Living With Kids: Anne McGraw

There’s often a little internal struggle when all of our life’s dreams don’t look exactly like they did with our eyes closed. Even if the reality is just as wonderful and just as ideal, it takes a moment or two of growing pains to adjust! So I completely understand when Anne talks about her reticence to fully embrace suburban life for a while. Homes all on top of each other and neighbors knowing when you’re leaving and when you’re coming home wasn’t how she envisioned her life, but their location and all the lovely friends they’ve made in their neighborhood turned out to be a huge factor in the happiness levels of her family! Eyes closed or open, that is just heavenly.

Friends, I hope you enjoy the bright colors and bright ideas in this tour. I sure did! Welcome, McGraw family!

My husband, Ryan, and I have been married for eight years and have two vivacious daughters. Cora is six, and is wickedly smart and all the fun things that come with that: strong willed, independent, and determined to eek every second out of every day. She actually says, “Today was the best day of my entire life” at the end of most days. She’s my mini-me and my teacher in so many ways.

Greta is four, and is literally the happiest child you’ve ever met and always has been – even as a baby. She’s full of sweet sass and loves to sing and perform and make everyone laugh.

Ryan is a technology consultant and works out of the house when he’s not traveling to visit clients. We met in Atlanta where we went to college together, and moved to New York City and Minneapolis before settling down in Nashville almost seven years ago. I work at a very large and well known global organization, which is what brought about our move to the suburbs in order to reduce my commuting time. I’m also producing Nashville’s first Listen To Your Mother show this April!

When we first moved here, we rushed into buying a house and it happened to be at the peak of the market. While I loved our huge, wooded lot in a very old and established neighborhood close to all the fun parts of Nashville, we quickly outgrew it and knew another 1950s ranch house was not in our future. We spent many, many weekends driving around new developments just south of town and stumbled upon this one and knew it checked all the boxes for our young family. We were able to pick our lot and wait until we were really ready to build, which gave us a full year of time to plan and customize.

The good and bad part about working three minutes from our new home site was that I was a woman obsessed during the building process. I was here every day at lunch, if not also doing a drive-through before and after work. We nitpicked details and finishes and were so involved in the process that I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing with how the house turned out. We only encountered minor issues, and I believe it’s because we took so much time to plan and set expectations with the builder.

Nashville is definitely having an “It Town” moment right now as people are discovering this amazing city and the quality of life here. I couldn’t imagine a better place to raise children, honestly. We live about 20 minutes south of town, literally on the edge of horse country with a Civil War-era main street and historic city center.

It’s just easy here. The schools are fantastic, the area is beautiful and green and lush with rolling hills, we’re 15 minutes away from pristine lakes where we boat in the summers, and have more great restaurants and live music options and festivals than we can possibly keep up with.

Our neighborhood itself has been the biggest surprise – and adjustment – for me. We’re surrounded by so many young families, which is incredible for the kids especially…but learning to navigate the unspoken rules and social expectations of kids running from house to house and yard to yard was crazy difficult for me for some reason. I’m an extroverted introvert, and had a really hard time figuring out how this system worked.

I’ve oftentimes felt very claustrophobic with the homes on top of each other and everyone knowing what each other is up to just due to proximity. But the upside is definitely the tight friendships we quickly made with our neighbors, and they’ve become like family since our own families are four hours away. We rely on each other and are truly a village with our children. I often pine for in-town living again, but have made peace with where we are, knowing this is what our family needs right now: a mom with a short commute and a kid-friendly neighborhood where they can play to their heart’s content.

With no family here in town, we have visitors quite often and having a separate guest suite was critical. We want our family and friends to feel comfortable here, which isn’t always easy when there are small kids running around the house! Finding a floor plan that would accommodate that space wasn’t as easy as it should have been.

I had to fight a fairly massive battle to get the kitchen nook designed the way I’d envisioned, and had to literally move walls and doors and resize windows to make it happen. It’s now the center of our home as we make family dinners a priority during the busy weeks.

We wanted to make our outdoor living space a lot larger but couldn’t due to the lot lines. There were signs like that here and there telling us we should pony up for a more private lot to build on, but I didn’t listen to my gut on it and it’s my only true regret.

I can’t even count the number of hours we spent touring half-built houses or model homes all over town, taking notes and discovering ways to tweak our floor plan to best fit our family. Pinterest was just picking up steam at that point, and I think I was one of the site’s first power users. I had a board for every room in our new house and collected our inspirations in one place, which was immensely helpful.

The fantastic part about new construction is you’re working with a clean slate. We have great natural light and wanted the house to feel bright and welcoming, not stuffy and traditional. The most important decision was always “Can this be lived in?” because I don’t believe in having areas or even items that are off limits to the girls. If something can’t get dirty, it doesn’t belong in our house. If I’m going to cry if it breaks, it’s my fault for putting it in an at-risk place.

We’ve learned to spend our money on things like furniture that will last, and not on fabrics or even rugs that will be put through the paces. When the bench cushions and pillows in our kitchen nook get dirty, I don’t have a heart attack. We’re living here and I refuse to be held hostage by our things.

My husband is truly the engine in this household. I’m absolutely convinced I couldn’t have the demanding but rewarding career I do if I wasn’t married to someone who parents 50/50 with me. Usually he’s doing more of the parenting than I am these days. He’s home when Cora gets off the bus so we don’t have to send her to aftercare, and he’s the one making dinners most nights and shuttling the girls around to their activities when I’m stuck in late meetings. He makes lunches and cleans the kitchen and does the laundry. This shouldn’t be that noteworthy, but I know it’s not always the case with husbands and thank the stars every day that I have him in my life.

We both get incredibly stressed out sometimes. There’s a lot of pressure on us both, but giving up “mom duties” has never been a part of it for me. I’m so thankful that my girls have such an amazing role model as to how involved a dad should be in their every day lives, and I think it’s going to shape them in more ways than I can even imagine right now.

The downside is that when Ryan does travel for work, I am FLOORED by how hard it is to do solo! My saving grace has been living so close to work, and I actually can go to the grocery store on a lunch break or come home and do a few things around the house in order to make the evenings easier on us all.  But I travel quite a bit, too, so we’re just taking turns and trying to make this dual-working parents thing work for everyone.

Our only real regret is the lot we chose, because I think we both underestimated how much we’d miss a private backyard with lots of trees. However, we have a great open backyard for the kids, and have built a fire pit and covered patio that we basically use most months of the year.

And storage! How we wish we had some inside storage space for some of our bins and boxes instead of having them clutter up our garage. It’s making us purge, though, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

I’m trying my best to be a free range parent with them, but it’s not always easy. I want the girls to be confident and adventurous, always, but know they have a safe place to land when they need it. We try to travel as much as possible and know they may not remember these trips except for the pictures they have, but it’s mostly a way for us to experience new things together and share the sense of excitement for exploring and discovering that I think is so vital in life.

I hope someday that they remember these years as having a mom who is present when she’s present. Not being with them during the days has made the weekends and evenings extra sacred, and I try so hard to make them moments of connection as a family.

I work full time because it’s rewarding for me to do so, and I think it’s important to have women engaged in running the businesses in this country. I do. If I ever truly thought my daughters were suffering as a result, I’d stop in a heartbeat. But they’re thriving. They’re loved, and they’re happy. And I hope that’s what they always remember…that we’re all so happy when we’re together.

The constant laughter is absolutely my favorite. My kids are hysterical, and it’s such a simple kind of joy to laugh so often. And they’re so sweet to each other as sisters (most of the time), and watching them together makes my heart just about burst.

I’m always amazed and surprised by how completely different our kids are, when they come from the same parents! Our girls have extremely different personalities, and it’s astounding to realize that everything you learned as a parent the first time around doesn’t work at ALL with your second kid.

This will sound strange, but I’m already starting to miss their dependence on me for the little things. Having my oldest come downstairs in the morning dressed for school and fixing herself a bowl of cereal for breakfast makes me feel a little sad…and I don’t know why! Luckily my youngest is still very much a Mama’s girl and I can baby her as much as I’d like for the time being.

I wish someone had told me that making compromises in the way you’d envisioned your life isn’t a sign of failure, it just means you’re now a parent and not always first in line.

I have struggled for so long with this new life of ours after the move, because I felt like I had a dress on that didn’t quite fit and wasn’t quite me. I’ve been fighting so hard against this new rhythm of school days and domestic routines and suburbia, feeling like I’m living in The Truman Show at times.

But I recently realized – belatedly – that this isn’t about me. That this is where our family belongs right now, and this is what works for us. I walk around our house and think every day that I couldn’t possibly love any house or the people who live in it more than I do. I’ve had to reframe what I pictured our life looking like, and being appreciative for how good we have it.

I’ve finally been able to find contentment in the present instead of constantly wondering what the future version of us looks like.


Anne, I love the way you describe your decision to work full time: “I think it’s important to have women engaged in running the businesses in this country.” I like that idea, too. Thank you so much for providing your perspective and sweet home!

Friends, have you found yourself in a somewhat similar situation? Wishing for a downtown life but finding happiness in suburbia? Learning how to navigate neighborhood rules? Knowing that your neighbor stayed out until 11:30 last night? Ha! Tell us about where you live and the way things are in your neck of the woods, will you?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

Some photos by Sarah-Marie Photography.

56 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Anne McGraw”

    1. I second that! I couldn’t even read it for scrolling through trying to find that source! Now I’ll go back and read. ;)

  1. What a great story. I work full-time as well, and my daughter is thriving with our current setup (preschool/daycare with two working parents). Even though I miss spending more time with her, she is getting the best of both worlds and we all cherish our time together even more. This is an interesting house too – we have a 92-year-old house that we are slowly renovating, and it’s a different process, but it’s all about making a house your home.

  2. “An extroverted introvert” … that describes me perfectly. How wonderful to have a name for it!

    The kitchen backsplash and dark wood floors are beautiful, and I love all the light. My chief complaint about my home is how dark it is. I’m envious of all that sunshine!

    1. We expanded the windows in our home–had the brick cut and everything! It made a WORLD of difference… and made the house look far newer too!

  3. What a beautiful family and house! The spaces feel so comfortable and fresh. Thanks for another post highlighting a family where the mother works outside the home!

  4. What a gorgeous home! The hardwoods are amazing! What are the paint colors in the living room and toy room? Awesome home tour!

    1. Toy room is just some random brown from our builder! We haven’t gotten around to painting that room yet. The downstairs grey is “Wexford Fog” by Dulux

      1. Thank you! The grey is very soothing to the eye. One last question, where is your office desk and bookcases from?

  5. What a sunny and fresh home! I really like the turquoise accents.

    It’s so valuable to hear the musing about home and motherhood from so many different women who participate in this series. I love what Anne has to say about the ‘burbs being the right place for her family now. I know from personal experience that one cannot underestimate the power of a super short commute and how much it positively impacts so many aspects of family life. Less stress, more family meals, attendance at sporting events, opportunities to “run into” other parents to name just a few. Life is (hopefully, usually) long and I bet that Anne will know and love the benefits of living city-center once again at a different stage of life.

  6. Gorgeous! Love the sunny and fun colors in your new home. Congrats!

    p.s. love the little bottle collections of sand…from different beaches you have traveled to I presume? Awesome. :)

  7. Can I ask the paint color in your dining area? It’s beautiful. I love the bright colors throughout. Very engaging and vibrant.

  8. Loved reading your story. It really resonates with me. We moved to Middle TN for my husband’s job when I was pregnant. We rented in Rutherford Co. for almost 2 years (where he works), with the dream of living in Nashville. But were priced out of the hipster-ish ‘hood we wanted (walkable, shops, restaurants, etc). Nashville is definitely having a boom, as you mentioned. Housing prices rose 100% in the ‘hood we wanted, all within one year of our moving here. It was very hard to give up that dream of city living. But like you, we realized it was time to think of what was best for the 4 of us, and we seem to have found it. Even though we miss the amenities of being in a proper city, we are in a great neighborhood, close to the town square, 1/2 block from an amazing public school, and my husband can literally walk to work. Your home is gorgeous. Enjoy!

    1. Thank you, Robin! It sounds like you’re in a great spot, too…it’s just an adjustment, isn’t it?

  9. I found the comment about neighborhood rules interesting- our neighborhood doesn’t really have rules- the kids often run from house to house and when I was younger (I grew up here), we would play night-games in the backyards of neighbors we didn’t even know- pretty much none of the houses were off-limits. It’s a quiet neighborhood in a small, rural town, and it isn’t uncommon for kids to be playing soccer or basketball or biking in the road. I wouldn’t have it any other way- I have observed that so many kids barely ever play outside anymore, but in our neighborhood there are always lots of kids playing outside.

    1. I love that your neighborhood fits you so well. I would argue, though, that the openness you feel there is part of the “rules”, unspoken as they are. It’s likely that since you grew up there, you’ve internalized the expectations and culture, however, moving from somewhere else, the unspoken rules might be hard to negotiate, especially when residents don’t explicitly recognize their existence.

      1. ^yes, that exactly. That’s part of the culture and expectations of the neighborhood and it’s really hard to know what the boundaries are when it’s brand new to you!

    1. The kitchen (and most of downstairs) is “Wexford Fog” by Dulux – it’s definitely a bit more blue in the daylight hours than I’d like, but everyone else seems to love it so I’ve embraced it. :)

  10. Lovely home! I feel like the last couple paragraphs about the struggle with suburan life could’ve been written by me. We just hit the 1o-year mark on our house in a very cookie-cutter housing, very child friendly town and I too am just now accepting that this is where we’re supposed to be as a family. And as an introvert who grew up with working parents who moved around a lot, finding my footing & learning the cues among my fellow stay-at-homes was a challenge and stress I don’t want to relive again! (Much like middle school!) :)

  11. What a beautiful home! I love all of the bright colors and that every room is painted a fun color. It looks so warm and welcoming. I feel the same way about feeling nostalgic when the kids start doing things for themselves. My 5 year old is becoming more and more independent and it makes me a little sad!

    1. I had the nook cushions made by someone I found on craigslist! I bought the fabric online and had it shipped to her to make.

    1. Blue hexagon penny tile from The Tile Shop. It comes in 12″ x 12″ sheets. It was DIY and very easy to work with.

  12. Thank you for your honesty! Your home is beautiful. But I have struggled with the same issues over the past year when we moved our family from a fun neighborhood in Chicago out to the ‘burbs. It’s been such a slow adjustment process for me, and I’m still working on it. It’s sometimes hard to strike the right balance between being a grown up that knows I need to do what’s best for my family, and that old adage “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. You know what I mean? Or even just balancing the benefits of diving into a new community and fully committing myself by being more outgoing and involved, vs. just taking advantage of the fact that we’re still only a half hour away from the city. Should I go often because I miss it so bad? Or go less often, because doing more things in the ‘burbs might make me miss the city less? (So far, I tend towards lots of day trips back to the city!) But I know all of these thoughts and feelings will change and evolve over time, it’s just been a hard transition year. Your post made me feel like I’m not crazy for feeling this way, so thanks!

  13. Favorite one by far – the most reflective, and most acknowledging of the pros and cons of where you are, physically and emotionally. SO honest! Thank you for sharing!

    now – where did you get your master bedframe, and your nightstands and lights? Thank you!

    1. thank you!! Bedframe I’m fairly certain is from and so are the nightstands! I have a problem with that website. :) The lamps are from Target.

  14. So, you’ve already revealed where you got that ‘Here Comes the Sun’ diecut…love. What about the ginormous map? I think I might need one of those. And I love the “M” collage. I might have to steal that idea! I am in Nashville also and although I sometimes wish I had a bit more land (I’m more in the city), I couldn’t bear to leave my ‘hood!! It’s too fantastic. Finding the right community, anywhere you are, makes all the difference.

    1. Thank you! The map was one I bought on zulilly a while back, or one of those similar kids sale flash sites. It’s actually wallpaper but we have it tacked up for now (read: lazy).

  15. I can totally relate to the feeling that where we’re living is not quite home, however the family is thriving, why can’t I thrive too? It took some time, but it’s made it all the worth while!

  16. Bahaha! I love the statue with added mustache! He’s my favorite.

    And I loved the way you talked about finding contentment. That was something I needed to hear. Thanks!

  17. I love that tile(?) backsplash in the kitchen and orange pillows and light in the reading nook! These home tours are so nice for future home inspiration :)

    This is my favorite line: “I’ve finally been able to find contentment in the present instead of constantly wondering what the future version of us looks like.” I don’t think I’ve got that one mastered!

  18. We just moved away from Nashville last month and I miss it with all my heart. Our new town, Baltimore, is kind of scary and not always so friendly. We were renting an apartment in the Hillsboro Village and I miss Hot and Cold so bad! Also all the people watching. All kinds of people! And I’m so mad I didn’t get out to Franklin one last time! All of my cute dresses are from Philanthropy!

    1. I hear you on Baltimore! We moved there from a stint in Chicago (so friendly!) and we’re originally from CA. We survived Bmore for 13 years-but it was tough. The best thing we did was move to Howard County. People were definitely friendlier-tons of transplants and the proximity to DC was great.

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  20. As someone who is also struggling to accept a new life in the ‘burbs, this post really resonated. Your home is beautiful and your willingness to be honest about your adjustment is refreshing and reassuring all at the same time. Now, can I ask where is that print of Manhattan from (speaking of missing my city life . . .):)?

    1. I’ve had that for so long (we left NYC in ’07!) that I honestly don’t remember…tried to find something in my emails to no avail. So sorry!

  21. What a beautiful home – thank you for sharing Anne! Quick question as we begin building a new home soon: I noticed you have mostly hardwoods throughout the house. Are you happy with this decision or do you wish you had more carpet? We’re considering having all hardwoods with rugs.

    1. Thrilled with all hardwoods downstairs. It’s never been an issue at all (the office does have carpet, mostly for soundproofing reasons). However all dark floors show EVERYTHING. It’s insane. I love them but ugh. Really high maintenance.

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  23. Love all colors, and the breakfast nook is just to die for. Lovely. Thank you for sharing!

    The dark floors ARE beautiful! But I knew mine would be COVERED all the time. I had ONE room with dark hardwoods in my last house and said NEVER AGAIN! I kept mine natural for this exact reason. But oh, they’re still lovely.

  24. How lovely to hear of another Greta, our daughter loves her name and rarely finds anyone else with it. As she is dyslexic she often writes it as Great which makes us smile every time.

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