in the sand at the beach.
- Charlestonians are engaging, friendly, and vivacious. From the mom at the playground who has become a dear friend, to the babysitter who rocked our baby boy to sleep, to the soccer coach who gives our daughter a pep talk on Saturday mornings, everyone has welcomed us with open arms.
- There is SO MUCH for kids to do. Every weekend, there’s a long list of activities from which to partake. From festivals and markets to sporting events and beaches, we will never tire of the endless options.
- Charleston is a BIG, small city. I love how quickly Charleston has felt like home to me, and part of that is because of its size. It frequently surprises me how many people know each other.
Is my kids’ playroom also my daughter’s bedroom? Sure thing. Is our “home office” and “home gym” also where we sleep, and do we eat around a kitchen island instead of a dining room table? Yes and yes. But I wouldn’t trade any of these small inconveniences for the new quality of life we are experiencing every single day here in Charleston.