Over the next few months, I'll be running a series about women who have embraced their own-ness by operating outside of the norm, namely by choosing not to have children, choosing to move far away from their support systems, or choosing to make a major career switch. There are many ways to be your own lady; here's to celebrating your path!
Kristin is my cousin and one of the moms I've looked to for guidance since I've had my first child. As her family has grown, Kristin has moved around the East Coast, in each place creating a special environment and always holding onto her hobbies (turned side business!) and family routines. Like the good millennial family that we are, we follow each other's lives on Facebook, and I am always amazed at the way she settles in and finds community in her new home. I asked Kristin to share her thoughts on making a big move. Whether you are moving for an obligation or of your own accord, there is wisdom here!
1. Tell us a little about yourself (where do you live, what do you, what is your family like, how do you enjoy spending your time?)
I'm a 34-year-old mom of three living in Laurel, MD. I work part time teaching online but my current passion is sewing. Honestly, it's probably my passion because it allows me to hide from my three kids in the basement now and then ;). Kids are 1, almost 4, and 5.
2. Tell us a little about the places you've lived. Which move do you consider your "big move"?
I have lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Maryland. All of them were big moves in their own way, but my first really truly adult move was uprooting our family of 5 from NC to move to MD.
3. What was the reason for this big move? Was it a decision you came to on your own or were you subject to outside forces?
Casey, my husband, had worked at his job in NC for 10 years and had been casually job hunting for at least half that time. While the job in NC had been an amazing career experience, as he'd completely climbed the ladder there, it wasn't ever what he'd intended to do as a career. So he went back to school for four long years, during which time he continued working full time and we both teetered on the brink of insanity having three babies, moving into four different homes, and more...and at graduation he was offered exactly the job he most wanted in his new field. In Maryland. So here we are. While I was not in any way excited about the idea - I really felt like we'd made a home in NC, including building our dream house - there was just no question in my mind that refusing to move for this job would mean crushing all of my husband's dreams and completely negating all the work and stress and strain of the previous four years. I couldn't trade all that for the relative security of staying in NC, so we made the leap.
4. What was your support system like before your move? What does your support system look like now?
I had built a great support system of fellow parents, the babywearing community (I helped establish a fast-growing local babywearing group and had just stepped down as president), and work colleagues. I had a fantastic and flexible job teaching college composition at one of the best programs in the country. I was constantly engaged and inspired by the work of my colleagues.
Now, I am still working, teaching online for the same university. The difference in my motivation is depressing - without the renewing energy of faculty development workshops and casual interaction with an office full of people doing the same job, I feel kind of at sea. But it's a job and a clear connection to what I was doing before, and that is a good thing when everything else feels new and strange.
It's been hard to make friends here. I remember when we moved to NC, it literally took years to make friends. I think it would/will be the same way here, if we stay that long. At least I have the memory of how hard it was to make friends to remind me that it isn't me. I'm not a horrible person. It just takes a long time for a new person to become part of someone else's comfortable, established orbit. I already have met a few people through the same parenting networks I used in NC - the babywearing group, the local Facebook parenting groups. Thank goodness for Facebook - although some complain it makes relationships too disconnected and is used to avoid face-to-face meetings, my experience has been the opposite. Being home with small kids is ISOLATING. But I don't actually feel bereft of adult communication, because it's all right there: other parents in my situation, reaching out. And there are plenty of opportunities for meet ups; I've just had to get brave enough to show up and start the harder work of face to face conversation.
5. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make a big move?
As these questions suggest - people are key to making you feel comfortable in a new place. Everything else (moving house, finding a place to live, a new job, a new daycare, etc.) is just logistics. Force yourself to go out of your way to meet people. You might join 5 new social circles to make one friend; don't give up.
Know it will take awhile to find your groove. That it may be actual months before you start feeling like you actually live there and are not just on some weird vacation. That your kids may do great or the one you were least worried about might also take months to adjust. But eventually, anywhere will become home.