A warm welcome…
Hey everyone, it’s time to shine and this week we have a lovely post from my NCT friend Sophie. Sophie shares her top tips for relocating with your little family. I’ve always admired her beautiful organisation, baking skills and cute sense of humour. I miss our moments when we share tears over happy or inspiring things! I’m so proud Sophie and her hubby took up an amazing opportunity; to live in San Francisco. So, in Sophie’s words here’s what they found helpful when starting a new life on the other side of the Atlantic with their two boys. Over to Sophie…
Seven things to think about when relocating with a family – finding your (new) normal
I am not a blogger.
I am a London Mama, living in Oakland, California, as of 6 weeks, 5 days.
I am also a hospital doctor, currently moonlighting as a SAHM (new vocabulary to me, and more on that some other time).
Let me tell you a bit about how I came to be sitting on Piedmont Avenue, outside Timeless Coffee Roasters (apparently a vegan institution) on my second afternoon ‘off’ in 9 weeks, drinking – you guessed it – an almond cappuccino. No, I haven’t yet given up caffeine. Or dairy. Or meat, chocolate, wine – although the ridiculous cost of decent wine here is trying to convince me otherwise.
2015 went a bit like this: Four months spent living with the in-laws, parenting a not quite 2 year-old boy through a house move and new brother, a newborn permanently stuffed in the sling, project-managing a total refurb of our first ‘proper house’ purchased in a less-than-desirable but soon-to-be wonderful part of North London. Throw in tantrums, sleep-regressions, friction with in-laws and fall-outs with builders, and you get the general picture. Spring and summer was spent unpacking and settling in to the ‘proper house’ – vowing not to pack or unpack a single box ever again, and fixing aforementioned relationships with sons, in-laws and a builder. Autumn saw me return to work in a NHS hospital, juggling a job-share without a job-sharer and navigating the peaks and troughs of working motherhood. To add to that list, we were also settling the baby into nursery and us into an emotionally and financially unsustainable routine of nursery drop-offs and pick-ups, far too much time spent on London’s North Circular and enough guilt to last me a lifetime.
Something has to change, we said, as we contemplated various unattractive options.
And then, the week before Christmas, my Mr was offered an exciting job and a relocation to Shanghai or San Francisco. Erm, no to Shanghai, we said, but San Francisco…. Could we? Would we?
We had to decide by January. We spoke to an impossibly smug relocation consultant (a Brit with a green card living in the North Bay) who was determined to sell us her impossibly smug Californian lifestyle. We spoke – guardedly – to parents, siblings and very close friends. You? California? But you’re so cautious. So risk-averse. We thought you’d be here forever. You just finished the house. What about your career? It’s so far! How long for? You’ll never come back. You could see them think: They won’t do it. She’s too much of a control-freak.
And on the flight home from Christmas with my folks in Geneva, in broken chunks of conversation across the aisle, we decided we had to do it. Yes. It’s a yes. We’d regret it far more if we didn’t than if we did. Oh God, how do we tell our parents??!
So almost seven months on, here I am. And as a total novice to relocating with a family, here are seven thoughts on our decision to move and our experience so far:
- Life is a series of adventures. The more you meander, the longer and more varied the journey will feel. My sixteen years in London were amazing. I wasn’t ready to give it up. But that was a chapter. This is a new one, and the right decision for us, in our guts, at this time.
- Involve your family and friends early. Let them be part of the decision-making process. Once you start talking about moving openly, it will start to feel very real and will help you with ‘moving on’. They love you and will miss you, but they’ll also be really happy for you, and proud of you. And excited for the trips they’ll take to see you!
- Start talking to your toddlers about it early (but not too early). We left it until about six weeks before the Big Move, and it happened quite beautifully actually. We were running along Margate beach in the Easter sunshine. Our three-year old Noah said, Mama I love the beach! And that was when we told him. It felt right. Noah would you like to live by the beach? Keep it exciting for them.
- Don’t project your own fears and anxieties on to them. They look to you and model their emotions on yours. That’s not to say you need to have a heart of stone, but focus on the positive for them – and for you! Start building new vocabulary into their repertoire to help them construct their own narrative so they can feel in control. Did you know? Noah would say to people, I’m moving to Fran San Frisco. I’m going to have chickens in my garden. He had no idea what that meant – apart from the chickens – but it was exciting. It was an adventure. And we were all in it together. Stop to look at moving vans in the street, loading and unloading boxes. Explain what’s happening, read stories that help them to visualise the process, the excitement of making new friends and discovering new places. Ask for advice and involvement from their teachers.
- It’s ok to be indescribably sad about leaving. Heck, nothing makes you value what you have more than contemplating leaving it. But that’s a wonderful thing. One evening when I was sobbing about my ‘perfect house’ and my ‘perfect brass toggle light switches’ and some other rubbish about not being able to make new friends, a dear friend reminded me that I was going on this adventure with my very…best…friend (my husband!) Duh. That helped to snap me out of my self-indulgent melodrama.
- Plan a trip back and friends’ visits before you go. This will give you something to look forward to.
- Ideally, take a reconnaissance trip together as a couple. This is multi-purpose:
- It allows you to have child-free time to sleep, read, talk, plan, etc. and let’s face it, nothing makes you more grateful for your little bundles of joy than time without them.
- It allows you to sample the local restaurants that you will otherwise never have time to eat in.
- Hopefully you will find a home, which will help you plan, visualise and talk to the kids about it. It will also help you budget and hone in on nurseries and schools, etc.
- When fretting about whether or not to take the boys on an 11-hour flight for a week of house-hunting and school-hunting (was I actually nuts?!) another dear friend said to me: Think of it as Good Marriage Time. And it was. In fact, it was better than our honeymoon.
And tonight, after weeks of upheaval, a lovely babysitter is coming to watch the boys, in our now almost furnished and unpacked home, and the Mr and I are going on a date. Life feels almost back to (new) normal.
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