Born and raised in Darien, Lauren Haley tells us why she moved back to Darien, CT and what she loves about living there. Lauren has her hands full as a mother of two and the founder of website, Busy Little Bee. She took some time off from her busy schedule to talk to Suburbs 101. Here is Busy Little Bee’s Lauren Haley and Her Move Back to Darien, CT.
You were born and raised in Darien, CT. Tell me about your move back to Darien.
After graduating from college, my now-husband got a job in Greenwich which required erratic hours. Even though I was working in NYC, it made the most sense for us to be in Greenwich to make his life easier. We rented a super cute apartment on Greenwich Avenue for 2 years before buying our first home in Rowayton. We later uncovered that my mom lived in the same apartment building with my grandparents when she was a baby! After 5 years in Rowayton, we were expecting our second child and simply needed more space. Although we absolutely LOVED Rowayton, we focused on Darien and New Canaan when house hunting due to the amazing schools. We fell in love with a house in Darien and have been here for 3 years.
Any tips/advice you can give to newcomers on how to meet people?
I was born and raised in Darien, so I was lucky to be familiar with the town and surrounding area when we moved back here. I was also lucky to have some of my childhood friends make their way back to town at the same time I did. If you aren’t so lucky, there are some great ways to meet people! The YWCA Darien/Norwalk has a number of “clubs” that are great for networking both personally and professionally: Newcomers Club, Winetasters, Network of Working Women, and Playgroups. The Rowayton Parents Exchange is another awesome group that offers tons of activities and events for parents and young kids. We actually have a whole list of resources on our website to help moms connect with other moms!
Can you describe your social life?
Keeping two girls busy while running a website consumes most of my time! But when I get the chance, I enjoy meeting friends for coffee, drinks, or dinner (especially al fresco in the warmer months). I’m super close with my family and love spending time with them. Watching my girls run around with their cousins is the best!
How would you describe Darien residents?
Welcoming and (for the most part) easygoing
What are some things you don’t like about Darien?
Darien has made huge progress since I was younger, but we have a long way to go before we can compete with the restaurants and shops of some of our neighboring towns.
You have a resource website for moms- Busy Little Bee. Tell me more about it. How did you get started?
5 years ago I was looking for a music class to sign my daughter up for. I found it so overwhelming and frustrating comparing one program to the next with 5 tabs open on my computer. To make the process easier for myself, I made a simple excel spreadsheet that laid out the options (schedules, cost, location). I had a very similar experience when I began researching preschools– who has drop-off 2s? When do I need to submit my application by? What is the birthday cut-off? I thought about creating a database that housed all this information to help both myself and other local caregivers for quite some time. Finally during the summer of 2017, I decided to build it, and Busy Little Bee was born! Busy Little Bee became the dashboard of information that I had been looking for. It saves my users time and eliminates the frustration since I’ve already done the extensive research on local children’s programs. And the biggest time saver of all is our filtering tool which allows you to narrow down program options based on a number of criteria, such as: activity type, age, schedule, and town. I also have a jam-packed event calendar, camp guides, and a weekly newsletter! My favorite part of “blogging” is the community I have created. I love connecting with my website users and social media followers about everyday “mom life”. In the end we’re all just trying to provide the best life that we can for our kiddos (while staying somewhat sane).
How old are your kids? What do you like to do with them in Darien or in the area?
My girls are 5 and 3 years old. And as you can imagine, we love to explore the activities and events that take place in lower Fairfield County! In the winter months you’ll find us at open gym, a trampoline park, the aquarium, a children’s museum, one of the nature centers, painting pottery, or at the library. We also love the free and fun activities at Darien Library. From storytimes to concerts to arts & crafts, there is always something for us to drop in to. There are endless activity options when it comes to registered classes: music, dance, sports, science, art, nature, and so much more. During the spring, summer, and fall you will always find us at the beach or park!
What are the best playgrounds and parks in the area?
There are so many! Bruce Park in Greenwich, CT is awesome. Cherry Lawn in Darien is great because it has two playgrounds: one for younger kids and one for older kids. Plus there are fields to run around in, a community garden, and a pond to watch the ducks and turtles swim around in. We love Baker Park in the Noroton section of Darien for quick playground visits. There isn’t a ton to do, but just enough fun to keep the kids busy for 30 minutes before dinner time. We go to the playground at Weed Beach in Darien a lot, too. The splash pads at Mathews Park in Norwalk, CT and Scalzi Park in Stamford, CT are great in the warmer months. The playground at Compo Beach is another favorite– I remember running across all the wooden structures as a kid! My goal for this spring and summer is to visit some of the parks that are a little further away, like Lake Mohegan in Fairfield, CT.
What are your favorite restaurants in Darien or in the area? Date night? Kid Friendly?
We recently tried The Spread in SoNo which was so delicious and a good date night option! South End Uncorked in New Canaan is another great dinner option sans kids. We love going to the Sugar Bowl Luncheonette in Darien with the kids for breakfast or lunch. Rowayton Pizza is a super laid-back, easy option with or without kids during the summer (Don’t forget: it’s BYOB!)
What has your experience been so far with schools in Darien?
If it weren’t for the great schools in Darien, we would probably still live in Rowayton. The public schools here are amazing and is probably the #1 reason families move here (plus the proximity to NYC and being on the water). Before your kids reach elementary school, there are 10 preschool programs to choose from in Darien. They range from church nursery schools to teacher-led in-home play groups. There is really something for everyone. My girls attend a wonderful preschool that has access to an awesome swimming and gymnastics facility as part of the daily curriculum. It’s an added bonus to the learning environment we love!
Do you or your spouse commute to the city? What has your experience been with the commute?
At the moment, neither one of us commutes to NYC. Both my husband and I have done the commute in the past, but I currently work from home and Chris is back in Greenwich. Although we don’t commute to the city, my husband takes the train from Darien to Greenwich every day. You can easily walk to the station from our house and his office is right near the Greenwich station. If he catches a through train, his commute is under 30 minutes door to door. By taking the train, he avoids the unpredictable and oftentimes horrible traffic on I-95. We don’t have a parking pass for any of the stations due to our ability to walk. But I’ve heard that the waitlist is something crazy like 5-10 years depending on the lot?
Any tips/advice you can give to someone who is looking to move to the area?
It is hard to go wrong with so many of the lovely towns in Fairfield County. My advice would be: don’t rush the process! Spend time exploring different areas of the town(s) you are interested in so that you get a really good feel for what it’s like. And when it comes time to actually purchasing a home, don’t convince yourself that you love a house that deep down you really don’t. I look back at some of the houses we put offers on and am so thankful they didn’t work out. You’ll know when it’s “the one”!
About Lauren Haley
Lauren Haley was born and raised in Darien, CT and received a BS in Retail Merchandising and Business Administration from Ohio University. Upon graduating, Lauren returned to the east coast and spent 8 years in Buying and Planning roles in Manhattan at Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. As a busy mom looking for activities for her girls, Lauren always found herself spending hours on various websites comparing schedules, costs, and class descriptions. And when it came time to start the daunting task of finding a preschool, it was impossible for her to locate a quick overview of each school’s approach to learning or identify open house and registration dates. Lauren quickly realized that navigating the logistics of activity registration and preschool enrollment didn’t need to be so difficult, so Busy Little Bee was born! Lauren lives in Darien, CT with her husband, Chris, and two daughters, Parker and Madison.
Instagram & Facebook: @busylittlebeect